Becoming a parent completely changes your life. It’s amazing to experience the joy and happiness of seeing another human being grow and develop. But it’s probably also one of the hardest things you have ever done. There are so many things to learn and try and read up on, and when you think you got the hang of it, things change again…
One of the most talked about topics when having a new baby is sleep: how are they sleeping? Are they sleeping through the night? When and how long do they nap? It’s all about the baby. When I was asked about my children’s sleeping habits (which were terrible and still are at the age of 2 and 4) I just wanted to scream and say: what about my sleep??!!
Not only was it hard for me to function during the day, but it also put a huge strain on our relationship as I seemed to spend most of my days walking around like a zombie and falling asleep on the couch well before the 10 o’clock news.
There are no right and wrong answers on how to deal with the constant sleep deprivation and how to pull together as a family unit. Here are a few things that we have tried and might be useful for you too:
1. Taking turns
I usually did the ‘night shift’ as my husband was trying to hold down a full time job but on the weekend we used to take turns. One night he would be in charge of getting up and soothing our little ones back to sleep, one night I was. The other one would either sleep in the spare room or with ear plugs. That way we got at least a halfway decent night’s sleep – although it was never quite enough but helped to get through the next few days.
2. Getting a night nurse
It’s a great option especially in the first few weeks when schedules are all over the place and advice from someone who has ‘seen it all’ is highly appreciated. Unfortunately this option comes with quite a steep price tag and I always thought: millions of women can do it, so can I. (Now I am thinking I should have just spent the cash)
3. Encouraging the the other half to sleep in the spare room (on and off)
Especially in these first weeks when trying to get a handle on breast/bottle feeding, getting out of bed and sitting in a cold room wasn’t appealing to me at all. So the babies came into bed with me where I could comfortably feed them. Unfortunately that also meant frequent wake ups for the other half because as a young parent, you listen out for every little snuffle or grunt, and for the absence of those. So it felt like I was on red (or at least amber) alert the whole time. Knowing the other half could sleep uninterrupted in the other room, was always a comfort to me and made it less stressful when the babies didn’t settle straight away and decided to cry for a little while before falling back asleep. Which leads me straight onto the next point…
There is a lot of talk about this – some people are massive supporters, some are very much against it. Again, test it, if it works for you, fine. If it doesn’t, at least you figured that out! I had my babies in bed with me at the beginning but moved them into a moses basket next to the bed very early on. Our first one moved into her room at about 4 months, the second one pretty much still sleeps in our bed. Some nights for a couple of hours, sometimes we find she snuck into our bed even before us. As annoying it is now, it was a big help in the beginning as she would get back to sleep more quickly or not wake completely if she felt us nearby.
5. Going to bed early
Even if it doesn’t do much for your relationship, let alone your sex life, sometimes going to bed just after your kids is your best option to at least get a decent amount of sleep – albeit probably not in one piece. I always found if I could get 4 hrs before the first feed, I would feel a lot more rested the next day.
6. Getting a baby monitor with camera (the lazy parent option)
Especially once we decided that it was time for the kids to move into their own room, having a camera in their room allowed us to check on them if we heard sounds or movement without having to get out of bed. Warning – this is in no way a replacement for your supervision!! It would allow us to give the babies a few minutes trying to settle themselves back to sleep without us storming in and thus completely waking them up.
7. Getting the right gear
You can say what you want, but sleeping on one Superking mattress means (depending on the mattress) that you feel every turn and movement your partner makes. Therefore, invest in a good mattress made from materials such a memory foam, that absorbs movements and contains the motion on the side it occurs. It made a huge difference to my sleep, as I was always listening out for the noises my babies made. And once I had finally gotten back to sleep, at least I wouldn’t get shaken awake anymore when the husband was fighting work troubles in his sleep.
8. Sorting out the snoring
Sorry husband, but it is usually you that snores… Luckily he is/was a light snorer, so a gentle push usually did the trick. But if your other half keeps you awake, get him to try out different sleeping positions (sleeping on his side rather than back), change to a new pillow that’s more supportive and works for him. If all of that doesn’t help, get a new mattress. Memory foam mattresses often make it more comfortable to sleep on your side, making your sleep experience more personal and tailored to you. It’s not the cheapest solution, but our sleep quality affects everything else we do so better make it a good one. Helpguide.org has a very extensive list of tips on how to stop the snoring. And putting a pillow over your ears is not the answer…. http://www.helpguide.org/articles/sleep/how-to-stop-snoring.htm
I hope you will find some of these ideas useful. If only one of them works, fantastic.
The one thing that I keep telling myself though is that once the kids are off to university, I would miss them crawling into bed with me in the morning, so I might as well enjoy the time I get with them now… as tiring as that may be.