There's a reason there's an entire industry dedicated to baby (or should I say, parent) sleep. When you're not getting much, it can really ruin your life. As a first-time mum, I expected to be woken at night. A lot. What caught me off guard was that no matter how hard I tried, sometimes my newborn would not go back to sleep in his bassinet despite my best efforts to do the feed-burp-swaddle-rock-bounce-transfer when asleep. Turns out, my baby didn't listen in parenting class. How rude. Naturally, I did what every new mum does and spent many a wakeful night Googling "How long can you survive on two hours broken sleep?" before discovering I should have been dead the week before. Whoops.
During the day, things weren't much better. "Sleep when the baby sleeps" was redundant as my dear little boy did not enjoy napping anywhere but on Mum and Dad, making it difficult to make the most out of nap time. My plan to spend maternity leave walking along the beachfront while baby napped in the pram (LOL, AS IF!) was swiftly replaced as I quickly dumped all expectations and just did what worked for our family.
Now, bub is three months old and I can confidently say I made it through the fourth trimester. High fives to me. If you've just given birth, or are struggling with your baby's sleep cycle, read on. These tips might just save your life.
1. Educate yourself on normal infant behaviour.
Setting realistic expectations about how your baby should sleep, based on their biological capabilities, is half the battle. Once you understand what's normal, it's far easier to devise strategies to cope. As baby sleep is a money-making industry, it's important to research tips and advice from qualified experts, not from popular "sleep trainers" whose sole business is to make money from "fixing" sleep "problems". The three best books I read were, "The Gentle Sleep Book" by Sarah Ockwell-Smith, "Sweet Sleep: Nighttime and Naptime Strategies for the Breastfeeding Family" by La Leche League International, and "Your Cherished Baby" by Dr. Howard Chilton . (All are available as e-books, so you can read on your iPhone while baby feeds.) They encouraged me to follow my instincts rather than the rules of a parenting book, which really is the best advice a new parent can get, especially when it comes to sleep. In a nutshell, it is normal for your baby to always want to be in contact with you. Don't fight it, and they will sleep.
2. Consider co-sleeping.
Due to the risk of Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS) , new parents are taught to never share their bed with their baby. This is problematic, as it prevents low-risk parents learning how to do it safely. Like any rule-abiding new parent, I kept my baby out of my bed. This meant I too did not spend much time in there, and ended up falling into a micro-sleep while feeding on the couch at 4 a.m. Obviously, this was not sustainable, so I began researching how to co-sleep safely and was relieved to discover that if following The Safe Sleep Seven guidelines, the SIDS risk is minimal. As a non-smoking, sober, breastfeeding mother to an unswaddled newborn, I brought my son into bed and never looked back. I could feed lying down (!!!) and my baby slept (double!!!), which meant everyone got more sleep — except my partner, who preferred to sleep on the couch. Sorry, bébé.