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.