Sleep; it’s our biggest obsession as parents. Lack of it. Desire for it. Fantasising about it. It’s the equivalent of those conversations with your friends, where you used to talk about how much sex you were (or weren’t) having. ‘I got eight hours sleep last night,’ says someone. Gasps all round.
If you’re not getting as much sleep as you’d like (is anyone?), the only thing you need to know is that you WILL sleep again and it will NOT be like this, forever. Always do what works for you and don’t beat yourself up about it. Let your baby sleep with you. Don’t let them sleep with you. Do a mixture of both. And never get hung up on what another mum’s baby is doing. Every baby is different. They do things in their own time. And also, sometimes? Other mums exaggerate. Which doesn’t make anyone feel better.
Around the end of month four/beginning of month five many babies take advantage of the dreaded four month sleep regression, throwing mums into a frenzy of worry and self-doubt. ‘What am I doing wrong?’ you’ll think. NOTHING. This is simply a prelude to what comes next. Weaning. Because it’s often a sign your baby is getting hungrier. So don’t panic if your baby wakes more and wants to be fed more. Just go with it and rest assured that things will settle down once you introduce food.
Never underestimate the brutal effects of lack of sleep. Be kinder to yourself, when you aren’t getting much. Implement strategies for when you’re utterly broken and JUST NEED SLEEP, like a daytime nap or early bedtime (even if it’s 8.00 PM and still light outside). Give up asking yourself why you aren’t coping better or why you’re crying at the silliest of things. There’s a reason sleep deprivation is used as a form of torture. You’re still the resilient woman you once were. In fact, you’re more resilient than ever, because you now do far more on much less.
There’s also a psychological way to manage the lack, using Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT), a talking therapy that helps us manage our problems by changing the way we think and behave. CBT teaches us to think about sleep differently. It tells us not to start off our day counting how many hours we’ve had (or rather not had), an unhelpful practice, which sends us spiralling into a place where all we can think about is how tired we are. Instead, it says we should get up and live the day ahead; shower, have a nice cup of tea and breakfast.
Because sleep isn’t really ours for the taking, like it was before we became mothers. Even when the baby days are behind us, there’s still illness, nightmares, duvets on the floor (yes, really), older children who don’t want to go to bed and so many other variables that can derail it. When we get on board with this, we somehow feel more comfortable about it and realise that’s just how it is, in that moment. One day, some glorious moment in the future (when they leave home), our sleep will once again be our own.
Until then, there’s coffee and cake.
Amy Ransom is a mum of three and author of the Notebooks For Mum series, including bestseller, The New Mum’s Notebook, a reassuring companion to the first year of motherhood and the newly released organiser for the first year at primary school, The School Mum’s Notebook. All available from notebooksformums.co.uk. You can follow her over on Instagram @amyransomwrites and @notebooksformums and Facebook @amyransomwrites.