Sleep, like fog, comes on little cat feet…
Not really but I have always wanted to start a post like that!!!
When it comes to sleep, particularly babies and sleep, a whole lot of untruths go by, white lies of course. One thing leads to another and before you know it you are the only person on earth whose baby does not sleep through the night. What I have learnt about sleep, not from any experts mind you, but from experience with se7en+1 babies, is that sleep is all about attitude… our attitude to our babies rather than whatever the latest “baby book” or “baby expert” says about sleep.
The first untruth is that babies sleep and eat… trust me after carrying this little character around for nine months I don’t want them to be sleeping… I want to meet them and I want to engage them. Why in the world would I work so hard to survive a healthy pregnancy only to have a baby that sleeps twenty-two hours a day. It doesn’t make sense and it’s not going to happen. Anyway, here are a list of se7en sleepy thoughts I have had and se7en things that have helped.
- Sleep Needs: We consider ourselves to be sleep deprived when we have had an interrupted night. In a culture where we are expected to perform at our maximum all out best 24/7 even the thought of being sleep deprived can send us into a whirlwind of stress. Supermoms need their sleep after all. And we know that the ultimate torture is to wake someone as soon as they fall asleep. It took time for me to realize that sleep disrupted wasn’t necessarily sleep deprived.
The trick: After months of what felt like absolutely no sleep at all a friend suggested I keep a sleep diary, you know a food diary but for sleep. So, I kept a sleep diary for a week for the babe and I and wrote down every single time he slept – even for ten minutes and every time I slept, even for ten seconds… and discovered after just two days that I was getting more sleep than I was getting before I had children.
- Sleep Expectations: So much emphasis is placed on “Does your baby sleep through the night?” As a new mom you are asked that question long before anyone asks “What’s your babies favorite game?” or “Goodness your baby looks so alert.” It is hard in the competitive world of motherhood to be the one with the less than perfect child, the only one that doesn’t sleep.
The Trick: And I will tell you a secret, we all wake up at night. All the time! For all sorts of reasons – even our babies. They may be cold, they may be hot, they maybe thirsty, they may have woken with a fright, they may just be lonely or just not tired anymore. It could happen to any of us. It is a human thing to wake up, not just a baby thing. And I speak for myself here, all my needs are important!!! If I wake in the night, for any reason, it is an important reason… Babies are the same, not all infant needs are about food but all their needs are important and they are just too small to meet them themselves.
- Sleep Myths:The first time I realized that folk were being less than honest about the “whole sleep thing” was when I visited a friend with my newborn, she had three older kids. When she heard our child slept in our family bed she was appalled and said her children never ever slept in her bed. Then through chatting and so on it arose that her husband slept with their toddler in his bed until midnight, then he moved into the five year olds bed, while she (the mother) slept on the couch with the baby. She was right – nobody was sleeping in her bed!!!
The Trick: The family bed works for us. I am all for a family bed and no one is lurching around the house in the night playing musical beds.
- Sleep Attitude: The lack of sleep when our first child was born was so incomprehensible that I am still reeling from it. The two hourly wake up call for the first countless years of his life were indeed a sleep deprivation experiment of note!!! Not to mention I cannot tell you if any other of our children are good or bad sleepers. What I can say is my attitude to sleep changed dramatically from my first child to the next and the next. Time taught me that my children’s night time needs were as important as mine. Over and above that everything we read is geared towards our right to sleep all night it took a while for me to learn that only a mother can really attend to a babies needs in the night. I had heaps of friends with babies whose husband got up in the night to change diapers and bring their babies to them. Why have to sleep disrupted parents?
The Trick: Is to stop worrying about how many times you get up in the night… Seriously meet the need and keep sleeping, if it isn’t morning don’t even glance at the clock… it is sleep time, not checking the clock time. And seriously stop counting the times you are woken, if you are awake enough to be counting then you have woken too much!!! Really it was a huge break through for me to change from thinking: “aaahh, that baby is awake again…” to “oh look how pleased he is to see me, even in the dead of night.”
