Sleep has to be the most underrated luxury one could ever have. You never think of it as a luxury but it is. You don’t give it the credit it’s due until you go without it for a length of time.
When you find out you’re pregnant you understand that when the baby arrives you’ll go without sleep for a while and you’re totally prepared for this. People relish in telling you about it’s rarity in the first few weeks and you know this, you’re not stupid! You take comfort in ‘knowing’ that you’ll sleep when the baby sleeps as everyone tells and think that’s fine but this simply isn’t the case. These same people tell you that it’ll only be for the first 6-8 weeks and you know that the time will soon pass and before you know it you’ll all be sleeping like, well, babies?! This too is another crock of shit by the way.
Firstly, sleep evades you LONG before baby arrives. The first trimester you’re dog tired, you could sleep through anything and on anything and quite often do. I often found myself dozing off in my car waiting for a clients’ appointment time or on a break in a layby somewhere along the A39 and was more often than not asleep within half an hour of getting home in the evenings… The plus side of this was enjoying nice, early mornings – I’ve never been much of a morning person until this time.
The second trimester you start to feel more human again, you’ve tonnes of energy and feel on top of the world and sleep returns to your ‘normal’ pattern, you don’t go to bed early because you kind of like having your evenings back yet you’re still awake early.
The last trimester of pregnancy where people tell you to ‘stock up on sleep’ (oh how I wish that was even a possibility) in preparation is a whole different ball game. Not only are you getting and feeling heavier, you’ve got a million and one things going through your mind which become unfathomable to ‘sort out’ at night. Your hips feel like they’re being cracked apart, slowly. All you want to do is lie on your right side or your back but for fear of reducing the blood flow to your child or just plain impossibility you can’t and it’s all you can think of because after months of lying on one side your shoulder, neck and knees start to ache too despite the pregnancy pillow that was your saving grace earlier on. Your bladder is quite literally the size of a pea, and the baby starts to play football with your ribcage or stretches out so it feels like it’s popping out your sides at hourly intervals. Needless to say all these factors, and probably a few more I’ve forgotten about, are not conducive to a good nights sleep.
Then you go into labour and it’s game over.
I don’t think I slept for at least 40 hours from the start of my labour, not because it was a long enduring labour because it wasn’t, nor that Noah was a crying baby because he wasn’t but because all I did was stare at him and panic that if I fell asleep he’d somehow cease to be. Then of course when I did start sleeping I was awake feeding every two hours, totally expected and prepared for and if I’m totally honest I was fine with it although the midnight feed was always the crippler after that I just got on with it. You adapt to your new zombie status and know it won’t be forever and you get by.
They tell you to sleep when the baby sleeps which is quite possibly the single worst piece of advice ever churned out and although in the first few days, yes you do sleep when the baby sleeps, but after this time the laundry starts to pile up, you run out of the meals you’d diligently prepared and frozen prior to baby’s arrival, the carpet starts growing a carpet of it’s own, the bedclothes start to feel a little crusty and you daren’t even think about the state of the bathroom. Not everyone has the luxury of mothers that’ll come round and do these menial tasks for you while you ‘get some rest’, oh how I wish I did. Still you get on, you’ve been told that it’ll only be for the first 6-8 weeks.
However after a few weeks you start to read about how other babies his age are starting to ‘sleep through’ and you pray tonight will be ‘the night’ and every night you’re met with bitter disappointment. People tell you 6 weeks is the magic number, then you pass this and it becomes 8, then 12, 16, 20. Now if you follow me on Twitter or Facebook you’ll know that Noah is now 23 weeks and still no closer to sleeping through than when he was 3 weeks old and some nights his sleep pattern is worse. You start to believe it’s because you breastfeed exclusively but then babies 5 weeks younger and also exclusively breastfed have left you behind. You cry at stories of how a new mum with her newborn has slept 6 hours.
The only way you can survive is by telling yourself that you’ll never sleep again and never, under any circumstances, expect any two nights to be the same.
