Sleep glorious sleep

sleep-art11

Sleep, glorious sleep!
We would love to try it.
Three naps a day —
Our wished for past time!

Just picture a great big bed —
And all kids asleep
Oh, sleep,
Wonderful sleep,
Marvellous sleep,
Glorious sleep.

Sleep, glorious sleep!
What is there more vital?
Right all through the night —
I could say – Yeah right.
What is it we dream about?
What brings on a sigh?
Undisturbed slumber, about
eight hours a night!

Just picture a great big bed —
And all kids asleep
Oh, sleep,
Wonderful sleep,
Marvellous sleep,
Glorious sleep.

Sleep. If you’re a parent of a little one you might well think ‘What’s that?’. Having children seems to give one a new appreciation for the gift of sleep. Because the reality is that when you sign up for this parenting thing, as wonderful as it is, the chances are that you might be looking at a few years of disturbed sleep. At the very least, a few weeks. That’s if you are really fortunate, and have good genes in the sleep department. There seems to be much pressure placed on parents to ‘get their child sleeping through the night’. It’s a bit like toilet training. I remember with our first child, when he was three and his sister was about to be born. Being our first child, we felt tremendous pressure to have him successfully toilet trained. We used to joke to people that ‘We’re aiming to have him toilet trained by high school’. But he did it when he was ready. And there’s also the dreaded question of ‘Is he sleeping through the night yet?’. On the issue of sleep, my husband often says ‘Don’t worry, the first eighteen years are the worst’. Somehow I don’t know whether that is the most encouraging statement to make to a new parent!

Our children, though delightful, have not been the greatest sleepers. And it’s not just us. I recall my husband making a ‘sleep cake’ (a chocolate cake) for our neighbours who were having a tough time with their third child waking continuously. And now she is almost at school. Our third child has probably been the best sleeper although she did wake every three hours until she was six months old. Thankfully she now sleeps through (usually). Some of it may be perception, as my husband remembers our children’s sleep patterns a little differently. And my parents (bless them) joke that they are not that sympathetic as my sister and I were little horrors in the sleep department too. It’s payback time! And sleep, like many things, seems to have a strong genetic component. There are families that I know of where the children just….sleep. And they all sleep through early, by eight weeks even. No wonder they have four! But no, not ours. Oh no. I know that many parents exaggerate about their children’s sleep patterns. But our first child didn’t sleep through the night until he was two, which if you look at the literature this is fairly common. Our second child from my perspective was the toughest, I remember her waking every two hours at nine months and if you had told me that I’d be expecting again before she was one I wouldn’t have believed it. But it could have been worse. I have cousins who have had a really tough time with babies with reflux and colic. I have been fortunate not to experience the trials of colic and reflux.

Much has been written about the subject of infant sleep. There are different theories, with strong opinions in both camps, and this can serve to confuse first time parents especially. But the problem with babies as I see it, is that they don’t read the text books! Someone once put a book on our doorstep called ‘Solve your child’s sleep problems’, and I still to this day do not know who it was from, but thank you. On the option of sleep training, I have to admit that I wasn’t a huge fan of the controlled crying technique, and found that it didn’t really work anyway. I can understand why people use this however, especially if the sleep deprivation they are experiencing is becoming unmanageable.  Personally I found that it was easier and less stressful just to get up and feed the baby and put him/her back to bed, but everyone is different.

I’m fairly philosophical about many aspects of parenting, and I’m really on the fence when it comes to the issue of sleep. I don’t really think there are any right or wrong ways of doing things. And then there is co-sleeping. Not without risks, but if done safely can result in more sleep for the mother and baby. A controversial topic, but a technique that most of the world use, and where co-sleeping is practised they are reported to have lower rates of SUDI (Sudden Unexpected Death of Infancy). There is even research to suggest that c0-sleeping acts as a buffer against SUDI, but this research doesn’t seem to be widely accepted by Plunket or the paediatric societies. We never really co-slept with our children but sometimes I would feed them to sleep. One of the things that you aren’t supposed to do, but there is a whole list of things that you aren’t meant to do as a parent, and you find that you do what works. We do however sometimes have a three year old visitor to our room most evenings. Which doesn’t really bother us, after all, she won’t be wanting to hop in her parent’s bed when she’s fifteen!

In essence, as fatalistic as it may sound, I didn’t really find that many of the so called sleep strategies were all that successful. Our children waking in the night was something that we just got through. And I don’t buy the argument that how one copes with sleep deprivation depends on how old you are as a parent. While I’m not a young mum, I also don’t fit into the category of a much older parent either. I’ve observed that people have different energy levels and if anything, I think I have become more used to sleep deprivation. It just comes with the job description. I think the lack of sleep was possibly more of a shock with my first child. But sometimes sleep deprivation can escalate with every increment in family size, and it can take its toll on mothers, affecting their mood, and well, everything in their life. I have experienced some insomnia after my third child. My mum suffered with this also and if you read the literature, it is not that uncommon, and is reported to often worsen after each child. When the baby sleeps but you can’t. And it’s awful. Thankfully this has resolved now and I’ve found a few different strategies that have helped, including taking magnesium.

So to the tired weary mum whose child won’t sleep, I’ve been there, and many of us have been there.  Know that you are not alone. It’s not easy, but it’s so worth it, and it will get better. Before you know it, they will be six, going on seven and like a teenager in the mornings – impossible to get out of bed. So different to the one year old who would be up before the birds at five o’clock in the morning and wouldn’t go back down til ten o’clock! I remember those days. What a gorgeous wee baby, but now I relish sleeping in til 7 o’clock. What a sleep in!

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One Comment on “Sleep glorious sleep

  1. Pingback: Sarah Wilson | Kiwi Mummy Blogs

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