It is well known that babies don’t sleep. All new parents know this, but we all seem to tell ourselves the same thing – my baby will be different. The awful thing is that there are just enough stories of these magical babies to make us all (even second time mums) believe that our baby will not be like the rest. Unfortunately, these magical babies are very few and far between; if they were more common I am sure there would be many more than 7 billion humans on the planet. So what do you do during those first months (and possible years) when your baby does not sleep?
I have a 3 month old who would be considered a “good” sleeper. She feeds at 10pm and will wake at 2am and then is up for the day at 5:30am. However “good” she might be having only chunks of 3 hours (once she has fed for 30 mins and I have put her down and got back to sleep myself) night after night is taking its toll. I am so grateful to have my rainbow baby and hate to moan about her as I know how fragile and precious she is to me but 3 hours sleep is not enough! I have compiled a list of things I have learnt though my first and now second baby.
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There is loads of “helpful” advice out there, from sleep when baby sleeps to let your partner do the night feed. These are all well and good but much to my annoyance I can not put my head on the pillow and full asleep, I can take me an hour to full asleep – not great when you only have three in which to sleep. Yes, my husband could do the middle of the night feed as I formula feed, but the second my daughter cries out I wake up, so once I’m up I might as well feed her instead of disturbing my husband. So what does help?
1. Rest when baby sleeps!
So you can’t sleep but you can rest. I very quickly learnt to sit on my backside and not move while my baby slept. The washing, cleaning, laundry will all be there later and worse comes to the worse, wash up the dirty plate before you want to use it. I am not a tidy person and wouldn’t class myself as house proud but even so it took me a long time to let go of worrying about what people would think about the state of my home. Your baby does not need a spotless house, for you to eat from a clean plate or for your husband to wear an ironed shirt to work. He does need you rested to keep him safe, fed and changed.
2. Shout for help!
Don’t just ask for it – scream for help. It’s a strange thing about people, we are willing to very genuinely offer help to others who are struggling, the first thing most people say when there has been a disaster is, “let me know if there is anything I can do.” Having said that, many times and meaning it every time, I have to assume others mean it too but we don’t like asking for that help. Maybe we feel judged or the determined toddler insider us comes to life – I can do it!
Whatever the reasons, we have to let go of them when we have children. Be it your first, second or tenth baby, there will be a time when you need that help. Call upon friends and family to give you that break, it might just be playing downstairs while you have a rest upstairs. I am lucky enough to have my mum and honestly I don’t know how I would have survived without her. As I write she is downstairs playing with my baby while I have a bit of me time.
3. Accept that you are tired!
You are tired, you can not do all the things you are usually able to. There will be some days when you shouldn’t be driving because you’re so tired. Tiredness makes us irritable, forgetful and decreases concentration. It is not your fault that you put the butter in the washing machine and the dirty nappy in the fridge! The good news is this is not everyday, some days are worse than others and that is ok. That is when you shout for help.
4. Get out!
Get out of the house. I find the worse thing for me when I am exhausted is to sit at home. I am not talking about anything strenuous or stressful but if I have some fresh air I feel so much better. A simple walk around town – not trying to buy things, just passing the time of day, or going to a baby group and talking to another adult, helps me feel human again. When I have been at home all day, I am at my worst so even if it is a walk round the block I try to get out every day.
5. Remind yourself why you are doing it.
Being sleep deprived is horrendous but we are all doing it for a wonderful reason. However, that wonderful reason is hard to forget when it is screaming, crying, whinging and will not sleep! Take photos of your baby smiling, looking cute and sleeping and when it gets really bad take 2 minutes to look that these.
At the end of the day the only way to combat sleep deprivation is to sleep. Until that glorious night comes when not only your baby sleeps through the night but you stop jumping up every hour checking they are still breathing, there are little things you can do to help yourself. If all of these fail I suggest a sugar or caffeine hit and enjoy the cuddles.