It’s 3am… and there it is again.
I’ve been here many times before – the middle of the night wake-up cry… the sixth since I crawled into bed tonight.
I knew when I was pregnant that this was going to happen, but I had somehow successfully wiped any memory of this exhausted feeling from my brain.
Now I’ll be honest, I spent a large proportion of my 20s in a slightly sleep-deprived state. Usually self-inflicted… I simply had a tendency to be the last one to leave a party. So surviving on the snippets of sleep that a newborn allows should be easy to me.
But frankly, as I stagger towards the bassinette yet again, with my bedraggled dressing gown grasped around my shoulders, I’m really starting to lose my sanity a little.
My first child didn’t sleep for more than a two-hour stretch for over a year. He was a reflux baby with terrible sleep patterns and an inbuilt sensor where the moment you put him down, his eyes would open and his lungs swiftly followed. We tried every sleep method out there – from Elizabeth Pantley to the regimented Gina Ford. We tried singing, white noise, no noise, controlled crying, endless crying (mine!) – and by the time he was 10 months old, I really had lost my mind.
So how do I limit the collateral damage on my mental health, second time around?
Unfortunately every baby is different and you cannot predict in utero whether they will be a contented sleeper from day dot. If you do find yourself struggling with a more unsettled baby, you’ll need a plan of support in place to ensure that you don’t lose your sanity through the sleep deprivation.
Sleep when they sleep
Yep, you’ve heard it before, but how many times has nap time slipped away whilst you were catching up on email, or sorting the laundry? When the sleep deprivation hits, the laptop and Omo can wait – an hour of shut-eye is far more important.
Get all the help you can
Try and express the evening feed so that the witching hour settling and 10pm feed can be done by your partner, then you can get some unbroken sleep from when your partner comes home until they head to bed. If you are bottle feeding, there is no excuse for them not to take a couple of the feeds! If there are local relatives that are eager and willing, call them in to help out too… a fresh and calm pair of hands is often all a baby needs to settle (as much as it pains us frazzled mums to witness!).
Talk to your Childhood Nurse
If you are struggling with feed/sleep patterns and settling, the Early Childhood Nurse is a great place for advice and tips. If you are still struggling, they can also refer you to a local sleep school where they can work hands-on with you with settling and sleep patterns.
Look after yourself
If the sleep deprivation is starting to make you feel resentful or angry towards the baby, get yourself to the GP. Post-natal depression can often stem from constant sleep-deprivation, so get help and support as soon as symptoms appear.
Remember it will end
As much as we all need our sleep, remember that this will be only be happening for a tiny fraction of their lives, so try and enjoy those late night cuddles and newborn moments as much as you can – because before too long, they will be over.
So as I sit here at dawn-break after a luxurious 3 hours broken sleep, rocking the pram with my foot, I’ll simply adjust and defer to exhausted haze I’m currently existing in, because in the bigger picture, it is all worthwhile.
And in the meantime… more coffee anyone?!
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