Hi All! Boy, oh boy, (pun intended) is sleep a big deal when you become a parent! The moment you become pregnant complete strangers congratulate you and then snicker as they say, “Make sure you get enough sleep now while you can.” It may register or may not register what these people are saying, but either way you will be entering the world of sleep deprivation soon enough.
I alluded to this in my post about what you should really expect when you are expecting a while ago. What I’d like to focus on is more about what your body goes through from lack of sleep and also the aftereffects on other areas of your life. I also want to discuss this whole concept of “sleep training” which will surely be something all new parents have to address.
Sleep deprivation sucks. Period. ‘Nuff said. I want to write this for all new parents so they do not feel alone in this sleepless journey. There really is nothing you can do to prepare for sleepless days and nights. You just have to know it’s part of the “new parent” hazing and go with it. Acceptance I think is too strong of a word; Understanding it is more feasible.
When your baby is teeny tiny, they just won’t sleep through the night because they can’t. Their little tummies get hungry often and whether it be day or night, they need to eat. If you are breastfeeding, this means you are on baby duty to feed your little one at all hours of the day and night. I was very blessed to have Mr. ShuGar wake up with me every time and help me get up; some nights it felt like I was hit by a truck. Other nights he ended up falling asleep mid-feeding and I did too! You can’t fight the sleep your body needs! If you pump or do formula, daddy could take on the feeding duties so you can get some sleep.
I wanted to share that sleep deprivation not only can affect your health and sanity, but it can also have consequences to your relationships. In particular, I’d like to discuss how this can change your marriage. To put it bluntly, you both probably won’t be feeling lovey dovey because the only thing you want more than anything in the world is one night of full sleep. Even when you get a chance to have a date night, you probably really just want to crawl into bed together and get some zzzzzz’s!
It’s totally okay and perfectly normal to feel these things! Don’t let anyone else make you feel like your marriage is on the brink of divorce or that your marriage is abnormal because you both are constantly bickering about who left the ketchup bottle on the counter overnight (that’s something I would fight about!). It’s really silly things that become mountains in a relationship because you have no balance in your life and sleep is few and far between. Hang in there! Sleep will eventually come and your relationship with your spouse will eventually adapt itself to your new identities as parents. Mr. ShuGar and I are still working on that part!
At some point, your baby’s belly will grow and he or she will be able to retain more nutrients to sleep longer hours. Yipee, right? Well, not exactly. Just because they have the ability to sleep through the night does not mean they will sleep through the night. If you are one of the lucky ones and have a baby who sleeps easily in his crib, then stop reading here! Hooray for you! (I secretly hate you.) The rest of this post is dedicated to those parents like us who have a baby who detests the crib.
First thing to do – Don’t share your sleepless woes to parents who have a miracle child who sleeps in the crib for naps and nighttime. Why bother? You’re just going to feel bad about yourself and no good can come of it. Instead, find others who have your same struggles so that you can commiserate at 4 a.m.
Next, you will eventually have to make a choice regarding sleep training with your spouse. I stress the “with” here because preferably you both will be on the same page as to the decision you make. By sleep training, I am referring to the concept of “teaching” your baby to self-soothe so that she can get herself to sleep without relying on you to do so. Sound easy enough, right?
Well, unfortunately, any kind of sleep training will involve your baby crying in some way. They’re sort of programmed to do so when you leave them alone in that crib. Hopefully you have a baby who can cry for just a few minutes and then falls right to sleep. However, if you have a baby like most, you will probably be faced with a screaming baby for longer than 5 minutes. How you respond to this is a very personal decision; I am not here to advise on this. I am here to share that you will need to determine your sleeping plan when it comes to sleep training.
For us, our sweet ShuGar Boy has always loathed the crib. When we would put him down, he’d sleep for maybe an hour or two then wake up in full panic mode. It was rough on all three of us. In the spirit of being transparent, I just couldn’t handle him crying. My body rejected this and told me to go to him, comfort him, reassure him and whisper to him that I love him, and hold him in my arms until he fell asleep. Does that make me a bad parent? N-O!
Now, a lot of people around you may say you are ruining your baby’s chance of learning how to sleep. There are even so-called “sleep-experts” that specialize in sleep training and claim to have all sort of scientific data justifying why you need to give your baby the chance to self-soothe. Our pediatrician does not support co-sleeping so I don’t discuss it with him because I don’t need his advice on how to take care of our baby; We are the parents and we make this decision.
Side note: My mommy put me to sleep for the first years of my life by having me sleep on her chest for an hour. Has that branded me as a bad sleeper for life? Nope! In fact, I am notorious for falling asleep so easily anywhere – the couch, the car, in mid-sentence! Just as Mr. ShuGar.
We eventually decided to co-sleep instead of sleep train. Again, a very personal choice that carries with it a whole other set of consequences, namely Mr. ShuGar and I now have to share a bed with our baby boy and sometimes the bed just isn’t big enough for the three of us. Boy, can Camdie move around so much! At other times, we want special alone time and it makes it a little challenging with a little person in between us.
Yet, one thing I have learned through this entire experience is to listen and follow your heart. Co-sleeping feels right for us. Do I think he will be 13 years old and sleeping in our bed, definitely not. He might still be there at 3 or 5 years old and we have accepted that.
Whatever you decide, try to shut out all the noise externally and do what is best for your family. That’s the best advice I could give you when it comes to sleep. It really is a big deal and it’s also a huge learning curve.
Be kind and gentle to yourself and your spouse; remember you are both on the same team. I try to repeat this mantra to myself daily.
Did you have any sleep struggles as a new parent? What did you learn from them? If you are expecting a child, do you have any concerns about sleep? Did I scare you? I hope not!
Image credit: Moon