My husband and I still laugh at the things we did when our first daughter was born; all in the name of sleep deprivation. I woke up one morning to find my husband’s razor and after-shave in the refrigerator while his lunch was sitting on the bathroom sink! Likewise, I did things like put meat out to thaw, then put something in the crock pot–only to tell my husband that I couldn’t find any meat in the freezer so it must be that we need to go shopping! There is no other way to say it: we were loopy!
Like most first time parents, I knew babies woke up in the middle of the night and I knew I would be missing sleep. I wasn’t quite aware however, of the toll it would take on my mental abilities. Furthermore, what was frustrating was that there were a gazillion different books on how to get your baby to sleep–all with different advice! What we finally realized that we needed was an adjustment in our expectations and a better understanding of what was really going on with our baby.
After doing some research on babies and sleeping I came to two conclusions: a) babies are not meant to sleep deeply for long periods of time and b) training her to sleep too long too early is not healthy. Thus, we began to see that parenting was literally a 24/7 job and that our baby needed our parenting at night too!
Babies aren’t supposed to sleep!
Babies go in and out of deep sleep rather easily. It has been suggested by research that sleeping this way has at least a few developmental benefits. One is that the brain does not rest during REM sleep. (Babies spend most of their night in REM sleep–a state of being “easily aroused.”) Studies show that blood flow is increased almost double to the brain and that sleeping in REM actually helps the brain develop! So while you’re loosing your mind over not getting enough sleep, you can take comfort in the fact that your baby is getting smarter.
Maturity=more reasons to awaken!
It seems rather ironic to me, but once babies begin to mature towards staying asleep longer, other stimuli start to become more frequent–waking baby again. Common culprits are temperature, teething pain, and growth spurts (increased appetite). Once your baby starts to sleep deeply enough that he can sleep through these things, he is just ripe for the age of separation anxiety and night terrors.
Babies’ sleep patterns are a reflection of their temperament.
If you’ve never had a high need or high energy child–you probably think I’m just making stuff up! But it’s true and lots of parents with high need kids will attest to the fact that their baby’s sleeping patterns are really a reflection of their baby’s personality and temperament. My first two children were super easy going babies. Nothing really phased them and they slept relatively easily. We just didn’t know it until we had a high need baby to compare it to. Then enters Meghan. Nothing about her has ever been easy. Even now, as she’s three years old, she is a high need, high energy child. It’s just who she is. Understanding this about her made it much easier to get up at 10pm, and 12am. . .and 2am. . .and 4am. It also made it easier to understand that “training” her to sleep was not going to work. After all, you can manage a high need child but I would be hard pressed to say that you can completely change their temperament. This brings me to my next point. . .
Don’t Listen to the Other Moms
It is inevitable that while you’re struggling with something, you will run into the one mom who seems to have conquered the issue. It is frustrating to hear that other people’s kids were sleeping through the night at 6 weeks and you’re still frazzled at 9 months. Again, sleeping patterns are a reflection of your baby’s temperament–NOT your parenting skills. Plus, it is my personal feeling that anyone who says their baby really sleeps that well, is forgetting the numerous nights that they spent awake parenting their baby through teething, and other stimuli. I’ve had easy sleepers and my husband and I still had to get up when they were sick, or teething, or growing so fast that they needed to eat at night too. We just didn’t get up quite as often.
We have now had an infant in the house for 7 years straight. I have come to look at night time waking as an extra opportunity to bond with my baby. Would I rather sleep? You betcha! But I have decided that they simply grow up too fast to be picky about when we cuddle and bond. If my baby needs it in the middle of the night–well, I’ll be there. It does not take so long before they leave babyhood for the fast paced world of toddlerhood. So I can sleep later. For now, I will enjoy my baby during the day or at night!
First Days with a Newborn