Mamas, let’s talk about SLEEP; lack of sleep, sleep deprivation, co-sleeping, etc.
After hosting the podcast for a year, I find there are some common topics that tend to be repeated among mamas. And because this particular topic was such a big one for me and my sanity, or lack thereof, I want to discuss it below.
Sleep. I took it for granted before having a baby. When you don’t get enough of it, it is literally a GAME CHANGER. I am going to share with you my personal experience, the challenges, how it changed for the better and tips I can share with you for getting more of it and being kinder to yourselves.
My sleep (or lack thereof) experience:
Upon bringing my new baby home from the hospital just a little over two years ago, I had these grandiose visions of her sleeping peacefully in the bedside bassinet, only waking to nurse and snuggling back to sleep easily. I also pictured myself (although a known light sleeper) being so exhausted that I would transition easily from one wake up to the other-falling back to sleep right away and linking together around 8 hours. I COULD NOT have been more wrong
First of all, my baby literally detested her bassinet, so by day two at home she was sleeping with me.
This meant mommy, and baby were up multiple times a night. Eventually this progressed into the baby and I in one room and my husband in the other (also a notorious light sleeper). More on that later. . . I didn’t mind co-sleeping (early on) because I was in such a love-induced trance, I wanted her as close to me as humanly possible. I wasn’t worried about rolling over or falling asleep on her, because I have always been a notoriously light sleeper. What I didn’t realize was that I would be in a wakeful sleep the ENTIRE night most nights.
During this time my anxiety was through the roof. I even felt slightly OCD in my tendencies to constantly check on the baby, and worry constantly, looking back.
I wasn’t familiar with postpartum anxiety and the signs, but looking back, I was exhibiting all of the signs and possible reasons behind it. I was full of free floating worry and fear, couldn’t relax, and felt like I wanted to micromanage every aspect of the baby’s life. I would check to see if she was breathing multiple times, and then wake myself up to go check again. To add insult to injury, the few times that my mom or husband offered to give the baby a bottle in the middle of the night so I could sleep, I would have terrible insomnia. I literally felt as if I would never sleep again.
Looking back, I didn’t realize just how much of an impact the sleep deprivation was having on my life.
I wasn’t educated to know how much it could affect me on a physical and mental level. I was varying between feeling guilty for sleeping with my baby and not getting enough sleep to feeling guilty for wanting to put her in the crib and letting her cry a little bit. I couldn’t win with myself. And to make matters worse, not sleeping in the same room with my partner created a scenario where I was the ultimate baby whisperer, sleep person, feeder, nurser, and pretty much the ENTIRE authority on the baby. This, of course, led to a spiral of too much pressure on mommy and not enough allowance of help from anyone else.
So after months and months of this, I was so frazzled I decided to move the baby to the crib IN MY ROOM, I used the “camping out method” where I would pat the baby, kiss and hug her, hold her hands, but not pick her up or nurse her to sleep. I ended up just following my gut on what I thought worked best for her and I, and eventually it panned out. It took about a week of this method for her to finally start going to sleep on her own. The difference was night and day, although not perfect. Although she kept waking up throughout the night (two times at least), I was able to at least get real sleep in increments.
Eventually, after about a year, this led to one wake up a night to nurse. And some of my friends shook my heads at this, but I woke up once a night to nurse her until she was almost two! Needless to say, getting a full night of sleep was not in the cards for me until she turned two. And this, my friends, is where I can look back and see the significant difference and the importance of this message.
At 26 months she is FINALLY sleeping though the night.
I stopped picking her up to nurse around 24 months and now she is sleeping 10 hours on overage a night. She’s still an early riser (5:35 am most days ugh) but I have to say, 7 hours of uninterrupted sleep is a LIFE SHIFT. Looking back, I realize just how much sacrifice I was making fo my own health and sanity and how I needed to stand up for myself and not only ask for help, but allow it. I also wish I could’ve been more gentle with myself and hold my own sleep in higher regards.
I know I was I knew best for my baby, but it took its toll on my mental and physical wellness. So here is my message to you:
- Exhaustion exacerbated postpartum anxiety exponentially. Once I was sleeping longer than 5 hours a night my anxiety dissipated almost 50 percent.
- It’s hard to ask for help, or even know what we need help with as moms, but learning to delegate is KEY in maintaining wellness.
- It doesn’t mean we aren’t putting our babies first when we put our needs in high regards. I realize now, when mommy wasn’t sleeping, I wasn’t the most vital or clear I could be for her.
- Do what works for you. Don’t worry what anyone else is telling you if it doesn’t resonate with your gut. I wanted to co-sleep with her in the beginning, you may not be feeling aligned with that, and that’s okay.
- Co-sleeping vs. Sleep training is a hot topic and can sometimes be divisive. If you’re like me, and you didn’t fall into one box. Trust yourself, and maybe don’t announce your methods if you are feeling judged. Likewise, don’t judge other mommies for their own choices. We all need to lift each other up.
Here’s to a good nights sleep mamas. I am still not getting a hundred percent restful nights, but it is night and day from where we started. I have learned so much along the way and hope to impart even a little bit of wisdom on you if you find yourself in the fog that is sleep deprivation. I see you sleepy mamas.