Tuesday, 14 October 2014

One Thing I Know About

If there's one thing I know about, it's sleep deprivation.
For me, the night-waking  is the hardest thing about having babies. I can handle the constant demands of tiny people, the changing nappies, the crying, the tantrums, potty training, all of the tough stuff that children bring. These things are hard, time-consuming and sometimes annoying, but I would use a  lot of other words to describe sleep deprivation. Like torturous. Or lonely. Emotional. Definitely crazy-making.

I’ve learnt a lot about babies’ sleep over the years. My first baby was a big slap in the face as far as sleep deprivation was concerned. Only not really, because a slap in the face in those bleary days would have woken me up. Let's just say that it was beyond tough. One time I had to go to work after being awake since 2.30am that morning, trying to get him to sleep. He actually didn’t improve much as he grew older and we dealt with that by letting him sleep in our bed. Where he kind of remained for the next couple of years. But at least we were sleeping!

When Miss P came along, I whisked her off to residential sleep school, which worked for a very short-time before our default habits set back in (her crying determinedly, me giving in quickly). By the time she was 10 months I decided she could handle some controlled crying and within two nights she was sleeping perfectly and has remained this way since.

So when I was planning my third baby I smugly thought, ‘right, I’ve learnt everything about the sleep stuff now, no future-baby will be giving me the run-around.'

And then of course, the twins announced themselves, and it's been a whole new crazy-making learning curve. In fact, as I type these words I am functioning on about 3 hours of broken sleep from last night.

Somehow though, my body knows how to get on with things, and with the help of caffeine, under eye concealer and pathetic optimism that things will get better ANY DAY NOW, I am miraculously coping with chronic sleep deprivation. Seriously, the babies are 10 months old now, and they haven't slept through ONCE.
 For those of you new to the game, here are my top survival tips for getting through the torture that is night-waking:
  1. Remember that this won’t go on forever. Babies are tough because they don’t respond to bribery or reasoning. This comes later. But trust me, eventually everyone sleeps and it all gets so much easier. I know, I've been on the other side. It's not far off, I promise.
  2. You are not alone. Remember that while you are awake, pacing the floor with your baby or crying your eyes out as you get up for the millionth time that night, there are other mothers everywhere going through the exact same thing, feeling the exact same way.   
  3.  Mothers that say their babies sleep through the night are lucky. Most of them are lying. For others, their baby may be about to take a new developmental turn that will drastically effect their sleep. You don’t know what goes on behind closed doors, so when it comes to this one, don’t buy into it.
  4.  Have a decent cup of coffee in the morning. Treat yourself to a nice hit of caffeine when you’re up and about. Get out early for a walk if you can, the fresh air works wonders. And your baby will probably catch up on some sleep!
  5. Seek help. It’s out there. I found a lot of support at my local childhood health centre and there are various helplines that can also offer assistance. Be warned though, there is such a thing as ‘too many cooks’: meaning too many opinions, however educated and convincing they seem can leave you confused and overwhelmed. If you like a particular nurse at your childhood health centre, you can ask to see her again. There are also private organisations that can help, and not all of them want a $1000 off you to spend the night and show you how it’s done (though if you can afford that, please go for it, and enjoy!).  We've found a brilliant baby nurse who charges by the hour and offers specific advice tailored to our needs.
  6.  Enjoy the cuddles. When it’s just you and your baby awake and cuddling in the quiet of the night, it’s actually a pretty special moment. And these moments don’t last forever. So take a deep breath, inhale the smell of your baby and try to appreciate how lucky you are. Consider it bonus bonding time.
  7. You can deal with it. Sleep deprivation is awful, but in and of itself, it’s not life-threatening. More of a pain-in-the-arse sort of thing. But you are made of tough stuff. And you're doing a BRILLIANT JOB.

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