We broke one of our rules last night.
At around 2am, I lifted my wailing daughter out of her cot and brought her into our bed. Kate hasn’t slept in our bed since she was around 3 months old. But, with the three of us under the weather right now, the rule was worth breaking. Because sleep is precious, and we don’t get enough of it.
One of the most common questions I was asked during the first few months after Kate’s birth was ‘Does she sleep the night?’. Sleep (or the lack of it) is a massive part of any new parent’s life. It is also, I learned, quite a sensitive subject to discuss. Primarily because no sleep-deprived parent wants to hear about how someone else’s baby slept through the night from day 1…but also because everything is a sensitive subject when you’re discussing it on the single hour of sleep you managed last night.
The Great Journey Of Limited & Broken Sleep actually begins towards the end of pregnancy. When a pregnant woman’s nights are disrupted by multiple trips to the bathroom and countless attempts to get comfortable (whilst clinging onto her pregnancy pillow for dear life). I like to think of this as nature’s way of looking out for new mums. Preparing them for what is to come. Thanks for that, nature.
Amplified by the emotionally and physically draining experience that is birthing a child, sleep deprivation is in full swing during the newborn phase. The nighttime routine you knew and had come to love for as many decades as you are old (i.e. actually sleeping…at night), is now replaced with sporadic daytime napping (in awkward positions lest you wake the sleeping newborn perched upon you) and post-midnight feeds.
There isn’t much you can do at this stage. Your body will slowly start learning to survive on catnaps and just as it does…you’re hit with the first sleep regression. Your newborn has turned into a baby, and baby is less sleepy than she was before (but you sure aren’t). This repeats itself over and over, but I’ll spare you the intricacies of each phase in a baby’s sleeping journey – because there are many, and they’re always changing.
As I navigated the (rough, oh so rough) waters of figuring out how to get Kate to sleep, I learned a few lessons which I’ll share below:
- ‘Sleep Like A Baby’ is a cruel expression most probably penned by someone who was NOT a parent.
- The greatest lie ever told is that babies will sleep when they’re tired.
- Over-exhaustion is real. It is possible to be too tired to sleep.
- There are actual ways to help your baby learn how to sleep (and some of them work!).
- Nap routines are life-giving (and non-negotiable).
- I am better at being tired than I thought I’d be.
A year in and sleep is still sacred in this household. Kate is no longer the newborn who kept me up at night. She is now a toddler who has good nights and bad ones.
Yes, I am still tired most days and I do wonder if I’ll ever experience sleep as I once knew it.
But I’m hanging in there, thankful for how far we’ve come since the early days. Thankful for the journey we’ve been on.
And SUPER thankful for those rare moments when I get to nap, too.