Things I’d tell my sleep-deprived-new-mum-self

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Things I would tell my sleep deprived self about baby sleep in baby’s first few months. I say ‘few’, we’re currently at 18 months without a single night of sleeping through! It’s hell, it’s frustrating beyond anything I’ve ever known or even imagined, it becomes a badge of honour, it’s knackering…..it’s normal.

I expected to be tired. I expected my newborn not to sleep. I was prepared for that. And although I can’t say I enjoyed the 2am (and 3am, 4am, 5am etc) parties, I found ways to cope; to embrace the cuddles, to feel proud that I was there for my baby boy whenever he needed me. But as the weeks turned into months, and it never seemed to get any better and it felt like everyone around me had a baby who slept better (not hard at this point), I found myself asking ‘What am I doing wrong?!’ I sent myself half insane. I googled, I requested library books, I scoured amazon, I saw my health visitor, I spoke to everyone I could – pleading with them all to MAKE HIM SLEEP!!!

A year or so down the line, sleep is marginally better some nights, but other nights it still downright sucks. But I’m over it. Who needs sleep anyway!

So what’s different?

I’ve given up hoping that he’ll sleep through. I know that one day (please God!) he will, and in the meantime I’ve learnt ways to cope. We still breastfeed, we start off in our own beds but as soon as he wakes we get into bed together and sleep and feed until morning. This is not my perfect scenario. I spend half the night being steam-rollered, crawled over, whacked around the face, and I always have one cold boob. But it’s a lot better than tearing my hair out and attempting to put him down 300 times and getting 20 minutes in my own cold bed before he wakes for me again!

I wish I could go back to those earlier days and tell myself what I’ve now learnt. I think it would have helped me to feel less of a failure, and I hope in some small way it might help someone else.

So this is what I’d say to my sad, tired, worn out, new-mummy self:

  • IT IS NOT YOUR FAULT!!
  • Some babies sleep and some do not. Yes you can do certain things to encourage them to sleep a bit better, but ultimately it comes down to luck. Get over the guilt, stop fighting it and resign yourself to getting as much rest as possible.
  • Each sleepless night done is another that you never have to do again!!
  • Everyone has completely different ideas of what sleeping through the night actually means. Many websites state that babies should sleep through from 3-6 months, BUT sleeping through is classified as a 5-hour stretch! Perhaps your baby isn’t doing as badly as you think?
  • When people say that their baby sleeps through they may well be exaggerating. They may not be, and good for them, but many times I’ve heard people bragging (maybe not, but when you haven’t slept for weeks that’s what it feels like!) about little Billy-Bob sleeping through and then the next time you see them you over hear them mentioning that they’ve been having awful nights. At least if your baby doesn’t ever sleep through you’re under no illusions!
  • Some babies just don’t sleep well and it’s developmentally wrong to expect them to. In the same way that some babies walk at 9 months, but some don’t until they’re 16 months. We don’t expect the mums of the later-walkers to just leave their babies on the floor to cry until they learn to walk by themselves. No, we expect them to carry them and care for them until they learn the skill at the right time for them. So why not the same for later-sleepers?!

The best thing you can do is find some support of other mums going through this brain-frying, teeth-grindingly, head-slamming-against-a-mental-wall, internally-screaming-but-desperately-staying-calm-on-the -outside journey and offload and support one another. I have 2 such friends. They’re from my NCT group and we boast not a single full night’s sleep between us. It sucks. But we’re in it together.IMG_5902

 

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An open letter to my sister…

-POP

 

I’m so sorry for thinking I knew what it was like to have children. I’m sorry for all the times I didn’t help out, for the times you asked for help and I said I was busy. Internally I told myself ‘but she chose this life’. I now realise how immature I was!

I’m sorry for the time that you were ill and asked me to stay over and I said I had uni work to finish and that I hadn’t spent much time with my hubby. Now I know; now I know hard it all is, now I know how selfish I was being!

I’m sorry for feeling cross when you snapped at me that evening when I phoned the land line and woke my nephew up! I didn’t understand! I had absolutely no idea how hard it can be to get a baby to sleep and how soul destroying it is when the peaceful slumber is broken by a naive sister phoning. Now I know!

I’m so sorry for not asking how you were after those sleepless nights; for not bothering to give you a hug, make you a cuppa and send you back to bed. I’m sorry that I had absolutely no idea what sleep deprivation is really like. You weren’t being a moody bitch like I thought, you were shattered and I’m ashamed I didn’t get it. I do now!!!

That time you talked to me about how and when you should have weaned your eldest… I told you what I thought you should do!! I now realise it was a rhetorical conversation and I should have kept my non child opinions to myself. Heck, I shouldn’t even have had an opinion because back then I knew nothing!!! I now realise how ridiculously hard it is to listen to someone give their opinions when they don’t have children!!

And then when it was my turn you never once said ‘I told you so’. You were the first one to mop up my tears when I cried about how hard it was and how tired I was! You nodded and took him off my hands. You bought me Guinness (for my iron levels!!!) and my favourite magazines. You lent me your sling when he wouldn’t let me put him down. You took us both out for a walk. You even took him off me at soft play that time so I could have a coffee on my own even though you had your two with you!! You listened and you encouraged. You told me what a great job I was doing. I’m so sorry that I didn’t do this for you. But I get it now, I get it in way I couldn’t have done back then. I’m tired and drained and occasionally moody too 😉 Motherhood is hard and I’m sorry I wasn’t there. I wish I had known, I do now!!!

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