I mean, let's not get too crazy. I go to bed around 10pm and
Because I know there are sleep-deprived, red-eyed parents googling this right now, I want to be helpful. Not just by giving you hope that things will get better (they will!). Also by giving you an outline of how we got to this relatively happy place of restful sleep.
Day 1 of parenthood: Baby pretty much sleeps through the night. I'm thinking, "Of course my baby is a great sleeper - she's a kitten. This is going to be a breeze."
Day 2: Baby gets caught up on the sleep she lost during being birthed, starts feeding every hour. And by feeding every hour, I mean I feed her for 45 minutes and then start again 15 minutes later. Yeah.
Weeks 1-10: Baby continues to feed mostly at night, and sleep during the day. She is basically attached to my boob from 6pm-3am, and then sleeps until 5 or 6. Maybe.
3-5 months: Baby starts to cluster feed less in the evenings. Will go to sleep by 11pm (after 3 hours of much fussing, crying, spitting up) and feed every 2-3 hours thereafter.
6 months: I start to see a light at the end of the tunnel. Baby starts going to sleep at a more reasonable time of 8-9pm (only fusses for 1-2 hours before bedtime, feeds at 1 and 4, up for the day at 7 or 8.
8 months: Going to bed by 7:30 with occasional fussing, feeding once at 3-4 am, up at 6:30-7.
9 months: Going to bed by 7:30, sleeping through until 6 or 7. Sometimes (once a week or so) she will randomly hunger at 4am, or will get up at 5 and refuse to go back to sleep, but for the most part she sleeps through.
Here's what I've learned from these past 10 months in stream-of-consciousness bullet points. I'm sure others out there have had very different experiences and may disagree, but this is what I personally have learned, and what will probably apply to my future kids if I am lucky enough to have more:
- Sleep is very VERY important. It affects your mood, your memory, your energy levels, etc. Sleep is important and it's ok to obsess about trying to get more. Having said that, there are some things you can do to improve sleep, but many more things that you cannot change and must simply accept for the time being.
- Having spoken with enough other moms, I conclude that my baby is a pretty average to good sleeper for an exclusively breastfed baby. I think that point is very important. There are lots of people/articles out there that say that formula-fed babies don't sleep better than breastfed babies but I think that is total BS. Here's why: it's not the formula that makes the difference (though it is known that it takes longer to digest than breast milk). It's because of the BOTTLE. My baby was perfectly capable of sleeping longer. She just didn't want to. She preferred to cuddle up to the warm milk bags, and who can blame her. Some of my friends and family have suggested that I should have given her a bottle more often in order to get her out of the habit of nursing for comfort in the evenings, or that I should do that for my next baby. I will think about that.... but I probably won't do it. Comfort is what she needed. She was a teeny tiny human and still is! So that is all to say: expect that you will not be sleeping well for a very long time. Do not expect that your baby is going to sleep through the night at 8 weeks or even 6 months, because I honestly think that is rare, or that people lie about how well their baby actually sleeps.
- Following from the fact that your baby probably won't sleep all night for a very long time is this: It's ok. Accept that your baby wakes several times a night even if they're older than 6 months. I'm tired of all this bullshit of people trying to give me advice on how to get my baby to sleep through the night. I did everything the books said - took away the pacifier, put her down awake (which, btw, made things worse), fed more solids, you name it. It was useless. She decided to sleep more when she felt like it. My advice to my future self: nap more during the day, 'cause you ain't getting any more night sleep no matter what you do.
- "Sleep training" aka "cry-it-out" is something that you can try when you're desperate, but it may not work (or at least not 100%). We tried sleep training at 6.5 months and again at 8 months. It worked very well for naps, but never for bedtime. And like I said, we went by the book - no pacifiers, put down awake, bedtime routine, etc. After many nights of baby crying for 30 mins or more and then collapsing from exhaustion, I went back to nursing her to sleep and don't regret it for a second. I know several other moms with the same experience.
- A final point on acceptance. If you choose to breastfeed your baby, accept that you will have to live around the baby's schedule. I have to be home every night be 7 so that I can nurse my child to sleep. Yeah, it's a damper on my social life, but it's a consequence of the decisions I have made. I am her mother, and it's my number 1 job. The rewards I reap are far greater than anything I sacrifice.
And now, I'm off to bed =)