“I didn’t realise it was going to be like this!” you mumble, heaving yourself blearily out of bed for the third time that night. Probably none of us did.
We all get them; and we could all do without them. But broken nights are as much a fact of life for parents as dirty nappies – and roughly equivalent in entertainment value.
Coping with lack of sleep is arguably the most radical of the adjustments a new parent has to make. (Although it has to be admitted that most newbie dads seem to rapidly and mystifyingly acquire the ability to snore through the night feeds. Which can seem like a monstrous injustice in the morning when you’re staggering around under what feels like a mahoosive hangover and the conviction that nobody – but nobody – could possibly understand how you feel right now.)
It’s no help, either, when childcare manuals and websites blithely inform you that most infants sleep through by three months. “Most” still leaves thousands upon thousands who don’t. Or won’t. And BTW, should your well-meaning neighbour imply that her child never woke at night, was talking at six months, walking at seven and talking GCSEs by his first birthday, ignore her. She’s fibbing.
If your baby is a dedicated night-waker, you’ve only got two things to worry about.
- Will it last forever?
- And can I stay sane?
Mercifully, it won’t. And yes, you can. Here are five strategies for surviving broken nights …
1 Don’t Panic! Although it feels never-ending at the time, night waking is only a phase. Seriously. It will pass. So try not to let it become a major pressure. If you keep cool, you’ll desensitise the issue, reduce its sting and cope better.
2 A Burden Shared What about sharing the night feeds with your partner? When you’re exhausted, any respite can be hugely welcome. Prepare everything beforehand (breastfeeding mums can leave a bottle of expressed milk) and retreat into the spare bedroom with your earplugs. (But be realistic. Sharing can create its own stresses. You may be able to snatch the odd snooze during the day, but if your partner’s working, the chances are it’s not an option for him. There’s no sense in you both being shattered.)
3 Take a Tip Check out childcare websites, and talk to your health professionals; they’ll be full of hints on how to encourage baby to sleep all night. Friends will also have good advice. If something worked for them, it could work for you. Give it a try. Might just do the trick.
4 Sleep on It Forget the housework, and take a nap the moment your little one goes down for a nap. You’re far important than the ironing. Even if you don’t fall asleep, you’ll still be recharging your batteries.
Listen to what your body tells you – and if you can, try and take a catnap when drowsiness strikes. It’s not always practical, but that’s when sleep will be most beneficial. It’s surprising how much of a turbo-boost forty winks can deliver.
5 It Gets Better It’s not just lack of sleep, but the disruption of your body-rhythms which make you so tired. Baby jet-lag, but without the beach holiday. Your body will adjust to this as time goes on, so that the sleep you do have will be deeper and more refreshing. Remember, it’s quality not quantity of sleep that matters.
©Sue Williams 2017
What about your handy hacks for nighthawks? Let’s hear them – do please join the conversation in the comments box below.
Want more tips to get you through the wee small hours? If so, you’ll find another five fixes to try here.