To the Mum Awake at 3am…

It’s going to be ok. I understand what you’re going through and just want you to know that you can make it through this! It may take some time (which isn’t what you want to hear right now) but this will pass.

Whether it be from teething, colic, or your baby just loves to wake up and scream… you will probably find yourself awake in the middle of the night thinking “I can’t do this!”. I want you to know that this thought does NOT make you a bad mum. I have had this thought more than once and I’m sure if you asked other mum’s (especially mum’s with new bubs) they will tell you they have had this thought too.

It’s one thing to read about the sleepless nights and living on little to no sleep with a baby, but its another thing entirely when you are actually running on less than two hours sleep and your baby just won’t go back to sleep!

The first time I had this thought with my second, was in the middle of the night when she was only about three or four days old. I had had her via emergency c-section, so I was in a lot of pain and could only sleep on our feeding chair because the bed was too low. It was the middle of winter and our room was freezing and every time I put her down after feeding she would wake up and scream. Needless to say, I thought “I can’t do this, I just want to go to sleep”. Immediately afterwards I felt horrible; what kind of mum has thoughts like that? It wasn’t like I didn’t know what I was getting myself into, this was my second!

Of course, I burst into tears…but you know what? I think I needed too. I cried alongside my crying baby, took a deep breath, then went back to soothing her. Sometimes crying is the best medicine. Get it all out; the hormones, the fear, the pain… There are so many ways to soothe a baby, but sometimes you just have to let them cry; so why can’t mum cry too? This doesn’t mean you’re a bad mum, this doesn’t mean you can’t handle having a baby, or that you have made a huge mistake. It just makes you’re human and like every other tired, cold, sore parent out there.

The biggest thing to remember is that you aren’t alone. No matter how lonely you feel when it’s just you and your baby in the dark, there is always someone you can turn too when you have reached a breaking point, or you just need some help. If you have tried everything and bub still won’t settle, hand them over to your partner, or call up your mum. I’m sure that baby has at least one grandparent that will drop everything to come and help out, even in the middle of the night. Whether it be your partner, your mum, a friend or a professional, there is help out there. I think that saying “it takes a village to raise a baby” is a good one to live by.

I know you have probably tried a lot of ways to get baby to sleep, but there may be something you haven’t tried before, or need to try again. Here are a few little tips from one tired mum to another… I hope one of these helps you.

Music

Sometimes singing or having soft music is enough to help soothe bub and get him back to sleep – even if you think you have a terrible singing voice. Remember that your baby has been living inside of you for nine months and has only really known the sound of your voice. If that doesn’t work, or you don’t want to try, there are so many videos on Youtube that have sweet, gentle songs for getting a baby to sleep; or try downloading a white noise app.

Swaddle/sleeping bag

Honestly, if you haven’t tried swaddling your baby, do it! Wrap them up tight (but not too tight) in a blanket, or buy a baby sleeping bag which ensures your baby can’t unwrap herself. My second was the kind of baby that would startle herself awake. Once I put her in a sleeping bag, she could only move so far and it very rarely was enough to wake her up. There are so many sleeping bag/swaddle products on the market, definitely be open to giving one a go.

Dummy

I know, I know – to dummy or not to dummy, that is the question. For me, I didn’t really have strong feelings about the whole dummy debate. But when my first was in special care after he was born, I gave him a dummy and from then on, more often than not, that was all he needed. A lot of people feel strongly against dummies because they can supposedly mess up teeth, or kids can become too attached to them etc. In my personal experience, my first had a dummy until he was nearly three. His teeth are perfect and he decided when it was time to throw out the dummy. But honestly, when it’s the middle of the night and you have had less than two hours sleep, try the damn dummy. If your baby takes it happily, he might be a comfort sucker. Worry about your sanity now, and sort the rest out after a good sleep.

Feeding

Similar to the above, if your baby is a comfort sucker try putting him on the boob – even if he feed not long ago. Babies – especially newbornsn- have teeny tiny stomachs, and can cluster feed at the worst time of day or night. Sometimes all bub needs is to feed for a few minutes and then they are back to sleep. This may be a little harder to do if bub is formula fed though. But I think formula is heavier in the stomach than breast milk, so you may find that bub doesn’t need to feed as frequently anyway.

I would also suggest looking at dream feeding. Pretty much, after baby’s bed time feed (no later than say 11pm, or just before you go to bed) give baby another feed. Don’t turn the light on! The idea is to feed baby while he is still asleep. If baby doesn’t wake up enough to attach, you can try changing his nappy. I dream fed both my children and, even though they didn’t always sleep through, there were nights where they slept longer; giving me some much needed sleep too.

Co-sleeping

This is another hot topic. My second was a big fan of falling asleep on me, and at times during the night, there was absolutely no way she was going to let me put her down. Of course I needed to sleep too though, so we did do a bit of co-sleeping until she was in more of a sleeping routine. This is, of course, a personal choice, but please if you do decide to co-sleep – do your research and do it safely!

 

I apologise if you have already tried and failed with these suggestions. The only other advice I can give is to give yourself and baby some time. Take your time trying different techniques and even go back to previously tried ones. As baby gets older, she will sleep better and longer through the night. If you feel like you need some help, ask for it! Don’t feel like a failure because you have reached a breaking point. Take a breath; you are a great parent… you can do this!

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