Ah, sleep. Where for bloody art thou?!
I knew that when I posted recently that Littlest Man had started to fall asleep with a cuddle instead of a boob that I’d jinxed it; the few nights following felt like he was attached more than not.
It’s easy to stress about sleep. Too little, too much, at what time, for how long, in what position, with what help… There’s just so much to worry about and lose sleep over (Pun alert!! Sorry… I must be overtired 😉). It doesn’t help that sleep seems to be one of the first things you’re questioned (or warned) about as a parent.
“Does he sleep?”
“The lack of sleep is killer, huh.”
“Sleep while you can, you won’t be getting any soon!”
To be honest, this is all usually innocent. I think what people mean when they say these things is: “I see you have a tiny human. Here is a topic I know will be relevant to you in some way right now that I can relate to.” When people ask or talk about sleep with a new parent it’s generally their way of trying to say “I want to offer my emotional support” – the only problem is, when you’re sleep deprived, it can come across as “I’m judging you and your baby”… Which is obviously not cool. At all.
People generally don’t intend to insult new parents and their babies, but quite often what is meant as a meaningless comment can be unintentionally insensitive. For example:
“Is he a good baby?”
Well… Yes. He’s very good at being a baby. So much so that he wakes several times a night (classic baby behaviour) and because he’s so dedicated to his assigned task of being a baby, he spends this extra awake time practising his crying, feeding, pooping and any other baby tricks he manages to pull out of his bonnet. Clever thing.
OK, so I know that’s not what people mean – but honestly, a baby who sleeps all night isn’t any more good than my baby, so it can be rather upsetting when people insinuate (unintentionally) otherwise. Even though I know what they mean.
So it’s no wonder we can all get a bit wound up over the ‘S’ word. The topic often leads to fear that if our babies aren’t sleeping that we must be doing something wildly wrong. But actually, we shouldn’t stress. All babies are different.
Some babies fall asleep sleep easily, some grizzle for a bit first, others need to be rocked, or fed, or sung the entire encyclopaedia of nursery rhymes. Some babies will cry for a wee bit, then settle down after a minute or two and nod off; my Eldest Little Man was a bit like that, and slept fairly well. At least I think he did. It’s possible that I was so traumatised from lack of sleep with him that I’ve completely and unconsciously blocked it out for self preservation… But I’m pretty sure he didn’t have too much of an issue going to sleep until his toddler years.
But in any case, Littlest Man is definitely not one of those babies. The second Littlest Man starts crying, he goes from 0 to 100 in 4.5 seconds, and will be standing up trying his hardest to Hulk-smash the side of the cot off. Sometimes he tries to pull the cot apart before he’s even woken up. But he will also sometimes fall asleep after a minute of being in the car seat before I’ve even turned the key, so I know he is capable of falling asleep without being attached to me (although this is easy to forget on those nights where he feeds so much I worry he’s going to go into capacity overflow) – he just doesn’t like going to sleep in his cot by himself. Quite often if he ends up in our bed he’ll sleep soundly… Usually with a hand gripping my cheek and a leg sleepily kicking his father in the nose… But soundly, nevertheless.
As well as being hesitant to sleep without his parents in close proximity, Littlest Man suffers from BFOMO (Baby Fear Of Missing Out), and if he thinks there’s something exciting going on, he will adamantly protest any sort of sleep inducing techniques of mine that would usually work; whereas other babies gladly take the opportunity for a break from all the chaos. Different strokes for different little folks.
The marvelous thing though, is that sleep actually isn’t the only part of parenting. If you aren’t getting enough sleep, that sucks. It really does. Mentally, and physically, running on little sleep is hard. If you’re at a point where you aren’t coping, there is no shame in asking for help. But just because you are coping, that definitely doesn’t mean it’s easy – luckily there are so many other cool parts of parenthood that make up for it. For example, Littlest Man has started picking up baby sign language and can now communicate with us a lot better – he also gives great kisses and is shaping up to be a wicked dancer like his papa bear and big brother. And my god has he got a great sense of humour! He is generally an incredibly awesome little being – he just also happens to wake several times a night.
I definitely still stress over sleep (or lack there of), usually more so if I start comparing my baby to other babies. I’m working on it though. And honestly mamas, just embracing it and remembering that it’s a stage that will pass (eventually) definitely makes it much easier to cope with.
Plus, coffee of course.