When you have a new baby, everyone and anyone around you asks one very important question:
“How does the baby sleep?”
Firstly, as an exhausted parent you’re going to be tempted to tell them that the baby sleeps upside down like a bat, simply to get people off your back. It’s a baby; babies are unpredictable. One day, they may have one perfect morning nap, an interrupted afternoon nap and then sleep through the night for you. The next? The next, they’ll sleep beautifully all day long and then wake up every ten minutes. Babies are unpredictable, so the answer to that question is ‘fine, thank you,’ when you really just want them to stop asking.
There is not a book or manual out there than can tell you how you can make your baby sleep. They can make suggestions about swaddling and rocking and picking up and putting down, but what is written in these manuals is only ever read at 2am by desperate mothers on the verge of tears because their child just won’t sleep. I’m not going to tell you how you can make your baby sleep, because really, you can’t. You can get your child into the best and most comforting routine possible, but it doesn’t mean that they will sleep. You can research the best crib on the market, but that doesn’t mean that your baby will sleep, either. Sleep is a commodity that most new parents would buy from people if they could, but realistically you have to consider how your baby’s sleep patterns are going to impact your life.
Before you had children, you could sleep whenever you wanted and for however long you chose to. When a baby comes into the picture, it’s not about you anymore – except that it kind of is! You are a mother now, but you’re also a person and people just don’t function on no sleep. You need the energy to keep going with the rocking and the shushing, and if you have a partner at home, USE THEM. They are there with you to take some of the strain, and they may be working every day, that much is true, but that doesn’t mean that you aren’t, too!
The best way for new parents to get sleep is to share the load. Share every hour if you have to. Effective systems for a restful night is to sleep in shifts. For example, the parent who is working could be up and down with the baby for the evening until you retire to bed, then the parent who is at home takes over from there. This gives you a few solid hours (yes, even if you go to bed at 6pm) to sleep and recharge those batteries. Parenting is a joint effort and sleep is precious; your baby cannot understand you begging them to sleep because all they need is you. You, however, can make your life work around them, it’s simply a matter of trading off with each other.
Don’t let lack of sleep kill your spirit!