Four in a bed
Jessica shares her journey of sleep deprivation with two young children.
As parents of a two-year old and a six month old baby, my partner and I are often asked how much sleep we get or how early the kids wake up, by people, usually other parents, expecting tales of disturbed nights or hideously early starts. We look at each other sheepishly, almost feeling guilty that most nights our children sleep until after eight.
Sophie, two years-old, can sleep for around 12 hours whilst Lexie is now sleeping through the night, with only one night feed.
The early days
It wasn’t always this way though. When Lexie was born five weeks early, we were in hospital for a week, struggling to breastfeed and having to wake up every three hours to try and feed her. Then we had to top her up with a bottle feed, express more breast milk for the bottles and so on. We were on a ward with other premature babies who seemed to be on a different feeding time cycle to ours, so we woke up when they did as well. I spent the first few days in a foggy blur of exhaustion. I remember being woken up by the midwife to do the 5am feed and I just couldn’t keep my eyes open, feeling sick with tiredness. She had to take over the feed, making me feel like I was failing my new baby. Lexie was jaundiced so spent most of her early days on a UV light machine and even though she slept a lot, I couldn’t – I just wanted to watch her and make sure she was ok.
Returning home we kept to the three hourly feeding cycle, with Daddy joining in to take on one of the night-time feeds. People often tell you to nap when the baby is napping but with a two year old to look after, a teenager to nag, a business to run and household to manage, there was no hope of fitting in any snooze time. I remember putting Sophie to bed at half seven one night and desperately wishing I could join her!
Then we discovered nipple shields and things began to change. With Lexie able to breastfeed properly we could drop the bottle feeds and also the expressing - freeing up a large part of the night for sleep!
Looking back those days of total exhaustion are a blur. I do remember that a lot of chocolate was eaten, especially Twirl Bites to combat the tiredness, and just how important it was to get a bit of time when Sophie was asleep, to sit on the sofa, have a cuddle with Lexie and watch some mindless TV. Those days have left me with an addiction to ‘Don’t Tell the Bride’ but it’s a small price to pay for a few hours of relaxation and bonding with your baby. Daddy taking over one morning a week and letting me have a lie-in was also a total necessity. Knowing that every Saturday you can have a couple of extra hours of sleep helps you get through the sleep-deprived week!
"Looking back those days of total exhaustion are a blur"
Where we are now
Six months on and Lexie’s piled on the weight, we’ve started weaning her and she’s down to one feed in the night, usually around 5am. Then she’s back to sleep until 8am or until Sophie wakes us all up. Sophie has always been a good sleeper as was her brother (now a teen so it’s impossible to get him to stop sleeping!) We follow a bedtime routine with her: bath, stories and bedtime in her own cot and in her own room. Probably four nights out of seven she’ll wake in the night and she’ll come into our bed, but then she’ll go straight back to sleep and so will we.
Other parents ask what our secret is and I believe it stems from a relaxed attitude to sharing our bed. My partner and I both appreciate sleep and will do what it takes to get enough rest and if this involves sharing our bed with baby and child then that’s fine. I appreciate this doesn’t work for everyone and I believe people should just trust their own judgement and gut feeling on where their children sleep, but for us four in the bed works. For me, waking up in the morning and having a snuggle in a cosy bed with my daughter and my baby is a total pleasure.
What were your experiences with sleep and babies? Did you like this article by Jessica? Let us know in the comments and share!
May 20th 2014