‘Can I die from sleep exhaustion?’ I find myself typing this into google at 3am. I also previously googled ‘how to get a newborn to sleep’ and ‘hiring a night nanny’. Google was fast becoming my friend throughout my new found motherhood role, although sometimes it can do more harm than good.
After researching what crib to get I decided on a ‘snuz pod’ co sleeper to attach to the bed. I went “snuz pod crazy” buying the sheets, blankets and swaddle cloths to match, naturally following the guidelines of the lullaby trust, a charity to prevent sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS) by the book. It was perfect, she would love it, or so I thought.
By the time we were discharged from the hospital it had gone 1 am, In hindsight it was ridiculous to think she would sleep in this cold crib after spending nine months in my tummy. But I lay her down in her lovely snuz pod and put a little blanket over her, her eyes opened and she panicked. Expecting her to wake every few hours (I should be so lucky) I had not accounted for the fact that she wouldn’t sleep at all. That first night my partner and I took shifts holding her for 3 hours while the other slept, we were both first time parents and this was all new to us. She was so comfortable in our arms and every time we put her in her pod she woke up, I knew I couldn’t sleep with her in my arms so here’s where the problem began.
It’s so common it has been named the fourth trimester, the trimester which isn’t spoken about where babies want to clutch to mummy like velcro. I panicked – my baby is broken! As I saw other parents of newborns who were boasting of their five hour stints at a time. I remember a lady cooing over Jasmine in a shop and asking how she slept, I explained she didn’t sleep and she smiled at me knowingly ‘ahhh is she up every three or four hours?’ I WISH! I thought, when I said she didn’t sleep that was a slight fabrication, she didn’t sleep in her crib, she wanted to sleep on me, not next to me, on me. Jasmine hated being on her back, much happier on her front which is not recommended so I was to be a zombie for the foreseeable future.
I used to watch adverts for bed companies, people snuggling down in the oversized duvets, I was instantly jealous, I would stare at the dogs with envy as they snored away fast asleep. Whilst I was in the lonely world of the nighttime mummy, I know I’m by no means the only one but those late hours I certainly felt like it. I was exhausted and so sleep deprived that I would have such dark thoughts, worrying that I would accidentally drop Jasmine down the stairs or she would fall out of a window. I cried because I was so worried in my tired state that I couldn’t be the mummy I wanted to be, the best mummy. She is so precious and I wanted her to sleep in her crib for her own good. The nights I walk around rocking her to sooth her, some nights that’s all that will calm her, my record of walking around and rocking her gently is five hours. Yes, five solid hours. Oh and she knows if you dare to sit down and sway, I’ve no idea how but she would start crying again the second I sat down with her. I was broken by morning and I was convinced I was doing something wrong and frantically buying things that would help her and I get some more sleep.
I am in no way trying to promote any items, this is just an honest post about things that worked for me. Let me be clear Jasmine does not sleep through the night or even five hour stints. At 10 weeks old some nights I’ll get two hours and some nights I will get five hours (of broken sleep of course) but I definitely got her in her crib for an hour or two at least.
Firstly after speaking to my midwife she recommended the sleepy head, shock horror. I know some people class this as a no no item as its like some products that were banned like sleep positioner, the sleepyhead is midwife recommended though as the material is breathable and it keeps baby feeling like they are being held, when a mother online told me that I was going to kill my child by using it (yes, she really did) I decided to try and suffocate myself with it – just to prove a point not to end it all, so we are clear!!! It was impossible to stop breathing when covering my face so I agreed with my midwife that it is breathable and safe, this instantly helped her stay in her crib. On I side note I have also tried to suffocate myself with all of her blankets and a few of her clothes – don’t worry they’re safe!!
I introduced a bath time and used ‘sleepy baby’ products which I saw made a difference. I also started to warm the bed with a hot water bottle so it wasn’t cold getting in to it.I heard white noise helped and it does, I have Ewan the dream sheep who doesn’t quite cut the mustard. However Ewan teamed with Ollie the owl, my hummy and white noise playing off the tablet seems to do the trick. It’s like the festival of white noise in my room at night, I’ve heard that other babies can just have one white noise toy but not Jasmine.We do songs, baby massage and spray the room with lavender. These are a few things which have helped me.
There’s also a few physiological things I wanted to mention, we live in an age where mental health is becoming less of a taboo subject and luckily this is not something I have really suffered with in my life, however late nights and sleep deprivation will push you to the limit, I couldn’t help but worry how someone with less support would fair. And those nights I stayed up crying about failing as a mother there were a few things I had to action and remember in order to cope with the long night. Don’t worry I wont tell you to ‘sleep when the baby sleeps’.
- Your baby will never be as small again, enjoy it (hard when shes crying I know) but hold her and kiss her because one day she will be too cool for any of that. Some nights I’d talk to Jasmine and tell her how loved she is, not to mention all the super cool stuff we would do.
- We are tougher than we realise. As humans we need much less sleep to survive than I initially thought and sometimes rest will do the job. Stay calm and if you can just lay down, then do.
- Nights I felt frustrated with her I would watch videos of her which I loved and looked at all the old pictures. She was of course a baby, an innocent little baby and looking at those pictures and videos reminded me that what I was doing was pretty important, she was actually pretty cool.
- Rest in the day – if you can sleep – great! If not, just rest, have a cup of tea or some fruit to give you energy.
- Buy some new Pyjamas- I did this and imagined that I was getting ready for my ‘night shift’ I would expect no sleep and that way if I got some I felt positive rather than panicking about what I wasn’t getting.
- I would watch television during the night it was nice to pass the time, hold my baby and take my mind off the sleep I wasn’t getting.
- If people offer help – take it. Seriously take it. Even if someone holds the baby whilst you shut your eyes and rest your body and mind.
- YOU ARE NOT ALONE – Thousands of women are awake when you are, although it doesn’t feel like it. Morning will come and you will feel better. Remember to have patience the louder she screams the more calm I make my body feel, it’s very easy for these things to escalate – talk to other mums without sleep, it happens a lot.
My partner and I set Jasmine up and email account to give her the password when she is sixteen. We send Pictures, videos or funny stories so she will always know how loved she is. When I have a tough night and she sleeps on me I write an email to her sixteen year old self explaining how hard these nights are but how much I love her, it’s quite therapeutic.
Maybe I’m not doing things right, maybe I should be firmer but I just want her to know I’m always there if she need me. The fact I’m breastfeeding her makes me feel like a human vending machine some nights, like she wakes up and fancied a snack and as I’m feeding on demand, I let her. Shes still so small and I want her to feel safe and warm, although not too warm….. or cold….. not sure if having a room thermometer is a great, or if I am way too paranoid to have one! Note to self – google babies room temperature!
I will keep going, I’m sure I will fail at some parts and win at others. If anyone has any tips feel free to send them my way!
“The course of true love never did run smooth” – William Shakespeare ‘A Midsummer Nights Dream’ Act 1 / Scene 1