People told me when he was 18 weeks old that it was ‘time to put my foot down’… What?!? How the hell do you put your foot down with a 3 month old, he’s not doing it to be naughty, he wakes, feeds and settles again, he isn’t hankering for attention. They told me he was reverse cycling, this would only be the case if he slept all day, which he doesn’t. They told me to give him a bottle, I’m sorry but I refuse to give him formula simply in the hope of getting a longer stint out of him, if it was affecting his health in anyway then yes I would have considered it but he’s healthy and happy just doesn’t need much sleep. Who’s to say that formula with all it’s unnatural bulking agents would have any effect anyway. On busy days where he misses his daytime naps you think, stupidly, that he’ll be shattered and therefore sleep more… This simply isn’t the case, in fact he sleeps better at night if he has his naps during the day, if he misses them we know we’re in for a rocky night. Of course getting him to sleep during the day can be as difficult as getting him to sleep through at night.
I’ve come to the conclusion Noah isn’t a sleeper, and why should he be? I wasn’t. I joke that this is my karmic retribution for putting my own mother through this hell.
Don’t get me wrong we have, on several occasions recently got a 7 hour stint out of him from when we put him to bed at 1830/1900. The problem with this is that you enjoy having your evenings back and don’t turn in yourself until 2200/2300 meaning you’re still only getting, at most, 4 hours. After this, of course, we’re back to 2-3 hour feeds and invariably a 0430 wake up time. Just lately we’ve even lost this 7 hour stint and have reverted back to 1,2 or 3 hourly feeds.
I had advice, via Twitter, from a baby sleep expert who told me to wake him totally at 2230-2300 for a feed and theoretically he shouldn’t need food again until morning, this just started his 2/3 hr feed pattern earlier… Needless to say I’ve ditched this advice.
I recently logged his sleep/feed pattern for a fellow blogger friend who’s going to compile several 6 month olds (or there abouts) routines for a blog. Ours makes for sorry reading. To be fair on him he has got another cold so obviously will be thirstier and due to nose blockage wakes himself up more (I’m the same with a blocked nose so can’t expect any less for someone so tiny), never the less this was his typical pattern over those three days.
W: Wake up
S: 2120 BedNest
W: 0100 BF: 0100-0115 S: 0127 Bednest
W: 0300 BF: 0300-0320 S: 0350 Bednest
W: 0520 BF: 0520-0535. BF: 0720-0740 S: 0740 Bed
W: 0815 BF: 0940-0955 BF: 1100-1115 BF: 1240-1250 S: 1240 Boob (cafe)
W: 1305 BF: 1450-1500 S: 1525 Pram
W: 1800 BF: 1830-1850 BF: 2000-2020 BF: 2100-2110 S: 2120 Bednest
W: 0015 BF: 0015-0030 S: 0030 Bednest
W: 0300 BF: 0300-0310 S: 0320 Bednest
W: 0400 BF: 0405-0415 S: 0415 Bednest
W: 0630 BF: 0720-0740 BF: 0820-0830 S: 0940 Pram
W: 1130 BF: 1135-1150 BF: 1320-1335 S: 1335 Boob/Lap
W: 1455 BF: 1540-1555 BF: 1735-1745 S: 1745 Boob/Lap
W. 1800 BF: 2000-2020 S: 2050 Bednest
W: 0345 BF: 0345-0400. S: 0430
W: 0555 BF: 0555-0610 S: 0610
W: 0710 BF: 0710-0717 BF: 0920-0935 S: 0935 Boob/Lap
W: 0945 BF: 1125-1135 S: 1135 Boob/Lap (baby group)
W: 1210 BF: 1400-1410 S: 1410 Boob/Lap
W: 1510. BF: 1605-1613 BF: 1855-1910 S: 1920 Bednest
I long for 8 hours of uninterrupted sleep but don’t expect it to be any time soon and don’t get me wrong if I never slept a full 8 hours again, if it meant Noah grows into a happy and healthy man I’d handle it because that’s what motherhood is about but just once would be nice. Please?
As I post this we’ve just got through a night from hell where I got Noah to sleep by 2100, the whole family was awake again at 0200. Mummy, Daddy and even the cat were looking and feeling rather bedraggled whilst Noah just smiled and cooed until finally falling asleep at 5am to only wake again at 7. After a five mile walk he finally dropped off to sleep in the last 1/2 mile and is still asleep now at 11.
We’re off to Port Isaac now to spend the night with the in laws. Lots of stimulation, upset of routine, night storage heaters and a strange environment… Wish me luck!