Anybody that knew me pre motherhood will know how much I loved sleep. I could sleep 14 hours straight and not feel like I’d wasted anytime, I had afternoon naps whenever possible, I’ve slept at work, found it very easy to sleep in cars, trains or planes! I loved sleep! So a lot of people are shocked when I tell them I’m awake at 6-7am, up and active in the mornings during the week and in work by midday on a Saturday (I used to go in for 4pm!) so for this blog I’m going to write about stages/ emotions around sleeping and change of sleep patterns with a new baby. This blog will hopefully reassure new or expectant mothers that it really doesn’t last long! Oliver is nearly 3 months now and I have a consistent sleep pattern. (By the way, I’ve worked in nightclubs for the past 10 years so these timings aren’t as late as they seem, I’ve spent many years getting in at 4am and getting up after 12.)
You will be tired. Very tired in the first few weeks. If you’re lucky enough to have a short labour I imagine it would be slightly easier but if you’re a 3-dayer like me then the first couple of days are so weird because you’ll be so sleep deprived but I didn’t find it easy to sleep because I kept waking up just to look at him.
I had many nights where I felt drunk! It’s like your brain and body want to do completely different things. I woke up a few times because he was crying and my brain and all my natural instincts were saying, “Get up and feed him or cuddle him or something!” But my body was saying, “No, I’m asleep!”
The best advice I can give to new parents is… Work as a team! Don’t resent each other if one gets more sleep and don’t turn it into a competition, “I’ve done 2 nappies today, it’s your turn, I did 2am feed, get up!” Etc. It will not help! During the first week or so at home I would wake up and be really Grumpy with David for this stupid reason, he was asleep and I was tired and awake. Not really worth arguing over is it? He quickly realised that I was so tired from doing the night feeds and decided he’d get up slightly earlier for work and take over the first morning feed. That helped me so much because it just meant I didn’t have to worry when he cried in the morning, I knew Dave would see to him. I’d still wake up but not getting up straight away or dozing made a big difference. If you’re breastfeeding express one of the feeds and have a routine where you work together so you both get some sleep. Remember that women are generally more in tune to a babies cry so it makes sense for us to do the night feeds because the men probably won’t wake up if they’re in a deep sleep. Then that will cause an argument when you end up doing HIS feed. As well as being good for you as a couple, it’s good for you both to bond with baby. Feeding is a bonding experience for babies so seeing you both do it is really good for the baby.
Ok, so this is the wise old owl “shethinkssheknowseverythingaboutbabies” section. Again I would like to stress, this is only based on my experience but if my experience can help a new mother then I’m pleased to help. So, by the time Oliver was 8 weeks old we were sleeping 6 hours straight and had an established routine. I didn’t want to write about it straight away incase I was just having a lucky few days but over a month later we are still in the same bedtime routine and Oliver seems to understand what’s going on. In the first few weeks we had no set feeding schedule so that didn’t help because I’d never know when he’d get hungry, I was initially breastfeeding on demand but moved to formula after being drugged up and in hospital for over a week. So he is now on a formula schedule and feeds roughly the same time everyday, this will happen with breastfed babies after a while so don’t resort to formula if you don’t have to.
Once we knew when he’d be hungry, we knew when we’d have gaps to sleep. So initially he was on a rough 10, 2, 6 am/pm schedule and I’d do 2am, Dave 6am. Then we changed the times so his last bottle was 11pm then we’d go to bed. After a few days he started falling asleep halfway through his 3am, so I started reducing the amount he had at 3am and increased his 11pm and 7am so he wouldn’t wake up hungry. He started sleeping til 5am, then 6am and now we generally get to about half 6-7 before he wakes up. We’ve also noticed that he’s stopped crying for his bottle, he just wakes up and shouts like he’s saying, “Hello, I’m awake, I think it’s bottle time now!”
Now we have a proper bedtime routine and he goes along with it! Pyjamas on and clean nappy around 9pm, then chill out time watching TV or just relaxing and cuddles, he usually has a little sleep. The room is kept dark and quiet so he can relax. Then bottle at 11, clean nappy and into bed with his mobile on and he just drifts off to sleep on his own. In the early days he wouldn’t sleep unless I cuddled him to sleep then he’d instantly wake up when I put him down. You have got to be patient with a baby, they’ve spent 9 months being snuggled up and now you expect them to sleep in a cot with all this space around them? It must be scary for them! You’ve got to help them understand they’re in the big wide world now! Snuggle pods/ blankets really helped Ollie learn to sleep on his own.
Everything is suddenly a lot easier and happier when everyone gets some sleep. It is really important to take time establishing a routine if you want a happy household. Babies do not know the difference between day and night, we need to teach them. When I talk about timings, it is only a guide. We don’t live in a regimented strict routine, it is the routine that is more important than the time. Ollie will sleep just as well if we do the nappy, bottle, mobile routine at 11, 11.15 or 12. And please don’t think I leave him crying and hungry if he wants a bottle, if he’s hungry earlier he gets fed. However, because of the routine he is generally hungry at the same time everyday. Just like we’re hungry in the morning, lunchtime and teatime. Having a schedule does make everything easier, it means he can go to his Nan’s or aunties and I can tell them when he’ll be hungry rather than them trying to figure him out! I can go out and know how many bottles to take just in the same way adults might go out and plan to get lunch while they’re out.
Some people are against schedules for babies, it is not nasty or neglectful to put structure and stability into a child’s life. Is it nasty that schools have lunchtime at the same time everyday?
One problem that I experienced with this lovely bedtime routine is, Ollie snores really loud! So he’s all relaxed and peaceful and I’ve now got two lots of snoring going on and I can’t sleep. I asked the doctor about Ollie’s snuffly nose and he said it’s perfectly normal. They just have narrow airways so they get blocked easily. As he grows it will get better. He did prescribe some saline drops for him to help clear his nose so sometimes he has a couple of drops before bed and it helps unblock his nose.
My final tip on getting some sleep with a new baby is don’t be shy! Ask family for help. Ollie has had a few sleepovers at my moms, my sisters have stayed at my house to do one of the feeds, his Grandma and Grandad looked after him on the weekend of my sisters wedding. You’ll find that they actually like helping. All of your family want to bond with your baby so give them time to get to know each other and give yourself time to sleep!
And why we’re on the Bashful subject, don’t be shy about sharing my blog!
If any expectant/ new mothers have any questions please ask. If any mothers have any other tips or advice please comment.