- Sleep Time Needs: A common question I get is my child has doubled from it’s birthweight and it should be able to sleep through the night… Seriously do you ever go twelve hours or longer without even a drink of water. There is no documented evidence to prove that cereal will help your child sleep longer in the night. Your baby got to double its birthweight on milk, so why is milk suddenly not good enough. The World Health Organization recommends that babies have milk exclusively for their first six months. Really where is the extra nutrition in cereal compared to your babies regular milk? Frankly I am happy for my kids to learn the whole sleep thing before I start to disrupt their lives with solids.
The Trick: Don’t confuse issues, sleep is sleep. Starting solids is a whole-nother thing.
- Sleep Needs: Your baby gets enough sleep, otherwise it wouldn’t be thriving. Babies have their best sleep of the day in the evening, before midnight or with mine before eleven. It even has a name – it is called the core sleep. Even a baby that cries for hours in the early evening eventually sleeps.
The Trick: Go to sleep with your baby. If you are so tired that you cannot face another thing then don’t, don’t even look at the dishes… get your sleep then. I feel no shame – NONE – when I go to bed at se7en with my kids and surface at eleven to do some quick chores. And if I am really tired I am quite happy to sleep on through!!! Generally I clean everything up for the next day, but sometimes it just isn’t worth running on empty. Chores go so much quicker in the light of day when you have had some sleep. Trust me if someone calls you at sundown they will be far more appalled at waking you than you will be at being caught in bed fast asleep.
- Sleep Habits: With my first child we did the whole supper, bath, books, bed routine. (Yes everyone gets a story at bedtime, every night from the day they are born, it is important to me to give my kids that). It took years for me to realize that for my first born there was no such thing as a soothing story, a book at bed-time stimulated him through the roof!!! Rearrange your routine to one that works for you. Books before supper worked better for us. Every other child of ours was born into the routine and I never had to establish it. Hood #8 was born and the next night at bedtime we had supper, baths, and bed. A little bit of a prayer and lights out. Everyone does it and I don’t leave the room, I am tired, I am with them and I am going to sleep. There are no arguments!!!
My Absolute Best Sleep Trick: Is to play very dead in the night – no stimulation: no special soothing music, no special lamp, no special games and especially no special books (learnt that the hard way with a first born smashing Richard Scarry books on my head at two in the morning when he was nine months old… no not even special fluffy toys. Our bed is quite simply the most boring place in the house and we sleep in it!!! I only tend to a diaper if it is dirty… and the reason I am saying all this is because with my first born every time he woke: I changed his diaper before I fed him, put on his special lullaby classical music cd and lit his special “soporific-lavender” candles. He built up into a really wakeful state, whose surprised!!! Subsequent children have been fed in the dark, held when they needed holding, comforted when they need comforting but certainly never entertained in any way.
I hope this helps you guys, who ask me about babies and sleep, just a little bit. I specially haven’t quoted any experts or offered any of “the best books”… You have probably waded through heaps of information by now anyway!!! In fact by the time you have read through all the literature you baby will be finished with mastering sleep anyway. I really just wanted to provide some sleep tricks that have worked for us.
And since this blog is always about answering questions and I cannot possibly imagine I will ever write a whole post on bedwetting. I was asked a while back – in the olden days before Hood #8 was born. What to do about bedwetting? And this is what I do… Nothing, except a whole lot more laundry. Actually I don’t bother with the whole “you must be dry at night” aspect of toilet training. I pop my little kids into a disposable diaper at night until they complain about it… and that is usually a while after they are dry in the day… If they ask I will say: Let’s just see if your body is ready to sleep without a diaper… if the bed is wet then their body isn’t ready and repeat the experiment a couple of weeks later. I have no worries about putting a toddler in a diaper at night – really, they sleep in my bed and there are limits!!!
Finally, I know that by the time they reach college they will all be sleeping and out of diapers and no longer nursing… But I am very sure I will have a whole lot of other parenting challenges to cope with by then!!!
I popped this post onto the Works For Me Wednesday Site – go and have a look there for all sorts of tips on absolutely anything.
30 Replies to “Se7en Thoughts About Babies and Sleep…”
Love that post. It is so funny what we learn with the first ones. I wanted use every opportunity to “educate” my first born and took feeding at night as a time to read outloud to him, no wonder he got up so much! Mommy was so entertaining!
