Everyone sleeps. Our bodies and our minds need to sleep. When we do get a good night sleep we wake up refreshed and ready to tackle the day. When your baby comes into your life all sleep as you know it may change. I say May change, because some babies come into this world able to sleep six or more hours. That is great! But that is quite rare and should not be expected. According to our midwife, a four hour stretch is much more common, but if you are lucky like I was with twins, two hour clips of sleep was all I could get.
I think that next to “Did you have a boy or a girl?” the most common question after your baby arrives is “Is he/she sleeping through the night?” Personally, I think this is quite possibly the worst thing to ask a sleep deprived new parent. If you have a fun whitty response to that question, please do share in the comments.
Let’s all assume, that you are experiencing sleep deprivation, because at some time or another in your first year or two or three, you will be at a loss for sleep. What can you do? Here are a few tips from a mother of three who still experiences lack of sleep.
For starters, your attitude is everything. Some good old optimism will go very far, and can easily rub off on the whole family. If you just know going into it that you are not going to get great rest, than you can focus more on getting some or any rest whenever possible. The best time to sleep is when the baby is sleeping. Do not waste these precious moments trying to get anything done. Call on anyone and everyone that can help out around the house. Hang up a sign on your door asking all visitors to please feel free to do a load of wash or dishes before they go. If you are really lucky, maybe someone will clean the toilet. No matter what, if the baby goes down so should you.
Act like a mama bear. At night when you wish to be sleeping, but your baby is growing so fast that they need to nurse every hour, call on your inner animal. Pretend you are in a cave. Roll over and nurse with the lights out. Don’t even speak. Grunt if you have too. Your baby will get the point that this is not a time for activity. It is a basic needs time. Eventually they do get it. Once your milk supply is increased after a day or so of marathon nursing, your baby will be able to go a little longer between nursing. Try not to be pursuaded into formula. You can produce the milk, you just need to make it through the growth spurt. And you will. Again, attitude is everything.
Learn all you can about baby sleep cycles. The Sleep Book by Dr. William Sears has a wealth of information and comes from the gentle attachment parenting perspective. No crying it out. Never let your baby cry it out. Your baby is crying because it needs something. You can also read eight infant sleep facts every parent should know.
Eventually you will get the rest you need. Someday your child will sleep through the night. Understanding the reasons why they don’t will help you in the meantime. Good luck, and sweet dreams.
I was very fortunate that my daughter started sleeping at 6 hour stretches when she was about 5-6 weeks old. From there she slept a little longer each night until she was sleeping 12 hours a night without waking up. She’s 5 months old now and cut her first 2 teeth a couple of weeks ago. Teething really interrupted her sleeping patterns. She doesn’t seem to be in pain any more, but she’s still having a hard time getting back on schedule. It’s amazing how much harder it is to get up in the middle of the night after you’re used to a full night’s sleep again!