Sleep deprivation is something you expect before you become a parent. People go on about it, so you think you are prepared. I hate to break this to you, but however prepared you think you are, you’re really not. Nothing can prepare you for over 5 months (and counting) of broken sleep and how the bone crushing tiredness accumulates over time.
The first few days
Deep down you always think “maybe I’ll get lucky and my baby will be a sleeper”. For the first few days we thought we had a sleeper. Birth must have exhausted him because after feeding pretty soon after birth, he slept. For ages. The midwife came in about 5 hours later to tell me it was essential he woke up to feed. I told her I kept trying to put him to the breast, but he just kept falling back asleep. She decided he needed some formula and proceeded to try to feed him that—it would be less work for him so he’ll take it. Nope, he was too sleepy. She tried all the tricks. Strip him down to his nappy, blow on him, nothing worked. I did feel slightly pleased about this. I really wanted to breastfeed so I wasn’t massively keen on the formula.
This really sleepy phase lasted once we got home. He’d wake to feed, then fall asleep on the boob. Hmm, I thought. This isn’t so bad.
The next few weeks were an endless cycle of feeding and sleeping. Usually on someone. Jacob hated being put down and would cry almost instantly if you tried to put him in his co-sleeper crib. We tried different tips I’d read online—using a hot water bottle to warm the crib, putting a t-shirt that I’d worn in there—none of them worked. He’d inevitably end up in bed actually next to me (yep, even though we had the co-sleeper crib—it just wasn’t close enough for him!). This initially terrified me (what if I rolled onto him?), but I soon realised I was so aware of him there was no way I could smother him. He’d be waking up every 2-3 hours for feeds, but going back to sleep quite easily.
At about 3 weeks in, Jacob started sleeping in the co-sleeper. For some of the night anyway. At about 3-4am he’d become more difficult to settle, so instead of battling I’d let him in with me. At 7 weeks in, against SIDS advice, we started putting him to bed at 7pm, with the video monitor on, and we’d go downstairs and have a blissful couple of baby-free hours to eat dinner and watch some TV. He was still waking at least 3 times a night, if not 4, for a feed, but on the very odd occasion we would get a 5 hour stretch!
Sometime between 13 and 16 weeks, we had a major sleep regression. Gone were the occasional 5-hour stretches and we were back to 4-5 wake ups. I genuinely think that’s the toughest thing—it had started to get better, lulling us into a false sense of security, before being cruelly taken away. So, that’s where we are now. On average 4 wake ups a night.
We’ve finally got to the point where we’ve decided we need to do something to improve sleep for everyone’s physical and mental health. Previously, I’ve been quite against the idea of sleep training. Something has to give though so we are going to give it a try! I downloaded The Blissful Baby Expert book on a recommendation from a friend and we are starting this week. Wish me luck!
**Update** You can read about my sleep training journey.
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