When a Full Night’s Sleep is a Distant Memory

New born babies and sleep deprivation go hand-in-hand. They need to grow so they need to eat, even through the night. Fine, as expectant and new parents, you brace yourself for that. But what happens when the infant stage passes and you feel like you’re still walking around like an extra in a zombie movie? What happens when your bundle of joy is 15 months old and he still likes to know you’re there multiple times during the night? In my case, I finally gave up worrying about how little sleep I was getting, invested in some heavy-duty under eye concealer and over 456 nights, developed a number of coping strategies:

  • Share the load: While breastfeeding means you may have to work solo for a while, once bottles are in the equation, share the night feeds. If your partner’s response is ‘but I have work in the morning’, then yours is ‘and so do I’.
  • Loosen your own routine: While babies and young children thrive with regular routines, go a little easier on yourself. Enjoy sandwiches at 10 am because when you’re up half the night, that’s technically your lunch time. You may need to start going to bed earlier or having cat naps where and when you can. Roll with it.
  • Learn to say ‘yes’: If a friend offers to take the baby for a walk, get the buggy out. When you’re sleep deprived, small things can quickly become big things so some time to yourself provides much-needed head space.
  • Forget the comparisons: Yes, your sister-in-law’s baby is 6 months younger than yours and sleeps through the night and yes, your neighbour would ‘just let him cry it out’ but this is your baby and you know how you want to parent him.
  • Remember that everything is a phase: A midwife told me to always bear in mind that ‘the nights are long but the years are short’ and I feel at this point, I should have it printed on a t-shirt. With babies it often feels that you come out of one trying phase only to start another but really, they do pass.
  • Skip the judgment: A poor sleeper isn’t a reflection on you as a parent or on them as a ‘colicky baby’. It’s just a small phase in this big journey that you’re on together.

As featured in the Limerick Chronicle 27th September 2016