Mum’s guide to surviving the many sleep-deprived states of being a parent

We have all heard the phrase ‘sleep when your baby sleeps’, which is all well and good if you have a baby that actually read the ‘How to behave like a good baby’ manual that they are supposed to study up on whilst in utero. However for most babies, they often miss this vital memo – maybe their copy wasn’t delivered to the correct address?

Unfortunately for us mamas, this means we are left majorly sleep deprived, exhausted and anxious at the thought that there must be something wrong because our baby doesn’t actually sleep as much as we have been told babies ‘should’. So here is what I recommend you do when you’ve tried all the ‘expert’ tips and they still won’t go the hell to sleep…

Follow my comprehensive guide below to regain your sense of humour and eliminate that feeling of sleep deprived isolation.

Newborn

Hire a night nanny – I recently heard American actress Ellen Pompeo (Greys Anatomy) explaining how ‘lucky’ she was that her child is a great sleeper and that she has a night nanny. So basically… even if she wasn’t a great sleeper – not her problem. Unfortunately most of us regular folk don’t have the funds to shaft our babies off to someone else every night (oh the luxury) and even if we did – would we really? Okay, who am I kidding, maybe once or twice a week.

The next ‘best’ thing is actually quite the opposite. Newborn babies are designed to want to stay close to their mamas. They’ve spent their entire life inside us, safe, cosy, with never ending warmth, sleeping to soothing sounds, and the best part of all – listening to our heartbeat. Don’t be so quick to discredit and disconnect all of the above. Cuddle, soothe, hold them. You can’t over love or spoil a baby despite what you may read. Do what makes YOUR Bub the happiest – if that means they sleep on you for a good portion of the evening whilst you lay on the lounge watching TV, then do it. After all, you deserve a rest too! And remember, what works for one, doesn’t always work for the other. Go with the flow of YOUR baby.

BOOB. Give them ALL THE BOOB. In fact, you might as well detach your boob and use it like a glorified dummy. In all seriousness though – for most babies the sucking mechanism is soothing. If you aren’t breastfeeding (or even if you are), there are a wide range of dummies and pacifiers that can help with calming your bub. Once again, every baby is different – Kruize refused to have a dummy, and insisted on being rocked to sleep, EVERY. SINGLE. NIGHT (he is still as high needs now as he was back then). Whereas Nylah was a much calmer baby and was happy to take a dummy and fall asleep on her own.

Toddler/Threenager

Congrats mama. You have not only successfully survived (albeit slightly dishevelled and exhausted) the ‘baby’ phase and have now found yourself with a toddler/threenager, who ironically doubles as a part time gymnast. Say goodbye to the cot and hello to their new found freedom – somersaulting over the side rail. Persistence is key here. Yours, not theirs. This stage can be challenging whilst you transition into a ‘big boy/girl bed’, and may require you to do ‘just one more story’ 20 thousand times, followed by the best adult acting you have ever done by pretending to be asleep, and lastly, once they’ve FINALLY entered the land of nod, it is your time to shine. Unleash some kick ass ninja moves during your stealth exit from the room (making sure you don’t creak the bed, crack your bones as you tip toe, or squeak the door as you ever so slowly close it on the way out). Be sure not to get cocky and do a little dance during the post door closing ceremony, because as ‘quickly’ as they fell asleep, they will be awake, and you get to do the ritual ALL OVER AGAIN.

By this age, even if you have managed to catch a few z’s here and there, you’re more than likely going to start experiencing things such as dreams, nightmares, fears of the dark and wetting the bed soon. Which means night wake-ups again (I know! You’ve only just started regaining a full nights sleep!!). My best suggestion would be to have a mattress at the bottom of your bed so when these things happen they can ‘camp in mum’s room’ … yay, it’s like high school slumber parties all over again.

Man Child

There’s a massive developmental shift that occurs between threenager-hood and becoming a glorified man child (aka your partner). Although many attributes stay scarily similar, you may notice an increased need for more sleep with phrases being used such as ‘I’m so tired’, ‘I had the worst nights sleep last night’ and the doozy of them all ‘oh *insert baby’s name* is the BEST sleeper’ (all the while you’ve been up every night rocking that damn baby back to sleep hourly). The below tips are designed to assist the sleep deprived mama in dealing with the obliviously sleeping/comatose state of a man child.

  1. Knee/elbow/kick/buck backward into their nether region. Nothing wakes a man child up quicker then defending the prized jewels. (This is OBVIOUSLY sarcasm – I do not condone domestic violence).
  2. Turn his favourite footy team on TV, yell out that they are losing – watch a state of panic ensue.
  3. Crack open a cold one, if that noise alone doesn’t catch his attention, pouring it over his head sure will.
  4. And lastly, If all else fails – baseball bat to the PS4. Any of these sounds SHOULD awaken the beast from his ‘I cannot hear the baby/child crying’ purposely-ignoring-them, slumber, but if they don’t – this last method doubles as a perfect stress reliever for mum too.

Jokes aside. My Top 3 sleep ‘tips’ for a new mum would be …

  1. Stay calm and go with the flow. Babies can feel your energy, which means a stressed out mum is going to equal a stressed out bub.
  2. Try and follow a loose routine from birth – feed, play, sleep. Look for tired signs and avoid allowing bub to get over tired.
  3. Find a comfort that works for your baby – some enjoy snuggles, being swaddled, using a pacifier, or cuddling up to a soft toy. You will get to know your baby and what works for the both of you.

There you have it. My magical potion of tips and tricks to go instantaneously from a household full of pulling-your-hair-out screams to a blissed out chalet of snores in the land of dreams. If after trying every single tip, trick, advice, and old wives tale, with little success, just remember that the days are long, but the years are short. As tough as it is, the sleep deprivation won’t last forever, and in 10 years time when the kids are in high school, you can initiate operation pay back. Until then.. COFFEE.

This article was republished with permission from That Mum Wife Travel Life. You can read more of Bec Crombie’s writing on her blog or follow the Brisbane based mum of two on Instagram and Facebook.

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