To all new mums out there, doing their damnedest to lovingly and slowly coax their baby to longer sleeps during the day. Time and time again. Several times a day. On your hands and knees patting their mattress til your arm goes numb or shoooosing til your mouth runs dry or stroking their head for hours each day. Trying to teach them how to self settle. Or sitting through blood curdling cries when nothing else has worked and you know all they want is sleep. Pacing the floor till your legs and back ache only to lower them into the cot to have them wake. Every day. Every day. EVERY DAY!
Who are doing so more than just because they want the best sleep for their baby. Who are doing so because that’s what baby’s are “supposed” to do. And that’s how long they “should” sleep. And that is how long “other mothers say” their kids sleep. And “how easily other mothers say” their kids are to get to sleep. And that’s how my sister “said I should get them to sleep”. And that’s what “the midwife said” to do. And that is what “my mother said” to do otherwise you’ll end up with an spoiled child.
I have one, no, two, no, three things to say to you.
You are NOT alone.
There is NO normal, typical, regular baby sleep pattern. Despite what the internet says.
Be flexible and do whatever works for YOU. Despite what everyone else says.
Sure, give different things a go. Try them consistently for a few days or so. Try for as long as you physically and mentally can try. But if they are not working and you are struggling. Do what will work for you that day and at that moment in time. Remember that your naps aren’t the same length in time, so your baby may not want to sleep at the same time or for the same length of time every day.
If you have an unsettled baby that is difficult to get to sleep [and they are otherwise well and there’s not something else wrong, like temperature and all that common sense essential stuff]. My tips to you are:
- try not to think about what you did for a living before you were a stay at home mum (if that’s your situation) or what you are qualified to do or what other things you could be doing with your time while you are on your knees, in the dark, shooooosing your baby to sleep, into the next hour and the next one.
Try instead to think about how happy and cheery your baby is when they wake up and give you cuddles. Think about their next birthday or christmas. Think about what they mean to you, and what you mean to them;
- be flexible about the settling methods you read about.
Mix things up if you find yourself getting frustrated that nothing is working, try something new and observe how your baby reacts;
- swap with your partner every once in a while if you can and go for a walk outside.
Instead of looking down at your feet and worrying or thinking about what’s going to happen when you go back inside. Try looking up at the sky and clouds. Sit down and observe the scenery for a bit.
Close your eyes and take some slow breaths. Then just breathe normally and notice how you breath is cool as it goes in and warm as it goes out. Notice how your breath expands to your shoulders and down to your hips. See if there is anything else you can notice about your breath. If your worry comes back just tell yourself “it’s just my mind worrying” and take your mind back to noticing your breath again;
- if they are not asleep after an hour of trying consider getting them up to see what happens. If they’re really tired they won’t last long and you can try again, but at least you’ve had a break;
- know that it’s common for baby’s to sleep for 20 minutes (or whatever their sleep cycle is) at a time.
Actually it’s more common than it’s not.
Yes, you’re right in thinking it’s not ideal. And you’re also right if you are thinking it doesn’t have to be that way. Sometimes with sleep training it can be improved. Sometimes not even sleep training can help, you might just have an active baby. But do not blame yourself. And don’t blame your baby. It just is what it is. I reckon, the best thing you could do is just accept what it is and roll with it. Anything better than that is a bonus then.
But, if you want some help or to try to improve your baby’s sleeping habits, ask your midwife or GP whether they know of any baby ‘sleep schools’. There is one in Brisbane called the Ellen Barron Centre. And there are a few in Sydney and Melbourne;
- finally, be good to yourself, be kind to yourself, give yourself mental high fives for little wins, encourage yourself (maybe even when you’re on your feet pacing and your legs are about to buckle), tell yourself the things that you would want someone to say to you when you’re struggling and do something everyday that makes you feel good.
Maybe rocking, pacing, shoooooshing, stroking, cuddling, singing or something else will be the thing that works for you and your baby. You are, after all, both unique individuals, you have individual make-ups. You are not typical or average or regular. You are you. And your baby is them. (Great grammar I know – but you get my drift).
In the end, you have to do what works for you.
Am I making any sense?
I’m not a midwife. Just a mum. Who has gone through a little bit of hell. But come through the other side glowing and mellow. And these are my tips from me to you. Even if they help one person I’ll be pleased.
Oh, and some people kept telling me “it’ll get better soon”, which didn’t help me at all. In fact it made me feel a bit despondent and angry (with them for saying it over and over again and with myself for longing for that time each time they said it instead of enjoying each moment). I told myself I would never say that to a new mum.
All I’ll say is this – it does, in time.
[If you are really struggling and need help, talk to your GP make an emergency appointment if need be or call a friend. If you feel like things have got the better of you consider calling Beyond Blue 1300 22 4636 or PANDA 1300 726 306 or Lifeline 13 11 14. Please ask for help if you need to, it can make the world of difference.]