As a parent, 9 times out of 10, the first question you get asked is, “So, how is he/she sleeping” – or something to that sentiment.
Often, when you honestly shrug and say you aren’t sleeping well, or admit that your baby is still nursing all night long, there is an awkward pause, silence, change in topic… Sometimes you will get some advice to follow a particular book or sleep training plan.
My advice is different. And it boils down to this: Your life looks different right now. Don’t fight it, be flexible.
Yes, I know, many of you really did follow such-and-such a book or plan, and it worked for you, and baby sleeps through the night and life is good. But there are more parents out there that also tried that book or plan, or five books and three plans, and it didn’t work, for whatever reason. This is for you. After all the books, plans, tears and anxiety – what worked for me and countless other moms, is a shift in expectations.
I started with Dr. Sears “The Baby Sleep Book”, and because things were not “solved”, I read every other book written on babies and sleep. Then, after I sent some desperate texts to some trusted mom friends (who then actually came over to my home to level with me), I realized something. My baby not sleeping through the night was not the problem – the real “problem” was that my life didn’t look how I had pictured it, and that scared me. I was acting out of fear instead of tuning into my instincts and to what my baby was telling me. I re-read “The Baby Sleep Book” and this time, I got it.
Once you come to that conclusion, I promise things will get easier. I have an 8 month old baby who still nurses all night and I wake up every morning feeling rested. OK, I admit I still go running for the coffee maker, but I wake up happy and able to pursue my passions and enjoy my family.
10 Tips for Coping with Sleep Deprivation:
- Dr. Sears says that you should teach your child a “healthy attitude about sleep”. When you’re NOT teaching your child a healthy attitude about sleep is when your blood pressure rises when baby wakes up early from a nap, and you are angry at the little one. When you are stressing out about every nap and bed-time, your baby can sense your stress.
- Be Present. Remember your baby is only human and they are not waking up early or staying awake to spite you. The day/week/year/your life will not be ruined by a cranky baby, even though it might feel like that now. If today was the end of the world and you had just one day, how would you spend it with your baby? Believe it or not, the hardest times will be looked back upon with warm nostalgia.
- Just roll with it. If you have the option to cancel or change plans because you didn’t sleep much the night before, do it. Take a breath and ask yourself, “What can I change to make today a better day?”. It’s true what they say, “sleep when baby sleeps”. Enjoy a nap or three with your baby, and just get through the day. Go to bed early.
- Relax. Sometimes you can’t sleep when baby sleeps, because you are too wound up (or caffeinated) to do so. So do something else that relaxes you – talk to a friend on the phone, watch a TV show, knit, or read. When bedtime comes, I don’t suggest logging all your wake-up calls (unless you are doing so because you suspect a real issue which you want to discuss with your doctor). Looking at the clock and waking up fully to document every feeding or diaper change will only make you feel less rested and more out of control.
- Unplug. Stay away from your computer or cellphone as much as possible. Sometimes it is nice to take a break and check your Facebook, but if you are checking your phone every 20 minutes for example, it’s time to unplug.
- Have an Alfred E. Neuman attitude. “What, Me Worry?” Don’t act out of fear, this time in your baby’s life is so fleeting. Your child will not be permanently damaged because you took a nap with him, or let him sleep in the stroller.
- Be proud. There is no shame in having a wakeful baby. In fact, there is a lot of literature stating that babies are MEANT to wake up through the night as a survival instinct. So, don’t feel badly when you are asked how baby is sleeping. Just smile and say, “Like a baby!”.
- Find out where you and baby sleep best. Another tip straight from Dr Sears’ “The Baby Sleep Book”. This could be an arrangement that changes day to day, week to week, month to month. You could sleep best with baby beside you in bed, but as baby becomes more active, a side-car arrangement might work well. Again, it is important not to be disappointed if what you pictured does not end up working.
- Exercise. You might be thinking, “Are you crazy? How can I exercise when I am getting no sleep?!”. However, being active has many wonderful benefits, including improved quality of sleep. You are also more readily able to relax. Commit to doing one thing a day – a walk to the park could be all you are up for. Then, as your body permits, take a fitness class or go for a jog. I love going to “Belly Boot Camp” or Baby & Me Fitness and recommend you try a class! Such a great way to do something for yourself while spending quality time with your baby. Remember to get clearance from your doctor before starting any fitness program.
- Eat Pure. Balanced nutrition is the best preventative medicine there is, and will make a world of difference in your ability to handle the stress of motherhood and interrupted sleep. When you are getting ample nutrients from clean eating, and enough fruits/veggies, protein, complex carbs, and healthy fats, what you are doing is loving yourself and your family by equipping yourself to best handle what comes your way. Dr. Sears says we should take an Omega 3 supplement daily if we can’t get 2 servings of fish (preferably wild salmon or tuna) per week. Other than that, he says a whole foods supplement like Juice Plus+ really helps bridge the gap between what we are supposed to eat and what we are able to eat each day. I can tell you from personal experience that feeling happy to greet my baby after being woken up every 45 minutes during teething is way easier because I nourish my body as I deserve.
- Outsource. Feeling too tired to clean, cook or even get dressed? We can help you with that! Our postpartum doulas can help you with anything from light housework to baby care so that you can take some time to yourself and sleep, even overnight. There may also be some simple changes you can make during the day and through the night to help baby (and you) sleep better. Our sleep expert can guide you through gentle suggestions and simple solutions for a good night’s sleep without the tears that come with most sleep training programs.
These tips are not always easy to put into practice, but I do hope they help you to gain some perspective and balance and joy. Think back to when you were young, staying up all night long to talk to the love of your life, and you went to work on no sleep. This is just another crazy time in your life, with the new love(s) of your life!
Brandie Hadfield is bebo mia’s Sleep expert and Wellness Coach, certified through Dr. Sears.
FREE ONLINE MINI-COURSE
BLISS IN BUSINESS RETREAT
Your future is created by what you do today — that's why we created a completely FREE mindset mini-course to help doulas and birth workers find bliss in their business!