There’s no getting away from it; when you welcome a baby into the world, you kiss goodbye to your lovely long 8 hour stretches of uninterrupted sleep every night. It’s hard to imagine, before you have a baby, quite what real tiredness feels like. And once that little bundle comes along, if your childless friends dare complain of feeling sleepy in your presence, they can be sure of receiving a rather nasty glare from you!
All babies wake up at night. Some wake up more than others. This post is designed to help you find some practical ways to deal with night-wakings whilst getting the most rest you can.
This is the #1 change you can make in order to make your life at night-time easier, especially if you are breastfeeding. Once you have mastered the art of nursing whilst laying down, your night-times needn’t be disturbed half as much as they would be if you were jumping out of bed every 2 hours to tend to your baby. Now, not all mums can sleep through nursing and not all babies will just latch on without very much help, but anything is an improvement. You will feel more relaxed if you are able to stay in your own bed during feeds, too. As most co-sleeping mums will tell you, it’s “co-sleep or no-sleep!” If you aren’t comfortable having your baby in bed with you, why not consider having the cot, crib or basket right next to your bed? That way, you can still remain in bed during night-time parenting tasks. Make sure you have all of your supplies nearby (diapers, change of clothes/sheets, muslins etc) so you don’t have to leave your lovely warm bed at all.
Why not get your partner involved in night-time parenting? This is often a sticking point for many couples; if your partner is working full-time to support the family, you will probably be reluctant to ask for help during the night, and they may be reluctant to offer. Yes, your partner needs sleep, but so do you. If you are nursing your baby, your other half could burp them and change their diapers during the night, allowing you to drift back off to sleep as soon as you have finished feeding. It doesn’t sound like much, but you’d be surprised at the difference that half-hour makes at each feeding time. If you really don’t want to ask your partner for help during the week (I understand that, I never asked for help either) then why not get them to help you at the weekend when they are home from work? They can either start chipping in with the night duties, or take baby off your hands first thing in the morning so you can have a lie-in. They could even take baby for a long walk in the sling in the afternoon so you can go back to bed for two or three hours — it’s surprising how much better you will feel. If you feel you aren’t coping with the lack of sleep, you need to speak up and make your feelings clear. I wish I had when my son was a baby.
Only Change Diapers When Necessary
There is no need to change your baby’s diaper every time they wake. Think about it; if they were sleeping through the night, would you wake them to change them? I think not! Obviously if they have a rash, or if they have pooped, it’s important to change frequently but if everything is hunky-dory down there, why make extra work for yourself? As your baby gets older, changing the diaper in the night can cause them to awaken fully and then you may end up with a baby who thinks its morning when really it’s only 2am. That’s never fun.
Rest in the Daytime
Of course, this is much easier said than done, especially if you have older children. When your precious little angel finally crashes out for a couple of hours in the afternoon, the temptation to do the dishes/tidy up/ start preparing dinner/etc can be overwhelming. Trust me, though, you will regret wasting a valuable sleeping opportunity when your baby is awake that night. If you can, have a lie down and try to get some shut-eye. If you’re one of those people who simply cannot sleep during the day, use this opportunity to put your feet up with a hot drink and a trashy magazine. Even better, take the hot drink and trashy magazine to the bathtub and soak in some bubbles for an hour.
Make Night Feedings Pleasant
I didn’t co sleep with my son. It wouldn’t have made our night-time feedings any easier; he was a very, very gassy baby and needed to be burped frequently throughout feeds. On top of that, after feeding he needed to be held upright and burped for a minimum of 20 minutes before laying him back down, or the whole feed would come straight back up again. I didn’t really have much of a choice other than to sit up with him in bed or on a chair. So, to make night feedings more attractive, I would make a flask of hot chocolate before bed and keep it on my nightstand. When His Lordship awoke to nurse, I would sip on it and it certainly made it seem more worth my while being awake! You could read a magazine, or even surf the net on your mobile phone or netbook whilst you feed. A friend of mine used to record TV programmes on her TV recorder and watch them during night feeds. Whatever gets you through the night!
What are your tips and tricks to make those night-time wakings a little easier to cope with? I’d love to read about your experiences!