My baby isn’t actually ‘nocturnal’ in fact his sleep habits are actually pretty consistent with those of many, many babies, especially breastfed babies. Basically he wakes up every two hours-ish at night, most nights. Occasionally he will do three hours and some nights it’s every 45 minutes. But none less it has now been almost seven months since he slept longer than a three hour stretch and I am not going to lie, it can be quite (VERY) hard. Rafe was always a pretty good sleeper until he went through the four month regression. He used to be able to sleep a full six hours without needing to feed, but at four months this all changed and things have not been the same since. He will soon be eleven months old and things are not really showing any signs that they are going to be getting better any time soon, so I thought I would write a post about the things that I find helpful to cope with the sleep deprivation!
Before any fellow exhausted mums out there get their hopes up that I have any advice on getting babies to sleep, I will state right here that I don’t. I also have no qualifications in babies behaviour, and I definitely don’t class myself as an expert in parenting. I’m a very ‘google it’ and ‘trail and error’ sort of mum. But the one thing I do class myself to be an expert on is being tired, and there are a few strategies that help me cope with it that I thought I might share.
- Co-sleeping. Co-sleeping is something that I never planned to do when I was pregnant, I didn’t have anything against it but is wasn’t something that I thought would be for us. Co-sleeping is actually the only way I can get some shut eye. Rafe does have a cot in our bedroom that he starts the night in before I come up to bed, but when he wakes I tend to just bring him in with me. I would say that if you are planning to co-sleep research the safe way to do it otherwise it can potentially be dangerous for baby.
- Purchase ‘The gentle sleep book’ by Sarah Ockwell-Smith. Has this book transformed Rafes sleep? No. Am I glad that I bought it? Definitely. Reading this book has really helped me understand why babies wake through the night and especially breastfed babies. Not only is it normal (it’s a way babies protect themselves against SIDS) but in many cultures it’s very accepted. It only seems to be the western world that expects babies to be sleeping through the night in their own bedrooms by six months. This book talks about how in some cultures co-sleeping is the norm and that, yes, some babies do sleep really well from a very young age, but others don’t. This fact is not a reflection of parenting. This book also has techniques that may work for some babies. We have followed a few of the tips and Rafe does have a good nighttime routine and bedtime in place…even if it doesn’t always last long!
- Don’t blame yourself. As previously mentioned some babies are ‘good’ sleepers others just aren’t. If yours isn’t then chances are it’s not your fault! If you are a breastfeeding mum I would highly, highly recommend joining a breastfeeding support group on Facebook. I know I go on about these groups a lot but I have found them fantastic, they make you realise that you are not alone, and there are so many other mums out there going through the same thing.
- Routine. It probably won’t ensure a good nights kip but I would still recommend a bedtime routine. We bathe and put Rafe to bed in the same way and at the same time each night, and since being consistent with it he does now go down quite easily. (I really hope I haven’t jinxed it by saying that!) Something that has really helped him get to sleep at night is playing white noise. It doesn’t help him stay asleep but it might be worth giving a go. We just downloaded a free app so there’s nothing to lose to try it.
- Nap during the day. This isn’t possible for everybody I know and if you are working or have other children I appreciate that it isn’t going to be easy to fit a nap in. But if you can then do! I always feel guilty if I nap because I feel like you should only be doing that during the newborn days of motherhood, but at the end of the day my baby probably sleeps worse now than he did as a newborn so I do give in to the napping now. Plus he will generally only nap if I am either holding him or beside him so I just as well really!
- Eat properly. When I am tired I just crave refined sugar and carbs for the quick boost of energy. What is actually better is low GI carbs, that provide slow release energy like whole grains. I also really recommend meal prepping food so you have a healthy lunch ready to go in the fridge because when you are exhausted the last thing you want to be doing is cooking. And EAT BREAKFAST! If you have been awake most of the night starting the day with a good breakfast is going to provide you with at least some energy.
- Don’t put too much pressure on yourself. When you have a child sometimes you feel like you need to be attending every baby group/club, swimming class etc going or your child is going to be deprived. That’s not the case at all. If you can’t face going out or seeing people every single day then that’s okay! Just play/talk/read to your baby. They will probably enjoy the time one on one with mummy more anyway. I usually only plan a few things each week because if I make loads and loads of plans I just find that I crash by the weekend, and I don’t always feel safe going on long drives when I am really tired.
- Exercise. Might be the last thing that you feel like doing but even ten minutes HIIT or getting out in the fresh air for a walk can make you feel so much better.
- Treasure the time with baby. I love breastfeeding and although sometimes I get very frustrated and emotional (mainly due to exhaustion) I actually love that time just Rafe and I. I will probably actually look back and miss it one day (that day feels a LONG way off right now though!) And I keep trying to remember that it won’t last forever.
- Don’t get your hopes up. This sounds like a negative point but all I mean is, don’t take anything for granted when it comes to your babies sleep because everything can change literally overnight. I used to think how lucky I was to have such a great sleeping baby when Rafe was around three months…this obviously didn’t last. Babies go through so many regressions, teething etc that things do change. Also don’t make the other mistake that I have made before and think that one good night means that everything is getting better, because there is nothing more disheartening than when the next night you are back to hourly wake ups!
I recently went to a support group for mums with one of my friends. The group was for mums who were maybe finding things a little challenging. One thing that the majority of us had in common was the fact that most of our babies were not great sleepers. I want to make this point because being constantly sleep deprived is actually really, really hard. It makes having the energy to want to socialise harder, it makes you less likely to want to be going out all the time. It can put a strain on your relationship and often when your baby is no longer a newborn people don’t really expect you to still be experiencing that exhaustion so you don’t get cut as much slack. I have accepted that it will probably be a while until Rafe starts sleeping better and I feel like I am coping with it pretty well now (with the occasional bad day) but I am very lucky in the fact that I am now a stay at home mum so I can rest if I need to. I do believe that lack of sleep can be a huge contributor to depression and I would really urge any other shattered mums out there to seek help if they feel they need it. Whether it’s a trip to the GP, a chat with a health visitor or a support group. Also remember that you are a good mum and that you aren’t doing anything wrong, your just probably a lot more tired than everybody else! Pictures of my gorgeous, little insomniac included!
Obviously this isn’t a fitness post and I do apologise for the lack of fitness content. I am currently completing bbg 1.0 for the second time and despite the exhaustion I am proud to say I haven’t missed a workout. I will do a full fitness journey update very soon!