When you’re not getting enough sleep, it affects everything. It’s like living in a dark cloud where you can’t quite feel or experience things as you normally would.
My daughter brought me to my knees with the wakeful nights. I’m not talking about the newborn nights, when your baby barely knows the difference between night and day and sleep is a luxury. It’s the ones that are still being disrupted months and months in. When you thought/hoped/assumed you would definitely be getting more sleep by now and you’re convinced your baby must be a little bit broken…
Outwardly I like to think I was still managing to keep it together but on the inside I was a total mess. I spent so much time worrying about how many times I’d be up and down each night, and panicking every time she stirred, that even when she had a slightly better night I wouldn’t be able to sleep well. And during the worst nights I found it so hard to stay patient and calm and not get frustrated with her. I definitely felt like giving up on more than one occasion and there were several times when I joined in with the crying.
I used to dread every night.
Just like everything with parenting, it doesn’t last forever (even if it feels like it will at the time). Things are far from perfect for us now but thankfully the very dark days seem to be over, at least for the time being. For those that still can’t see the light at the end of the tunnel, here’s some tips for making it through.
1. Eat all the chocolate and drink all the coffee.
It will help you get through the really tough days and that’s okay. It’s not ideal if you’re trying to lose the baby weight but there will be time for that later. You need sugar and caffeine and you need them in abundance.
2. Have a good moan.
When you’re sleep deprived it’s hard to think about anything else and sometimes moaning about it is all there is to do. It doesn’t make you a bad mum. It makes you normal. And letting off steam is actually better than trying to deal with everything on your own.
3. Give yourself a break.
Everyone says the best thing you can do is sleep when the baby sleeps but that was never something I was able to do. Instead I make time to go for a run or read a book or do something to help my mind switch off and recharge a little bit. Taking a bit of time away made a huge difference to how well I felt able to cope during those seemingly endless nights.
4. Beware the 3am online shop.
It’s easy to end up passing the time by browsing Amazon, Mothercare, John Lewis – you name it. We went through a stage where we were receiving deliveries pretty much every day, a lot of which I genuinely couldn’t remember buying. That was enough to make me feel like I was actually going a bit mad.
5. Take other people’s advice with a pinch of salt.
This includes that which you read in parenting books. Everyone has an opinion on why your baby isn’t sleeping and a huge number of suggestions on how to fix it. Most of the time, even if they don’t mean to, they’ll make you feel worse because you’ll somehow end up feeling like it’s your fault. The reality is that lots of babies just don’t sleep very well.
6. Enjoy the good nights when they come.
The first time my daughter slept through I got my hopes up so much, especially when it happened the next night too. It turns out that even though she can sleep through, it doesn’t mean she always will. There are times when things have been good for a week or more and then they get derailed again. It’s so frustrating but I’ve tried to let it go and just make the most of the sleep we do all get.
7. If in doubt repeat this mantra:
‘It will get better, it will get better, it will get better.’ And fingers crossed it will…eventually.
For more from Sarah, you can follow her blog, Raising Skye.
Image credit: Libby VanderPloeg