Jane Bates: In plain sight

Jane Bates sparks a stimulating discussion.

Jane Bates sparks a stimulating discussion

Eyes dark-rimmed, movements slow and dreamlike, we wandered around the house like a couple of dozy pandas.

The reason? Our baby, who was adorable in every way (and still is), just would not sleep. I became inarticulate with tiredness, unable to finish a sentence without having a nap halfway through.

We survived on ready meals and strong black coffee and snatched every moment of shut-eye we could, and I started to understand why sleep deprivation is a form of torture. Our health went gradually downhill while the baby herself thrived. But she was never ready to put her tiny head down and snooze, as babies should.

It was a great strain on my husband and me. We read books on sleepless children, and the GP, health visitor and sleep psychologist were all ba? ed. Things improved as she grew and by the time she was at school we had another sleepless child. What were we doing wrong?

In those days, the advice for breastfeeding mothers was quite simple: eat a balanced diet, with a half-pint of Guinness every evening or a small sherry because the alcohol would ‘encourage’ the baby to sleep. There was never anything we were told not to eat or drink.

But any eagle-eyed Miss Marples among you might have noticed something it took us 30 years to realise. My daughter, we now know, has an intolerance to caffeine. Even the smallest amount turns her into an insomniac of the highest order. While I was feeding her, that poor little baby was having her brain over stimulated constantly because of her mother’s inordinate coffee consumption.

How obvious it was, yet none of us saw it. So often when caring for patients, we look for the complicated solution.

About the author

Jane Bates

Jane Bates is an ophthalmic nurse in Hampshire

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