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January 4, 2012

Everyone always says that you better enjoy all the sleep you can get before the baby is born…and you just shrug it off, thinking, “eh, I am…I’m having lots of it!”  (hopefully…) And then it happens…sleep deprivation sets in after you get back from the hospital stay.  Any new parent has NO idea what they have gotten themselves into until they realize after the few nights that their sleep patterns are going to dramatically change FOREVER!!

In the start it was alright because the adrenaline was still pumping but then as the weeks passed I settled into survival mode: sleep is when baby sleeps and that’s it, 24/7!  And then you will always feel as if you are trying to catch up on sleep (good luck, maybe after their 18 and out of the house will this happen…).  Sleep is achieved still but not at the depth it was pre-baby.  It feels as though the wonderful deep sleep I used to get is a thing of the distant past forever!  I had these fears while pregnant that I wouldn’t hear the baby cry while I was sleeping because of how deep of sleep I got.  But within a few hours of D being born I was attempting to sleep but once he made a peep or cry I was wide-awake and alert!  It’s just so amazing how the human brain changes once a baby is born and your sleep alertness is completely transformed forever!

Now, Daddy on the other hand seemed to not suffer this kind of interruption in his sleep.  He can sleep through ANYTHING!  Once I laid there while listening to D cry and looked over at him and he was snoring logs – nothing was phasing him!  There were lots of really tough nights in the beginning where I was waking up by myself, sitting there watching infomercials while the baby ate and Daddy snored away all comfy in bed.  But he did realize that my sanity level had lost control and started helping me during the middle of the night feedings.  Each couple’s schedules vary but be sure  to let each other sleep in at least once a week, it makes all the difference in the world!  🙂

Sleep is such a crucial thing to get – it allows you to be the best parent you can be, alert and fun, and is crucial for your health too!  Once you discover how to just simply survive with the amount of sleep you were blessed with that hour, day, week, etc. things will change.  But after the first months things start to settle into a routine and the light at the end of the tunnel gets brighter. I think for an exclusively breastfeeding child they are much more demanding more often then a bottle fed baby because breast milk goes through the babies body a lot quicker then formula does.  Formula usually allows the baby to sleep for longer periods of time because they feel more full longer.  So a breastfeeding mother has to endure lots of lonely, middle of the night feedings and crying fests by herself while fighting sleep deprivation badly!  It really begins to take a toll on a person but in the end, after a few weeks/months the baby seems to settle down in their very frequent feedings 24/7 to longer sleep patterns.  (Also, the milk production will settle into normalcy so engorgement won’t be so treacherous in the morning after a night of minimal/no feedings.)

After the first sleeping pattern has a hold the next one occurs and it seems to consistently change.  After about 3 months, D would no longer sleep in his swing or boppy pillow on the couch and then I turned to swaddling at nap times to help get him to sleep.  Then around 6 1/2 months I had enough of the swaddling to take a nap and turned to the Dr. Ferber Book and mommy friends who had gone through sleep training to help with the nap times and numerous night wakings.  We began sleep training around 7 months and have never looked back!  It was such a relief once D slept through the night without waking Mommy up!  (Which he is now waking up once a night for a short feeding before going back to sleep for a few more hours.  This feeding has been hard to drop because I feel like it is always my last hope for a little more sleep each early morning that I don’t feel like seeing what happens if I just let him sleep through it.)

I always felt that each time I encountered a new hurdle regarding sleep, it might have been hard during the hurdle but

the outcome ended up being the best and only option for everyone.  So, once you reach a new bump in the routine, just keep referring back to the basics and stick to whatever works.

Bed times are also a huge thing to stick to.  We never pushed or chose the bed time for D, he told US when he was ready to go to bed – 6pm.  So as 6pm approaches each night, he changes into a cranky little thing and we know he is telling us he has had enough for the day and wants to go to bed.  We do the same routine each night too so he knows it’s time for bed.  It’s amazing how much babies thrive on routine, from a very young age too!  So be sure that whatever routine you choose, you stick to it.  A routine should also be something that you can do anywhere, so when you’re on vacation or Grandma is taking care of baby, the same (or close to it) routine can be done.  And you can just amend the bed time routine and use it for the nap routine, as this is also an important part of successful nap times.

In the end, just try and do your best to keep a balance within your life between sleep, family, and personal time.   Go with your own gut of how to best approach the situation at hand.  Keep any kind of sleep associations at bay for the baby and allow them to lead the way through their learning to sleep.  I think it is one of the hardest first lessons, next to breastfeeding, to teach your baby – how to sleep by yourself.  We all need uninterrupted sleep (after 6 mo.) in order to feel completely rested each morning/day, so be sure to show your baby how to sleep on their own, without mommy/rocking/nursing/nuk, etc. as a “‘need in order to go to sleep” crutch.

Best thing to always keep in mind…they are only young once so never stress about the big stuff (laundry, clean house, etc.) and keep your mind on the small things that make your day complete, each and every day!  Some day they will move out of the house and you won’t know what happened to the time and wish you would have done/spent more during this/that time, etc.  Never regret or mull over a past occurrence and live in the present and important instead of fearing and delaying the future.

Once you become a parent sleeping patterns will no longer exist and will always be constantly interrupted and at times you may never feel caught up on rest.  It’s a full-time job TIMES TWO!!  But just keep the coffee flowing and enjoy every moment you can as it is the best job you will ever have!!  🙂

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