I always thought that the phrase “sleep like a baby” meant that babies would sleep well once they were settled.
I mean, c’mon, that’s what it means right??
So the very first thing I wish I had known is that people are wicked liars who keep using this phrase even when they know it isn’t true! Someone out there had a twisted sense of humour when they started this!!
Ok… now that I have got that off my chest, let me get into some of the things I actually want to share with you that I wish I had known about baby sleep… or more accurately – how in the world to cope (and maybe get them to sleep more!)
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Sleep patterns change… often
You know how those parents talk about how they just put their baby down to sleep and they sleep right through the night??
Yeah me neither! (Although I confess my mom says that I did… as I will share with you further on. But I wonder if her memory is faulty since I don’t know anyone else…)
I think there were a couple of parents who thought they had it figured out at one stage… only to have to report a few weeks later that they knew nothing and their baby had changed sleep patterns and they were back at square one again.
At around 3 months with our first child, my husband and I made the terrible mistake of thinking we had a settled child. He was sleeping almost through the night. It felt like we could cope. We were over the worst of it…
Then he had a growth spurt or something happened to change his sleep patterns and we were cast into the depths of despair all over again.
So I wish I had known that sleep changes. And that as soon as we get used to one pattern, another will come along to change it all.
AND that this is normal and to be expected.
Because with my second baby I was able to relax knowing that I could enjoy any time that she was sleeping in a pattern that I could cope with, and yet know that as she grew it would keep changing. So when it did change I didn’t hit rock bottom again wondering when I would ever get any sleep…!
And most importantly I wish I had known that it could take until they are going to school for them to actually be settled with sleeping… but it will happen. That would have helped me to relax and realise that it’s normal for babies and small children to keep waking through the night.
There are no magic answers, secret techniques or baby whisperers that work for every baby
There are just a lot of different ways that are worth trying to help you to learn how to best help YOUR baby sleep.
We are all individuals.
We all have different ways of doing things… including sleeping.
And we all need to learn how to get ourselves to sleep. If you think about it, it’s a pretty tricky thing to learn. Quite a few adults are still learning (me included!).
When you get told about sleep training your baby, or the latest technique that works for all moms everywhere… I would say check it out if your friend is raving over how it made her baby sleep finally, or it looks really amazing to you.
Just remember that her baby and yours are not necessarily going to work the same!
It is ok to want to try everything and anything to get some more sleep. Believe me, I have been there. (I still am quite often!)
It can just get a little obsessive in some people. And that pursuit of sleep can actually end up stressing you so that you actually get less sleep.
I have certainly found that to be the case for me. The more I try to find THE one way that will actually make my kids sleep, the less I relax and the more wound up I get.
So then I’m so wound up when they do sleep, I need to wind myself down before I can get any sleep…
Of course, I have to admit to impatience, so that doesn’t help either. For some things to work with sleeping patterns they need time. That is the other downside with frantically searching for the next thing to try – you don’t try things for long enough to actually test them properly.
But if you keep in mind that “magic” sleep techniques don’t work for all kids in the same way, then you will be able to relax into finding the way that YOUR baby sleeps.
And then you will be able to work with that to get more sleep yourself.
I really regret continually trying to find “the thing” that would make it better. If I had been relaxed enough to just try things instead of frantically trying ALL.THE.THINGS, I probably could have spread that calm to my baby… and whatever I was trying may have actually been more successful!
Co-Sleeping is Sometimes the Answer
Truly it is.
Even though some people feel that it is better to teach your baby to be independent by sleeping in their own space, that still doesn’t have to start right from when they are tiny.
There are a number of ways to co-sleep safely. I covered it in this post.
But I will say here, this is a regret of mine. I wish I had known that it was ok to co-sleep a lot sooner. It would have helped me relax. (Are you seeing a theme here people?!? Relax!!)
Don’t watch the clock
I also mentioned the advice I got that felt too late about not clock-watching in another post here of tips to make night feeding easier. If you check the time whenever you get up then you calculate how little sleep you have had or how long before you have to be up… and you feel worse.
I wish I had known it sooner.
Now when my kids wake, I do my best not to check the time (sometimes I do it before I realise!) and I usually fall asleep more easily and I definitely feel calmer without knowing the time.
Sleep training is possible… when they are old enough
But who is to decide how old is old enough?!?
Not to make life seem harder. But to take away any pressure anyone else puts on you to make the decision or to try “this amazing training that worked for your cousin”.
And training is a long term thing. As I said already, quite a few adults are still learning the skills for getting themselves to sleep as well!
If you see something that you think you can do and that works for your family, try it! If you don’t want to, don’t!
That I could just let it happen and not worry!
This is my biggest regret.
If I had relaxed into the whole thing and checked my expectations in at the door, I may have been able to cope with the lack of sleep better!
Because my mother always talked about me being this amazing baby who slept through the night at 6 weeks, I hoped for the same for my kids.
(I know, right???!!! No pressure to have my kids sleep well or anything! My mother did also say I was no preparation for my little sister who never slept, but that is beside the point! And to this day I have no idea why or how I did that… or if her memory is beginning to play tricks on her…!)
I wish I had left my expectations behind and gone with what I did have: a gorgeous baby who liked to be wide awake as much as he could. He was fun. He was adorable. (He was exhausting too…!) But if I had expected to be tired I would have done so much better.
The other thing people tell you ALL THE TIME is that it doesn’t last forever, or “they grow up so fast”, or “you’ll miss this stage”. That was NO help while I was in it. I grew to hate that kind of comment so much…
But it has some truth to it… as in it doesn’t stay this way forever.
You will sleep again. Really. You will.
And for the record, I never miss the baby sleep stage. NOT.AT.ALL.
Baby snuggles, yes. Baby smiles, absolutely. Baby sleep… never.
Just sleeping is success in the first year
Any sleep is good sleep.
So learn how to maximise your own sleep in the first year (and beyond…!)
We spend all this time worrying about our baby. And for good reasons! They are tiny and totally dependent on us.
But the best thing we can do to take care of our baby is to make sure we are ok. Really.
So find ways to sleep. Forget the other things that you might feel you should do. Dishes will still be there needing washing after you sleep… but you will feel better about doing them if you have had some sleep!