My kids. Literally and figuratively.
Before I became a Mom, I judged. I managed to suffer through busy season several time as an Auditor and would sleep maybe four hours a night. Despite the lack of sleep, I was still able to get enough energy to accurately perform my job and do it all again the next day. I saw sleep deprived parents with newborns and thought how I’d be able to survive no problem, give me a few cups of coffee and I’d be able to suffer through until my next good night’s sleep. Except after you have kids, a “good night’s sleep” is considered a chunk of a few uninterrupted hours- definitely not the same type of sleep I experienced before I had children.
Sleep deprivation after a baby is something both my husband and I laugh about now, but we have no idea how we survived our oldest daughter, especially after my injury when I typically required a minimum of eight hours of sleep to function. She set us up to handle the worst and now if we can catch an hour of a sleep at a time, it’s considered a win. When she was first born she would sleep for 45 minutes and wake up to nurse again, nurse for 45 minutes, sleep for 45 and then back up. On one of our first nights home, the only way we got her to sleep was by Bry propping her up his legs and holding her upright, I think she slept for two hours in that position and we considered it a win- until we bragged about it to our pediatrician who told us, “DON’T EVER DO THAT AGAIN.” She was absolutely right and we were completely oblivious to the fact about how dangerous that was (I blame the sleep deprivation), but as new parents we were desperate and were trying to follow our motto of, “whatever works.” She ended up being diagnosed with reflux around the two month mark and started medication, which allowed her to start sleeping longer than 45 minutes and gave us two to three hours of sleep at a time (WIN!). Her brother was a better sleeper from the start and his first night home slept four hours before waking. That was short-lived, but it was golden in those early days and he will forever be known as a better sleeper as her. Our littlest seems to be the best sleeper out of them all, but we won’t talk about that for fear of it changing and being taken away from us. There are three rules we follow about baby sleep- (1) Don’t ever ask parents of a newborn how the baby sleeps. No one is sleeping when you have a newborn. Newborns need to eat (and sometimes every hour), have their days and nights mixed up, have colic, reflux, gas, want to be held, you name it and there’s a reason they aren’t sleeping. (2) Don’t talk about it. If you are blessed to have a good sleeper, don’t talk about it. It can change overnight and your extra hours of sleep will turn into extra cups of coffee. Or, the parent you are bragging too will consequently begin to analyze everything they are doing wrong to try and get their “good sleeper.” Which leads me to our last rule, (3) kids sleep when they are tired. Yes, an overtired kid may actually need sleep and may be awake despite needing sleep, but generally kids will sleep when their little bodies need it. I spent so much time wasted trying to get my oldest to nap, because that’s what “the books” said. Well she was never really a napper and has always been on the low average of total hours her for her age. Our son is totally different and more on the average scale. Just another way your kids will drive you crazy, no two are alike.
When our son was first diagnosed with epilepsy and started having seizures in his sleep, that opened an entirely different level of sleep deprivation. We moved him back into our room, and most nights he ended up back in our bed. For months, I felt like I slept with one eye open bc I was petrified I would miss a seizure (still am, this hasn’t stopped) Our journey with this will be a post for another day, but this also gave us a new outlet of sleep resources for children with epilepsy, including the discovery of SUDEP, which is petrifying.
The figurative reason our kids keep us up at night when they aren’t actually awake asking us to fix the covers, take off a sock, go to the bathroom, drink some water, or nurse (this is just the baby, gone are those days for the older two) is because I worry about them every minute of the day, even when I am sleeping. The minute I wake up, even to just use the bathroom, I start wondering about them. They haven’t made as much noise as they normally do, are they okay? Did our son have a seizure? Let me check. I’m sure they will have me up in five minutes for something, so I’ll just lay awake waiting for it. My kids have certainly made me crazy, but I can’t be the only one that does this?!
Some of the trusted sleep sites and books that I’ve consulted
I’ve also known a few people that have used a sleep consultant and sworn by it. I can’t speak to it personally, but it might be something to consider if you think it’ll work for your family.
But my number one piece of advice is to trust your gut. Do whatever works for you and your child and don’t judge those around you. Read all of the websites, talk to your friends, buy some books, but remember, what works for you may not work for them and vice versa. And like I said, no two kids are alike, so if you’ve got a good sleeper- keep your mouth shut, and enjoy it.
Oh and if you need a hysterical gift for a baby shower, we received a copy of Go the F**k to Sleep that I highly recommend.
Affiliate links. Please see my full disclosure policy here.