Rock a Bye Baby…
Sleep and I have long had a relationship that could only be described as dysfunctional. So I wasn’t really worried when I was warned about night feeds and interrupted sleep prior to the birth of my babies.
If anything, I figured my previous experience with insomnia would come in handy, as I soon discovered my son was not one of those babies alleged to snooze through the night by three months of age. Or twelve months. Or indeed ever.
But as it turns out, there’s an enormous difference between the broken sleep of an occasional insomniac and the crumbling ruins of the sleep of a parent with a perpetually awake tot. So tortured did I feel by more than a year of accumulated lack of sleep, I silently pondered if my son would be tried at the Hague for crimes against humanity and if they’d need me to be a witness for the prosecution. Despite my intense adoration for him, there were nights when I would have been willing to testify.
I read every single baby sleep book I could find. I tried every possible technique. Even controlled crying, against my better judgement, which lasted all of one night because leaving my baby to cry broke my heart.
When I realized my driving had become erratic from exhaustion, and that I was endangering my family every time I got behind the wheel of my car, I knew something had to give. Instead of futile attempts to get my baby to sleep, I focused on the following seven point plan to healthily manage and function on a daily basis. And it really helped. Twice. Because lucky me, my new daughter also inherited the insomnia gene.
1. Say yes to self-care
To offset the effects of too little sleep, I made sure I stayed as well as I possibly could with healthy, high-energy foods, loads of water, and plenty of physical activity to get the blood flowing and energize my body. My sudden aversion to getting behind the wheel of a car meant lots of walking, which certainly helped.
2. Take plenty of breaks
It’s never going to be a replacement for sleep, but stopping for a half an hour lay down is surprisingly restorative. Even when I couldn’t sleep, I’d forget about the dishes and the laundry and put my feet up for 20 minutes, or try a short meditation, which left me feeling calm and more alert.
3. Strategic sleeping
If you’re breastfeeding, there’s no one else who can assist with night time parenting. But my SO and I figured out a system that worked for us. I would go to sleep as early as possible of an evening while he stayed up with the bub. He’d wake me when he came to bed so I could feed the baby and settle him for the night. And on the weekend, I’d pump so he could bottle-feed overnight. Those couple of extra hours were the difference between me remaining a functioning human and joining the zombie apocalypse.
4. Switch off
When it comes to sleep, quality can be as important as quantity. As tempting as it was to check in on Facebook, catch up on a book on my Kindle or binge-watch the latest Netflix series during long middle of the night feeds, I found the stimulation from electronic devices made it harder to fall back asleep after my son finally nodded off. So I banned all screens at night and it helped make the little sleep I was getting, better.
5. Ask and you shall receive
While it’s never been something I’ve been great at, eventually I caved in and accepted my family and friends’ offers of help. Even if it was just for one of them to watch the baby for a couple of hours so I could turn off the monitor and sleep without interruption or worry.
6. Put on a happy face
Fake it until you make it. Make time for a shower, because ten minutes under the water will feel as refreshing as an hour of sleep. Get dressed, slap on some makeup and get out in the sunshine. Hanging around in your PJs will only make you feel more tired and desperate to climb into bed.
7. Look forward
Remember that this is only a temporary problem and a return to normal sleep is in the post. Mind you, given my children seem to be determined to wake me up at least once a night until they’re 34, the mailman may have lost mine.
Comment: Have you suffered from sleep deprivation as a result of having a baby?