Hi K, Glad you liked it!!! Yup aren’t we so the entertainment… even with number eight, when I come to him in the night and he is so pleased to see me it really takes everything not to pick him up and have a little cuddle and a chat!!! Sometimes I just can’t resist!!! You have a good day…
I do love to read a sane (and honest) post about sleep. We only have the one and it has been one of our bigger challenges (her sleep challenges and my insomnia get together for regular all-night parties). As a baby, she absolutely gets engaged, stimulated, etc by ANYTHING….we couldn’t use our voices at all in helping her get to sleep bc voices meant playtime!
Thanks S! Oh I know about sleep reality!!! My first born was literally wide awake if we dropped a sock at the other end of the house – madness!!! And his eyes were always slightly open so if you crossed his vision path he would be wide awake for hours… a lot of leopard crawling out of the room only to hear: “mam?” as I got to the door!!! Hope you sleep well tonight!!!
As I have more children I am jealous of those night hours. It is the only time I get to hold the baby without anyone else asking for a hold to, without anyone else wanting to have a look or chat. Those night hours I just DRINK them in. I pray over them and talk to God about them (silently usually so I don’t wake them up too much!). Then if I am not too tired I get up and do some things around the house. Without anyone interrupting or wanting to ‘help’ me – bliss! Then when everyone else is up, I can sit on the couch and doze while they coo over the baby or nudge my arm to keep me reading 🙂 I love newborns! Mine usually start to ‘sleep through’ 6-8 hours a night fairly early, then they start waking up again around teething time and keep that going for a couple of months. I was almost disappointed when my youngest turned out to be a ‘good sleeper’ because I don’t get half as much done around the house!
Leopard crawling out of the room? That’s funny. I swore I would never do that with my children – and I didn’t – with my first!!!! With no. 2 I would do anything to get out of that room without waking her up…. including crawling on the floor so she wouldn’t see me. And then my knee would crack, and we would start all over again. They are all so different… 🙂
Love this! I’m just now learning these things with baby #4. Thank you for this post!
You have such practical and wise advice!
Hay J, I am so with you on the having my arm nudged mid-story!!! I also had one great sleeper and really missed him… I popped him in a sling during the day just so that I could catch up time with him when he was so tiny!!!
Hi L, Nice to hear from you again!!! Oh the starting all over again thing!!! You have a great weekend!!!
Hi K, Yup it does take us a while to figure things out… I am still figuring so much out with #8 and people think I am the font of knowledge, but time and seriously unlimited trial and error is the solution to most parenting questions!!! Have a lovely weekend.
HI C, You are too kind!!! Have a Great day!!!
Oh, thank you! Great post, once again. I have to bite my tongue around those who have babies (newborns!) in their own rooms. I don’t get it? When do they sleep? Thankfully I come from a family where babies sleep in the bed so I did this from the get-go. Tho, I did give it a go with no. 2 because someone gifted us with a cot… that lasted half a night, i think.
Hi O, A whole half a night!!! I was told you couldn’t parent without a cot so we had a camp cot folded up in its box for se7en years before I figured out that we would never need it and passed it on!!! I tell you it sometimes it takes more than a while to figure out what works for your family!!! Have a lovely weekend!!!
I really agree with the “why have two sleep deprived parents?”. One sane adult in the house is really helpful.
I also loved the comment about all your “soothing” routines with your first child. It’s funny how hard we can make simple things.
Hi S, Indeed one adult in a family scrabling for sleep and nodding off at all times is quite enough!!! Yup, there is soothing and SOOTHING isn’t there!!! Have a great week end!!!
I really appreciated the ‘attitude check’ as no 4 is about to make its appearance. It reminded me that it really makes all the difference. Looking back I have never for a second wished that I had held/rocked/nursed/carried/soothed less! I think it is much easier to let our kids grow up if we have had that. Thanks for sharing!
Hay J, Isn’t hindsight the truth!!! It is so hard when you are in it sometimes, but looking back we wouldn’t change a thing!!! Hope you guys have a great weekend!!!
