Sleep deprivation. Eugh! Those two little words that send any parent with a newborn into a rollercoaster of emotions.
I’ve mentioned it in another blog post, but we have not been blessed with good sleepers. Although perhaps blessed isn’t the right word here. I know parents who had dreadful sleepers who are now good sleepers, because they have put in the time to sleep train them. I’ve thought about sleep training, I really have. But when push comes to shove I’m just too tired to start it! Making a rod for your own back is a phrase that springs to mind here, but when a little feed can send them back to sleep so quickly, the thought of prolonging the awake time by sleep training isn’t appealing. I know you get out what you put in, but hey that’s just how we’ve found ourselves.
There is so much debate over what makes a good sleeper. Is the making of a great little sleep machine down to nature or nurture? Perhaps it makes a difference if they are bottle or breastfed? White noise, blackout blinds, dummies, comforters and a good bedtime routine all play a part too in the subject that all parents want to crack. In my opinion, and can I emphasise this is only my opinion, I think it’s a real mixture of the above. I’ve said it before, no baby is the same and what works for one may not work for another. I really do think the key to getting a baby to sleep is a matter of trial and error and finding what works for you.
Only a quick scour of the internet and if you look hard enough you will find articles supporting all of these claims of how to make your baby sleep. If it was a one size fits all kind of thing, we would all be living our best lives, bagless eyes and all. And the person to crack the code would deserve a knighthood at the very least.
I do find it interesting that a “good sleeper” is a sign of a “good baby” in today’s society. People say “are they good babies, do they sleep?” I feel there is so much pressure on parents to get their babies to sleep through the night, and nap consistently in the day at set times. Not only is sleeping through the night defined as a 6 hour stretch (not 12 as some people might think), but not all babies need the same amount of sleep, just like not all adults need the same amount. My opinion on it is if it works for you and your baby then don’t change it. If your baby is happy to sleep on the go in the day and you are always on the go, then don’t beat yourself up that they aren’t napping in their cot. I think that it’s only if you are really unhappy and it’s not working for you or your baby, then change needs to happen. It’s highly unlikely that you’ll be driving your teenage son around before bed to get him to sleep, or your teenage daughter will want to sleep in bed with you. Although, you never know!
We’re in a particularly challenging time at the moment when it comes to sleep. The twins are teething and seem to be storming through developmental leaps, so all they want to do is practice those. And Immy sometimes wakes at night too, usually when both of the twins are awake. She knows when to time it! That first year though seems to be a never ending cycle of sleep regressions and leaps, doesn’t it?
I’ve found that each night has its different challenges. There are nights where you see every hour on the clock, nights you feel like the only person in the world who is awake. The nights bleed into days and 9am is the new 1pm! Sometimes you will do anything to get them to sleep, especially in those early days when every minute of sleep counts. We were victim to the 4am drive around the block with Tabby a couple of times in the early days. Ross got some funny looks parked up on our drive when the 6am dog walkers strolled past. The amount of times we used to camp out in the car too whilst they slept.
For me it’s the inconsistency that’s the killer in our house. Just as you think you’ve cracked this sleep malarkey and bam, one of them starts waking again. We have been fine up until now, but we are starting to think about making some changes to battle the twins night waking. Two and a half years of interrupted sleep is definitely starting to take its toll.
The thing I find funny is that although we do love a good old rant about being sleep deprived, we still sit up until god knows what time in the evenings! I do sometimes think to myself that I should just go to bed when the children do, but that child free time is also so precious, not only to unwind but to spend some time with Ross and talk.
Sleep deprivation can have a knock-on effect to other areas of your life too. I’ve found myself in the past meeting up with friends for a walk and having a full blown conversation, but then not remembering what I’ve said as I’m just so tired. People have said to me “why don’t you just sleep when they nap,” but that’s just not an option nowadays, as it’s very rare they sleep at the same time. I live off coffee, eat rubbish food, and it can make me bad tempered. On the occasions we do get a good night’s sleep, I feel like a different person. Ross and I take it in turns to have a lie in and that really helps us both function a little more like human beings.
This blog post could probably act as a form of contraception, and I apologise if it comes off as negative. I know there are people out there who would give anything to have children, sleepless nights and all. I know that because I was one of them. And although I may sound like the voice of doom here, I still stand by a previous statement that they are worth every wink of lost sleep and I am perfectly happy to take the good with the bad.
In my opinion though, sleep deprivation is most definitely the hardest part of becoming a parent. The terrible twos tantrums don’t seem as bad after a half decent sleep, and even having a couple more hours makes me feel ready to take on the world.
As with everything with parenting, I know this time will pass and in the blink of an eye we will get a sound slumber again. It will be us knocking on the children’s bedroom doors trying to get them to get ready for school, and before you know it we will be dragging their hungover bums out of bed to go on a nice country walk. Ah, sweet revenge!
Maybe I’ll write another blog post about the benefits of a full night’s sleep one day, but until then, mines a flat white!