Are you getting any? How much are you getting? These are questions you will hear a lot as a new parent. Sadly we are not talking about THAT ‘S’ word (although I feel like that could be a separate post entirely…). No, I’m talking about SLEEP.
When you become a parent, you, and everyone around you, becomes obsessed with it. Spending time with friends and family invites a whole host of questions.
Is he sleeping through the night? How long does he sleep? Are you still feeding him at night? How often is he waking? What time does he wake up in the morning? What about sleep training? Cry it out or another method? Does he use a dummy (pacifier)? Can he self settle? How are his naps?
Bound up in these, often well intended, questions are a whole host of judgements about you as a parent, your parenting style, and your child. There is also no shortage of advice; both online and offline, everyone has an opinion.
I’m guilty of it too. If I see a Mum I haven’t seen for a couple of weeks, sleep is usually one of the hot topics we catch up on over our coffee. WhatsApp is full of chat about naps, bedtimes, night feeds and wakings, and most recently how solids can affect sleep.
When I got pregnant, everyone said to me ‘ooohh enjoy the sleep while you can!’ and I just kind of laughed it off. I wasn’t sleeping that well as it was. Endless trips to the bathroom, being kicked by the baby half the night, leg cramps, overheating. I thought I knew what being tired felt like. Boy, was I wrong. I did not know what true tiredness, exhaustion, really felt like until I became a Mum.
I think that’s why we’re all so interested in sleep. How you are sleeping can deeply affect your health, your relationships, your work. We’ve been through ups and downs with little F and his sleep. For a time, the night wakings and the naps on my chest or lap worked. Feeding him or rocking him to sleep worked. Until one day it didn’t. We hit a wall where we both said ‘enough’. We took steps to help our little guy sleep better on his own, and it worked, up to a point. We’ve just started taking some expert advice, and so far the results have been really promising.
I suppose my point is, be gentle with yourself and with others. Try not to judge other families or offer your own sleep advice, unless they ask for it. Every household and every baby is different. For parents, when you hit that wall, there is no shame at all in saying ‘this isn’t working, we need some help’, whatever form that takes.