Here’s a bit of a crazy idea: I’ve decided not to worry about how much my baby sleeps.
The science is clear:
* newborn babies sleep at least 16 hours a day but…
* they sleep in short bursts of up to 3 hours
16 hours might sound great but waking up every 3 hours certainly doesn’t. I once had to put drops into an infected eye every 2 hours around the clock and it was brutal - and all I had to do was roll over, pick up the eye dropper and fall back to sleep.
I understand why there are so many “Try this to make your baby sleep” books but a quick poll of my friends and the internet shows that there is no magical solution. Some babies sleep, some babies cry, some babies sleep for four weeks and then unlesh their inner night-time devil. Some babies don't sleep for years.
The way I see it, I have two options: I can stress about how much my baby sleeps, making myself crazy trying different sleep strategies, yearning for the day he “sleeps through the night”, comparing him to other babies, blaming myself for his sleep habits…
I can accept that I have very little control over my baby’s sleep, accept the sleep deprivation and deal with it.
My husband and I have gone for option two and decided to make baby sleep a non-issue. Instead we’re going to focus on maximising our sleep, since this is something we actually have a bit more control over.
Here are some of the things we’re considering:
One: breastfeeding and sleeping with thebaby: although breastfeeding babies wake up more often, breastfeeding mothers sleep better.
Two: making sure at least one of us is getting some sleep at night. I know that many women demand their husband wakes up with them during the night to share the baby duties. Perhaps sleep deprivation will change my mind on this but I don’t understand why BOTH of you have to be sleep-deprived. I’d much rather have a moderately well-rested, happy husband to help me during the day than a grumpy zombie.
In preparation, we’ve bought a comfortable bed for the guest room and renamed it the sleeping haven (also to be used by mum during the day).
Three: shifting attitudes regarding “a good night’s sleep”. Sleep patterns are not set in stone: Spaniards are famous for their siesta and in Chaucer’s day Brits would have a first and second sleep at night. At the far end of the spectrum are modern-day polyphasic sleepers who thrive on 2 hours of sleep per day, divvied up into 20 minute naps.
Although I have no science to back me up I feel that with this wide range of possible sleep habits, there simply must be a way to reconcile baby sleep and parent sleep so both parties are happy. I simply don’t believe nature designed parents to be miserable for their baby’s first couple of months.
Only a couple of weeks to go before I find out…