First-time mum Felicity shares her experience and offers advice
One of the most prominent memories of Eric being a new born baby (alongside the shock of how much life changed and thinking he was the cutest, coolest baby I had ever met!) was the crushing, bewildering, fog of tiredness.
One of the hardest parenting challenges I faced was the early sleep deprivation – I don’t think anything could have prepared me for how tired I would feel. Yet, at the same time, I had quite a lot of adrenaline – it was exciting, I was a bit worried and a bit scared.
I was warned, but I had never experienced anything like it before. I was so tired that I felt like I was underwater the whole time.
“I was so tired that I felt like I was underwater the whole time”
We took it day by day and we survived. It did get easier. Below is our story.
At home we put Eric to sleep at night in a Moses basket on the floor right next to our bed. If you’re using a cot instead, make sure you buy a good quality, new mattress for baby. Having him right next to our bed made it easier when he woke up in the night. I wanted to co-sleep but we were nervous, unsure, new parents and we weren’t sure if it was safe or whose advice to trust.
“We were nervous, unsure, new parents”
When we first got home and were getting used to being parents, even if we did fall asleep at night the slightest noise, snuffle or squeak he made would wake us up. I often wouldn’t get to sleep for ages constantly checking on Eric just to make sure he was breathing! If I had another baby I’d definitely have the confidence to safely co-sleep.
To start with, Eric didn’t differentiate night from day at all and after the first week, when we got home, he started staying awake much more at night than in the day. We read this was normal for babies, who in utero, typically sleep during the day when rocked and lulled by the movement of their mother. To help us get through the phase of him being so wakeful at nights, Alex and I used to do shifts. Doing shifts at night with Alex got us through, and just constantly reminding ourselves that it would pass and would get better.
To help set Eric’s body clock we made sure it was dark(ish!) and quiet at night, and for daytime naps we made sure it was light and didn’t worry about making noise, and he gradually got used to sleeping more at night than in the day.
Coping with tiredness
Having Eric right beside the bed helped me sleep better. Not having to get up and go to another room to feed him or look after him when he cried meant I got more sleep, I could just stay in bed and go back to sleep right away.
I wish I had listened to the advice to rest more, sleep when baby sleeps and accept all offers of help. If someone asks if there’s something they can do, let them do things to help you! Guests can make themselves (and you!) a cup of tea, or watch baby while you have a bath, or clean the bathroom for you – my best friend scrubbed my loo and I’ve never loved anyone more in my life!
“I wish I had listened to the advice to rest more, sleep when baby sleeps and accept all offers of help”
Having had a baby, these are the things I know to offer for people (alongside offering to cook or bringing food!) as I know how much I would have appreciated it, but I was worried it was rude to accept help at the time. It’s really not; it makes people happy to know they’ve helped you.
Lessons learnt and advice
The only question anyone seems to ask you when you have a new baby is whether they’re sleeping at night yet or whether they are a ‘good’ sleeper. It’s understandable, as it’s an exhausting time and I’m sure it’s asked out of concern for the new parents, but it’s not especially helpful as it starts to feel like your baby should be sleeping through the night!
I wish I had had little naps during the day and rested more! We cooked batch meals in advance which we had in portions in the freezer to get us through. My Grandma sent me a fruit basket which was just the loveliest most thoughtful thing. I think keeping a focus on the fact that it was normal and that it would get better helped us to cope, as it meant I always had the strength of hope.
The best piece of new mum sleep advice I was given was to lower my expectations.
“In time, babies do start to sleep longer stretches, and it will get easier”
When I lowered my expectations it helped me feel less stressed and worried, and to trust that Eric was fine and normal and that it would get better. In time, babies do start to sleep longer stretches, but I found regaining sleep as Eric started to sleep longer stretches was gradual and took time. I remember the first night he slept through the night from 11pm to 7am waking up in the morning in a panic wondering if he was ok and why he hadn't woken up!
Remember that it is normal for babies not to sleep through the night. Have faith in yourself that you can cope and survive. We are stronger than we think. Sleep when baby sleeps, rest lots in the day, have the confidence to say no to overwhelming numbers of visitors and take up offers of help from friends and relatives.
The most important thing I can look back on and remember is that it does get easier – it’s why I stand by ‘this too shall pass’.
Are you a new mum, or did you have a similar experience? Did you find this article helpful? Share this with your friends and followers so together we can raise awareness and support for new parents.