Just stumbled onto your blog and MAN, this post is right on time for us. #2 just turned one and still wakes in the night a few times. I get plenty of sleep anyway, even with the disruptions. But I doubt myself when others say, “What? He STILL wakes during the night? You’ve got to do something!”
So glad to remember that the joy of the Lord is my strength, NOT an uninterrupted night of sleep is my strength!
Hi S, Tell you the truth my kids tend to go through a spell of sleeping well in the early evening till about nine or ten months and then suddenly we have a little night visitor sitting on the couch with us… for a week or two, and then sleeps well again, and then up again… We just go with flow and let them sit on the couch – they are no trouble just kind of spacey and we are really boring – no toys, no books come out we are sort of spacey ourselves that time of day. This goes off and on until they finish the whole teething event. And then you think aaahhh sleep issues are over and then they are two and get two year molars and spacey kid is back on the couch for a couple of weeks… Don’t worry about it. EVERYBODY is wakeful sometimes and it doesn’t mean they will never sleep again!!! It’s just life and living!!! Hope you have a great weekend!!!
hey – I can completely identify with the “what-on-earth-was-I-thinking-changing-the-nappy-every-feed-time-at-night?!” thing – it took me a while before I figured that NOT changing #1’s nappy at night was actually a GOOD Thing! 🙂 But I can’t even come close to identifying with the “being-up-at-night-is-great” concept. Sleep deprivation really REALLY is no fun. And that would be my hubby too if baby was in our room – he is such a light sleeper that middle of the night feeds keep him awake, even if I didn’t even wake up to pop the vaguely niggling baba on the breast. So, while I loved snuggling with my babies in my bed at night for the few weeks that I did do it, and completely get the idea of sleeping and feeding and how they merge together when things are going smoothly, I also value sleeping in the same bed as hubby and his desire for our bed to be our bed. 🙂 Different strokes, I guess 🙂 I’m impressed with the daddies that embrace (or even just cope with!) the family bed. But, I completely get the cot thing too. We’ve done both here – pros and cons both ways 🙂
Hay T, Nice to hear from you again!!! Yea different folks do things so differently. I had to read hundreds of ideas before I figured out how to go about it and what worked well for us!!! You all have a good week!
Great post! I am so glad I read many things like this from experienced moms before my only child was born. He’s a great sleeper so long as there’s someone nearby. At first I had to be within 10 feet of him and couldn’t leave more than a few minutes, but the time and distance gradually increased, and now he’s 5 and only needs me or daddy with him as he falls asleep. He can sleep through quite a bit of noise, light, movement, etc. I’m SO glad I knew to accept his needs as normal and didn’t put us through trying to get him to sleep alone in a dark, quiet room!
Taryn, we had the family bed in the kid’s room to prevent disruptions to daddy’s sleep and also “keep our bed our bed.” It worked for us!
HI B, Thanks for stopping by!!! I am so with you I love meeting my kids needs, especially when they are supposed to be old enough to be “independent” (whatever that is!!!) And I still have one or two who like their chubby little hands held while they drop off to sleep!!! And one little guy who just needs a little back scratch please!!! I have proof that they do grow out of it and eventually just go to bed on their own, but no-one believes that when they are in there… Really they are in our lives for such a blink of an eye… – You have a good weekend!!!
Loved this post – how did I miss it? I guess I was sleep deprived 🙂
Um no, I am DEFINITELY not getting the sleep I did before babies.
But those times in the middle of the night are precious, aren’t they?
Thanks for challenging my attitude – I’ve been thinking a lot about redefining success as a mother because, as you can guess, it was totally on the “but my babies aren’t sleeping through” and not on the fact that they really are GORGEOUS, healthy and HAPPY babies.
Hi M, I can’t believe you missed it!!! I kept reading your pleas for some savvy sleep tips and I finally could not put off writing about sleep any longer!!! Turns out I have really no advice but a heap of experience… I can’t tell you how to do it, I can only tell you what has worked for us. I am sorry you have been so miserable without sleep!!! It will pass and your sweet babies will get better at it, but it may take a while!!! Hope you have a good week!!!