Ah, sleep deprivation. The moan of all new parents. There are many many things that took me by surprise when I first had my baby. So many things that I felt were misrepresented to me or I was just plain naive about.
However, I at least thought I knew what I was getting into on the tiredness front. I mean, it’s the one thing that everyone tells you before you have a baby. The fact that you will become a walking zombie is drilled into you again and again. And I always knew that I was going to find that a bit tough. I have always needed a solid 8 hours to really feel like a fully functioning person. To the extent that even only getting 7 hours a night for a couple of nights in a row, and I feel quite ropey.
So I braced myself for a rough ride. And I’m afraid it was so much worse than I thought. I’m so sorry if you’re reading this trying to prepare for what is coming but I think you should know what you might have to expect so you can plan better. I think I would have appreciated a proper heads up.
My baby didn’t sleep. And I was breastfeeding so I couldn’t split the feeds with M. We both agreed that there was no point us both falling apart, so he started sleeping in the spare room. I didn’t need him disturbing me as well as the baby disturbing me. Coz did I mention that my baby DID NOT sleep?? Not for more than an hour and a half at a time at best. And 45 mins at the worst. And the rest of the time she was SO DAMN NOISY! Grunting and moaning and snorting and squeaking. No bloody chance I could sleep through that! I even resorted to ear plugs at one stage (don’t worry though, I could still hear her if she cried).
And it broke me. She would only sleep on me for naps so no chance to doze then. And I suddenly realised why sleep deprivation is an effective form of torture. You feel yourself going mad. Totally mad. Forget trying to drive anywhere safely. Hell, I could barely make a cup of tea safely. It was bad. And I can honestly say that I did not enjoy the first two months of being a parent as a result. I seriously wondered what the hell we had done. Is that too honest?? Well it’s true and I think someone should say that it’s not all a bed of roses.
So – having scared the pants off you, I’m here to say this. Prepare for the worst. Make a plan. Do what you have to do! Because there are things that I would have done differently. Firstly, if you are breastfeeding – pump milk! I know, it’s a pain and a faff and difficult to fit into your already screwed up day (you know, coz you have a new baby and all) and it’s so so boring. But do it. And then insist, INSIST that your partner gives the baby a feed in the early evening. I’m talking anywhere between 8pm and 11pm. And you go to bed at 7pm. Just do it. You need that time to sleep. Your partner may not be thrilled. Again, being honest, I think M found it harder to adjust to having the demands of a new baby in his life than even I did. And there was certainly resistance to make sacrifices to what he called his ‘me time’. I probably let him get away with that too much. I needed help and I should have demanded it or at least set the expectation from day dot. He got better though. 🙂
You should accept all and any help you can get. My mum saved me. She started coming to stay over so she could take the baby at about 4am when bubs would start to get really restless. I was generally not getting any sleep from about 2.30am onwards. I am eternally grateful to my mum for this help. It was hard to accept because I hate admitting when I can’t do it all alone, but taking that help was vital.
In my darkest moments at 3am, when I was going out of my mind, there were many things that I googled. Many many things. And one thing I came across was a ‘night nanny’. Now, I never actually used one in the end but my god, they sound like a gift from heaven. Essentially, at extremely short notice, they will come to your house and stay the night with the baby, only bringing her to you when she needs to feed. Once fed they will then take and settle the baby again so you can rest. Yes. Yes, yes, yes. Sign me up for that! It’s not cheap (bout £100 per night?) but if we ever have another I will be putting my pennies away from the day the stick turns blue for this. To know that even one night a week I might actually get some rest would be simply magic.
Or, as my friend did after being woken 12 times a night for months, get a sleep consultant! She swears it was the best money she ever spent. Her baby slept for 9.5hours the other night as a result and as a new mum, I can tell you that this can make the difference between enjoying your baby and your life and, well, just not.
Now of course, you may have one of the many many babies that sleep stretches of 5 or 6 hours from the very early days. From everything that I’ve read and people I spoke to, my bubba was particularly poor on the sleeping front. I mean, she wouldn’t cry (for which I was very grateful) but she sure as hell wasn’t asleep. But that’s not necessarily going to happen to you if you’re reading this in anticipation of having your own bundle of joy. I sincerely hope your baby sleeps for hours. This is now the nicest thing I can wish for anyone.
I will finish by the saying that if your kiddo turns out to the worst sleeper in the history of man, then you should know that it does get better. With no form of any sleep training, bubba is now almost sleeping through the night. It does not last forever. Honest.
And I should say that if you are a single parent, doing this all alone, then you are, in my view, an honest-to-god superhero. Seriously. You are something special. And your kid will grow up knowing that. I send you all the hugs in the world. You are a hero.