Sleep (or lack thereof)

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I know that I once wrote that I would never give advice about sleep. While Clarissa still fights going to sleep every chance she gets, I do have some ideas on how to put your child to sleep. Or maybe how not to…

I was so blessed that I was never alone at the hospital. Either my mom or Tim was with me the whole time. I also had several visitors. Needless to say, Clarissa was held constantly in the hospital. The only exception was when the nurses would come to do vitals or take her to the nursery for check ups. No wonder Clarissa wanted to be held constantly when we brought her home!

The first few days at home were really rough. On top of learning how to breastfeed, I could not figure out how to get Clarissa to sleep on her own. She slept wonderfully while I was holding her. Then when she fell asleep and I would try to put her flat in the Moses basket and she would immediately wake up screaming. After a few nights, I tried putting her in the rock and play bassinet. That was way better! As long as I put her down asleep, she would sleep for a while. The problem was that she needed to be asleep. So when she had her days and nights confused, I was out of luck. Thankfully my mom lives nearby so she would come over and hold Clarissa for a few hours each day so that I could sleep.

She did get herself into a pattern of sleeping most of the day and being awake most of the night. The problem was that I held her during the day while she slept, which meant that Clarissa was always happy and rested but I was exhausted. Eventually, I learned to take a nap with her from 8-11pm because I might not get to sleep again until 6am. She was great at sleeping from 7-10am as well.

I remember the first 6-8 weeks being so hard that I questioned why I wanted to be a mom in the first place. I read articles about sleep online. I knew I didn’t want her to cry it out at six weeks. I just felt stuck. A friend recommended The Sleep Lady®’s Good Night, Sleep Tight: Gentle Proven Solutions to Help Your Child Sleep Well and Wake Up Happy. I actually agreed with the psychology of the book. It seemed like something I could try. The book has a program, but said you can’t really put baby on a schedule until six months. It did have some recommendations for better sleep. The book had great ideas. The problem was that Clarissa never read the book so she didn’t know what she was supposed to do!

A friend told me that when they turn two months it gets easier. She was right! Magically at two months, Clarissa started sleeping from 2am-noon, only waking to nurse and then go back to sleep. She also started sleeping for longer stretches. I remember the first time I woke up to go to the bathroom before she cried. I realized that I had slept for five hours straight and freaked out! I kept checking her to make sure she was still breathing! I woke her up in the process. That happened a few days in a row and then I started sleeping better. Of course, it probably helped that I could see and touch her in the bassinet from my bed!

Once she was sleeping 8-10 hours at night, she stopped napping during the day. I had a two month old who refused to nap. But I was a way happier mom because I was finally getting some good sleep at night. I really felt like we were getting into a good groove.

So if you are tired and frustrated, I feel for you. But it should get better!

Looking back, there are a few things I will do differently with the next baby.

1. Let the child sleep in the bassinet at night. I know that I will want to snuggle my baby during the day. But in the evening, she needs to start sleeping in the bassinet or crib.

2. Put the baby in the bassinet before she falls asleep. If I always wait until the baby falls asleep, she is not going to learn to fall asleep on her own. Along with this, I would start a bedtime routine when the baby is really young so she starts to understand what happens before she is supposed to fall asleep.

3. As much as possible, sleep when the baby sleeps, even if it means sleeping several hours in the middle of the day. Until that baby learns the difference between night and day you might not sleep otherwise.

I am also going to be better about asking for help. I am not weak or high maintenance for needing sleep. Besides, I am sure I can find someone who will love to hold my baby for a an hour or two so I can sleep.

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