One of my favourite parts of each day is that moment at the end when I am just about ready to call it a night. The chores are as done as they will ever be and the lights have been switched off. The last to go to bed, I very quietly head down the hall where the bedrooms are and open the door behind which my boys are sleeping. I tiptoe…tiptoe in. And there I stand, still for a moment, in the middle of their room, drinking in their perfection.
So perfect. So quiet and peaceful and still and I, in that moment, am able to experience all of their beauty. Every night as I stand in the middle of that bedroom, my heart holds about as much as it will ever be able to handle.
But for me, this suspended blissful reality usually only lasts until the moment I’m about to close my eyes. Somehow my little angels know just exactly when it is I am going to sleep and decide that they are done with it altogether.
One night last week, I was up eight (8!!!!) times between midnight and 7 am. Four times courtesy of each boy. And this is after I moved the boys into the same room after thinking that Gavin was finally sleeping through the night. (And after I gave up coffee for Lent.)
Regardless of what stage of sleep (or lack thereof) you are at with your little one, here are some great tips to remember when you’re trying to survive those sleepless nights.
1. Throw away your expectations. Don’t compare your friend’s baby’s sleep habits to those of your own. Don’t even assume that your second baby will sleep just like your first did. Come to each child with a fresh perspective and really focus on your child’s sleep rhythms and needs before creating a sleeping plan. In fact, now that you’re a parent the only thing you should be expecting is to never sleep again. (Just kidding… or am I?)
2. No sleep solution works perfectly for every single baby. This goes for all solutions. As I continue to struggle with sleep in my household, I get a lot of suggestions to co-sleep and bedshare. I know this can really be a perfect plan for many families, and it has worked positively for us in the past, but the truth is, it isn’t foolproof. Gavin has always liked his space when it comes to sleeping and has rarely been able to enjoy a full night sleeping beside me.
3. Adapt sleep strategies for different stages. Newborns, specifically breastfed babies, should be waking often to eat. And even when your child starts on solids, it doesn’t mean they will start sleeping through the night (despite my husband’s sincerest wishes.) Don’t expect or even try to force your child to sleep through the night too early.
4. Children need more than just food at night. Someone once said to me “Get that baby sleeping already! He is too big to need to eat at night.” Although I know that Gavin is at an age and a weight where he no longer needs to nurse at night for sustenance, I know that both he and his brother needs other things from me when they wake. Comfort, soothing, help to relax again, alerting that something is wrong – these are all legitimate needs that sleeping (and awake) children have.
5. Trust yourself. People (me included) are well meaning when they offer sleep advice but you know your baby and your self better than anyone. It is okay to follow your own inclinations. Don’t do cry-it-out if it will break your heart. On the other hand, don’t feel guilty sleep training if the sleeplessness is too much to handle. And don’t feel like you need to follow any plan step by step. Do what works for you and for your child.
Bonus tip: Even though those moments of sleeping bliss are magic, remember that it is when everyone is awake that relationships are formed and strengthened.
Want advice from another Mama? Alison from Writing, Wishing wrote a similar post recently about what she learned about baby’s sleep.