Up next sharing her sleep experience is the lovely Jessica from Catch a Single Thought http://catchasinglethought.blogspot.co.uk/ I am sure you will all be able to relate to this post, especially the part where she plays 'Find the Baby!' Hope you all enjoy and make sure you pop over to Jessica's blog for some more great reading! Here we go...
Ahh sleep – it’s the one thing you can safely say you won’t get enough of in the first few years of your children’s lives but probably one of the things you’ll crave the most!
When we were expecting our first child nobody told us what it would be like not getting any sleep. We’d read about it and it was often said in an offhand manner by friends who’d already had children but nobody really told us – nobody got hold of us, looked us in the eye and said “You Will Not Get Any Sleep EVER AGAIN (or at least, that’s what it will feel like to begin with!)”
Both our children have slept very differently; Eli has slept from the beginning whereas Meg just didn’t sleep. At all. Not during the day and certainly not at night. And of course we ended up stuck in a cycle where she wasn’t getting enough sleep during the day and so by the time we were desperately trying to introduce a bedtime routine she would spend the entire time screaming as she was overtired...and the screaming would continue long into the night. It was terrible.
For two fresh faced young uns who really got tumbled head first into the world of parenting we didn’t know what to do! Lack of sleep quite honestly made us a bit mental.
The best example of this was one time when Meg had gone to sleep on my Other Half’s chest in our bed and at some point in the early hours I woke up, looked over at my Other Half and with a start realised that he was clutching the duvet cover to him but there was no baby there. “Wake up, wake up” I hissed at him pulling at the duvet, “where’s Meg?” My Other Half is quite a deep sleeper so it took several shakes before he woke up and replied “What? I’ve got hold of her.”
I can’t put into words the fear that squeezed at my chest when he said that as he quite clearly did not have a baby in his arms. “Where is Meg?!” I shrieked flapping around under the duvet cover and wildly feeling around on the mattress for my 2 week old baby. My panic managed to rouse my Other Half a little bit more who then blearily aided me in my under the covers search.
“It’s ok, I’ve got hold of her, don’t worry” he said after a couple of seconds. Practically on the verge of tears that somehow my baby had disappeared under the covers and I couldn’t find her I squeaked “no, you haven’t, you’ve got hold of my knee.” “Oh,” he replied “what are we looking for?”
“MEGAN, OUR BABY” I wailed hysterically at him. “WHERE IS SHE?!?” “Oh ok...” finally he appeared to wake up enough to cotton on to the situation. “Meg’s asleep in her Moses basket”
We still laugh about that story now. It certainly got us through some more sleepless nights.
Or there was the time when we agreed to take it in turns to get up to settle Meg once we’d started on our Baby Whisperer sleep training (a lifesaver for us - from 4 months Meg was sleeping 7pm-7am but that’s a post on it’s own!) and I managed for a whole week to lie about getting up. My Other Half never suspected a thing as I shook him awake and told him it was his turn again. In the end I had to confess as I felt too guilty!
I think it’s important to realise that you won’t get much sleep in the first few months. One of the biggest mistakes I made was to try and carry on as normal. I had two weeks of being bedridden due to complications giving birth and then once I was ‘over’ that I thought I could just get on with things in the same manner as I always had.
I can’t stress how vital it is to take time for yourself. “Sleep when they sleep” is a phrase I must have heard a hundred times but it never sunk in that rather than, on the golden occasions when Meg would fall asleep in her moses basket, trying to do some washing or make tea I should take myself off to bed for an hour or two instead. And sometimes it’s not practical – dinner does have to be made and cleaning does need to be done but it’s about balancing it out properly and recognising that your sleep is essential to your wellbeing.
So, speaking as someone who has been through a pretty rough patch of getting no sleep I’ve come up with some tips that I believe are useful for the first time parent:
1. Accept that you aren’t going to get any sleep. Really, truly, acknowledge and accept it. Then, when you don’t get any sleep it won’t be such a shock to your system and if you do happen to get a good sleeper it will be a bonus!
2. Agree that whatever gets said in the night stays in the night – I can’t tell you how many hissed disagreements we had about ridiculous things. Not even related to Meg!
3. SLEEP WHEN YOUR BABY SLEEPS! And believe me when I say you will be all the better for it! I realise that there are things you can’t get away from such a cooking dinner or having a wash but take as many opportunities as you can to rest in the early weeks.
4. Agree a routine with your Other Half (if relevant) for getting up in the night. I think it’s important that you both agree on who will do what. We tried a variety (shifts, taking it in turns to get up, alternating days) until we found one that we both could get on board with.
5. Adopt a routine that works for you and your baby. Don’t have strong opinions on what you will or won’t do until after your baby arrives. I did a mixture of co-sleeping, controlled crying and pick up put down with Meg because that’s what worked for us all. I didn’t do anything with Eli and that has worked equally well for him.
But most of all, remember that it won’t last forever! Sure you might end up with caffeine dependency, repeatedly put the cereal in the fridge and the milk in the cupboard, leave your keys in your front door five or six times, use toothpaste on your face instead of moisturiser and occasionally (almost) leave the house without a child** but it’s only a temporary situation…honestly!!
**I am guilty of all of the above scenarios