Don’t stress about newborn sleep or lack of it!

Nothing, and I mean nothing, could ever prepare me for the lack of sleep I experienced when my little girl was born. First there was the night’s worth of contractions during labour where I couldn’t sleep. Next came our first night at home where every movement or noise she made had me bolt up-right in bed checking on her. And then followed a week’s worth of totally random sleeping patterns and feeds every 1-2 hours – typical newborn sleep (to the uninitiated,  newborn sleep is different to older baby sleep due to frequent feeding requirements and subsequent winding, nappy changing etc). I felt like a zombie and despite being ecstatic at the thought of having a brand new baby, I was beginning to question whether or not I could cope.

I remember scouring the internet for advice about newborn sleep and how to manage. No one piece of information was the same and there were so many suggestions I didn’t know where to start. Most places suggested napping in the day when my baby napped, which is a logical approach to newborn sleep but isn’t necessarily a practical one. I didn’t find this possible because amid the hoards of visitors we had, we had a million house-hold jobs that needed doing. Plus, if I ever did leave my husband in charge while I had a nap, I found myself crying because I was away from my baby!

Now 9 weeks in, I feel totally different. I’ve had sleep (and quite a lot considering my average when I was working was 6 hours a night) and I’ve also begun to find time to do housework and have a shower longer than 2 minutes!

I’m desperate to reach out to other mothers who were in my situation to reassure them that the newborn sleep phase doesn’t last long  and that things will improve and to give some little snippets of advice which might just help. But I have learnt that every baby is different and therefore the following advice will not work for everyone

Firstly, establish a bed time routine from day one. Your baby will not respond to it immediately but my girl did by about 4 weeks. In the mean time, it gives you something to focus on and arrange your time around. I would suggest fixing a bath time, follow it up with a feed and a couple of hours later, your baby will be asleep, ready for bed. A big mistake I made early on was to take my baby to my parents’ house in the evenings. By the time we all got home, it was too late for a bedtime routine and by the time she was fed and changed, it was pushing 11pm. I would also recommend going to bed at the same time as your baby does. I go to bed at 9pm at the moment after putting her to bed at half 8. That way I can get a good 3 or so hours of sleep in before she wakes up for her midnight feed. If I stay up until 11 (my normal bedtime) then I would probably not even get to sleep before she wants feeding again

Another piece of advice that I wish someone had given to me is that no one day or night is the same. If you’ve had a bad night of sleep, don’t dwell on it; the chances are that the next night will be much better. Likewise, if your baby sleeps for a 4 hour (or longer) stint in the night, don’t assume that you have cracked it because you will only be disappointed if they don’t do it the next night.

Have a positive attitude. I know it sounds simple, but it can be hard to do when you’re exhausted. If you haven’t got much sleep, think to yourself ‘it’s not the end of the world’. What’s the worst that could happen if I don’t sleep?’ I think back to the amount of nights when I was at university where I barely slept because I was out partying- they easily outweigh my lack of sleep now

Finally, remember that whilst you are on maternity leave, looking after your baby is your full time job. Think about the things you really hate doing at work and I bet getting up in the middle of the night a couple of times isn’t half as bad, especially as you get to spend time with the little miracle that is your baby.