Please stay with me. Here’s your challenge.
What if we stopped for even a day believing all the stuff we are told about Baby Sleep.
What if we accepted that our baby is normal and sleeping exactly as they should by going through cycles of waking frequently, nursing frequently, falling asleep on the boob, catnapping, only sleeping in close contact with a caregiver.
What if we accepted that not all babies need X amount of sleep in long chunks to be rested and healthy.
What if we accepted that the majority of babies need help to relax off to sleep and are incapable of ‘self soothing’.
What if we accepted that what our baby could do last week simply isn’t something they can this week.
What if we accepted that just because our friend’s baby happily drops off to sleep once placed in their cot it is not something our own baby can or should be doing.
What if we accepted that our high needs babies really do need us to help them back to sleep every 20-40 minutes at night.
What if we accepted that a teething baby, a sick baby, a baby going through a developmental leap, a baby learning to crawl or walk, a baby who has been away from their carer for a chunk of the day is likely going to want to sleep on the breast all night long.
What if we accepted that some babies don’t and won’t resettle from a day nap and catnapping is normal.
What if we simply accepted normal infant sleep behaviour and stopped questioning ourselves and our babies at every bump in the sleep road.
I challenge you to try this. Because I do believe there is method in my madness.
Once you have decided to accept (even experimentally) that this is normal infant sleep behaviour and your baby doesn’t have a ‘sleep problem’ as many in our society would have you believe you are now at the next very important point.
You are probably tired. Maybe even severely sleep deprived. You may have other children. You may have a partner or maybe you are doing this alone. You may be far from family. You may have barely heard from you friends since the baby arrived. You may be back at work or heading back soon. You may have your own health issues. You may have many other factors in your life that need to be considered right down to your own experience as a child.
There’s no one size fits all solution here. There is however a bit of a check you could run by to assess what changes, both physically and mentally, you ‘could’ make to help you through this season.
Firstly, set yourself a realistic goal. For me, this is to get the best quality rest and sleep I can and to feel well enough in myself to function, enjoy and appreciate my family. You’ll notice I said ‘best quality sleep’ not the elusive ‘quantity’ and I say ‘best’ meaning best in the current circumstances not best as in the amazing sleep I had before babies.
After that, give yourself some time to think and reflect on how you can achieve this goal in your unique setting.
If your baby sleeps best on you or feeds or wakes constantly, have you considered bedsharing, or sidecarring the cot or camping out in the nursery?
If your baby sleeps their longest stint first up, could you change things for this season so you too can go to sleep around this time?
Could a husband or partner take on a settle or dream feed first up to give you one longer stint (NOTE: this has never worked for me but does for others)
If you can’t sleep during the day, can you at least get a 15-30 minute ‘rest period’ even if it means sitting in the car at work in peace or putting the TV on for your toddler while you put your feet up with cuppa?
Is there any way you can farm out any other ‘jobs’ to create more rest time in your day? I hired a cleaner when I was diagnosed with PND and I can’t explain how much of a positive impact it had on me. This may not be within your budget but what else could you do?
Who can you call on when it’s all too much and you need more of a break? Could your husband take a half day or even full day of leave? Could grandma come and have bub while you have a rest or bath or a good long cuppa?
What exercise are you getting to keep you mentally and physically moving? I’m no gym junkie but an evening walk with our sleepy babes is a great way for my husband and I to stay connected. There are also many mums and bubs classes, crèches at gyms and other options if you need to bring babe along.
What are you doing socially to stay feeling connected and supported through this season? Finding your mummy tribe can be a very vital key to not only surviving this season but also enjoying it. Mothers groups, ABA or La Leche League meets, online forums and groups … Put out your feelers for likeminded supportive mamas who become your safe place for support, encouragement and genuine friendship.
Are you saying ‘yes’ or loading yourself up too much at this time? Could anything wait until this season ends?
How could your own health (physical or mental) be impacting on how you can manage this season and what could you do to alleviate any of this?
Do you think there are any other factors making it hard for you to accept your baby’s sleep pattern and if so, what could you do to deal with this?
Lastly, what expectations do you hold of yourself that may be making this weary season any harder than it needs to be?
The next step, try it out. Make the adjustments and changes (both physically and mentally) that you’ve identified and take it for a spin.
For me, stopping nighttime resettling and taking up bedsharing with my first was a complete game changer. I simply could not believe how much more rested I was when I stopped physically getting up and stopped having to wind back down to sleep. I wasn’t always comfy. He still slept like shite but hell I got more rest.
Give it a chance and tweak it where necessary.
You may have gone through this process and found you are unwilling to make the changes required to achieve your goal. Or maybe you feel there aren’t viable choices to be made. You may decide that for you and your family, sleep training is the right path. If this is you, I urge you to please, investigate gentler options that do not involve your baby crying. It may take longer but just as you’ve found it too difficult too make changes to your comfort zone, respect that your baby will also find these changes hard.
If however, you are still with me, I look forward to hearing how you go with your goal. I look forward to hearing how you work through your own adjustments to manage this season. Sometimes, simply knowing your baby IS normal is all that you need to make it through. It was a huge part of finding my surrender.
So here’s to accepting normal infant sleep behaviour and here’s to trying something different 💙😴
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