Becoming parents means getting used to sleepless nights and an overwhelming sense of tiredness. Putting in place some sleep deprivation strategies can help.
Sleep Deprivation With One Misplaced Footstep
The floorboards creaked, and I could have cried. Rookie error on my part and I was about to pay – big time. The room, which had been silent for around 45 minutes, was suddenly filled with wracking sobs. They weren’t mine.
My 2-year-old daughter went from a sleeping, angelic vision to a howling, whaling banshee with my one misplaced footstep. Game over! I picked her up and started the whole routine again. It took another 30 minutes for me to get my sorry self out of the room and downstairs. Of course, by that point, I felt exhausted. I stared at the pile of washing, my newborn baby in his moses basket, the dirty baby bottles that needed washing and sterilising and tears began rolling down my face. I felt a little bit broken, and I hadn’t even started my inevitable sleepless night with the baby.
A ‘Sixth Sense’ And The Sleep Deprivation Continues
She had given up drinking milk from the bottle at 6-months-old, so we had to make up baby porridge with formula – hardly as comforting as a bottle and not as conducive to dropping off to sleep quickly. I’d gotten into the habit of holding her hand as she laid in her cot and I don’t know how she knew, but every time I made for the door, she would wake up. It’s ok when you’ve only got one. It’s horrendous when you’ve got two and not comfortable doing it while sitting on the floor with a newborn in your arms either! However, when she finally slept through me creeping out of her room, she slept through the night and for that I was grateful.
Sleep Deprivation Is Tough And Unavoidable
We continued, and it was something that remained that way until she was well over 3-years-old. By the time the new baby was two, I had it nailed and was able to sleep through too. But those first four years were tough. Utterly exhausting. My carefree twenties seemed a million years behind me, and I often felt like a former version of myself. It’s well known that sleep deprivation is bad for your health, and typical effects include feeling bad-tempered, moody, sometimes depressed and unable to cope.
Ask any new parent how they are and within the first two minutes of conversation you will nearly always hear the words “I’m exhausted” (or a variant of, such as knackered, shattered, done-in, tired all the time etc.). New babies, toddlers and sleep do not go together, and thus, all parents have to find coping strategies and sleeping tips to deal with the total exhaustion that hits us all.
How To Cope With Sleep Deprivation
Coping strategies that have helped many new mums and dads include:
- Getting to bed as early as you can
- Indulging in self-care where possible (hot baths, proper food)
- Napping. Whenever possible
- Drinking coffee to keep you going but also drinking loads of water if you’re breastfeeding
- Exercising. General advice says to exercise, but I don’t know how anyone can realistically fit this in in the early days
- Cutting out all non-essential tasks like cleaning the windows and sorting out the Tupperware drawer
- Asking for help and accepting it when offered.
Always A Heated Debate, But I Decided To Co-Sleep
And the big question; do you let your baby sleep with you? The NHS advice is not to co-sleep, and they have some excellent tips here to help you find ways to get your baby to sleep. I have to admit that when I had my third and fourth babies (and only 16 months apart), I co-slept because otherwise none us would have slept and it was the only way we felt we could cope with the sleep deprivation. The plus side of co-sleeping is that everyone gets the rest they need, and the bonding is fantastic. The downside is they want milk much more often, you never have sex anymore, and they might well be in there for years! It is essential to research the facts about SIDS (Sudden Death Infant Syndrome) before you do make any co-sleeping decisions.
Ignore Opinions And Do What Feels Comfortable For You
Becoming new parents means getting used to sleepless nights and an overwhelming tiredness that is unlike any other. Sleep deprivation needs proactive management, so take the best care of yourself you can and focus on the well-being of you and your baby. There’s nothing wrong with hand-holding your baby to sleep or letting them fall asleep on you if it means that you all get a great night’s sleep afterwards. Do what feels comfortable for you, for you know your needs and those of your baby the best.
Asking For Help, Is Not a Sign Of Weakness
If it all gets too much, ask for help. Family, friends, doctors and health visitors should all respond positively to help you. It is what they are there for.