Sleep – ahhhhh sleep. There’s moms and dads sleep and then there is baby’s sleep.
Apparently babies at first don’t have a lot of awake time unless they are like mine who are super alert and fight sleep. I remember people saying “oh for the first three months you can go out for dinner still with baby in the car seat and a blanket draped over the handle to protect the baby and let her sleep under there.” I thought I would cry every time someone said that because that wasn’t us. Especially not us at dinner when the baby would be in her witching hours. And I was so very tired and desperate for things to go to something more manageable so that we could be the happy family at the table enjoying a nice meal. Not our reality, at least not yet!
I don’t know what having a typical baby is like but my newborn cried a lot and needed a lot of attention. It was very exhausting! But part of our bonding process for sure. Each morning I woke up and still do wake up with such a wonder that I have a baby (thanks be to God!), she was mine to hold and look after and raise. So special an honour. Especially because our baby is more challenging when it comes to sleep, I keep reminding myself that she is simply a little firecracker who will do amazing things one day, and that this inconvenience to me is because she is ahead of her age in terms of alertness, and that this will teach me that this too shall pass (and it did, eventually she calmed down and fell asleep and I got some wonderful sleep, plus over time the crying lessened), and how to focus in the moment on what’s important – the baby’s well being instead of crumbling in the face of this challenge. Every day I think, I can do this and it forces me to believe in myself and in my baby that we can achieve anything together. It sounds cheesy maybe but I look at her as my companion who I need to help. She looks to me and I need to be strong and consistent for her to rely on. I need to be her pillar of strength. My husband in turn is our pillar of strength and wow, do I ever need his strength sometimes and this has been hard to admit, having been an independent woman for so long!
So my example here with my first born is that of a baby who just fights sleep absolutely and my journey is figuring out how to help her sleep for so many good reasons.Her reflux was very bad for the first 6 weeks and it would interrupt her sleep all the time.
I know there are textbook newborns who sleep and are contented little beans. I guess we did manage to get her to sleep because she gained weight and grew. But it was filled with “bad sleeping habits” that I thoroughly enjoyed, like co-sleeping in the morning together for 2 hours. I would feel so refreshed after being close to her and seeing her so calm, deep asleep beside me.
Having the overnight doula made the change from bassinet to crib very easy, and thankfully our girl was used to both.
Once she fell asleep, she slept decently. But the daytime was tough, I was always questioning if I were doing the right thing and this was very draining.
Eventually babies grow and the reflux does resolve itself and the baby learns to babble and make other noises than scream/cry. Crying alone is a brutal response to everything. Could you imagine if we couldn’t do anything but scream whenever we wanted to order a coffee or ask a question or even say thank you? And the crying face….oh if only it wasn’t so heartbreakingly sad to see. I would crumble after having to deal with her crying that day because I couldn’t stand to see her so miserable looking. Once she developed a repertoire beyond crying (tip here: I talked to her constantly, sang to her constantly even though I have a terrible voice, and had her around during phone conversations with my family on speaker) the crying would diminish over time (partly due to the breastfeeding diet that reduced her stomach discomforts.) My husband urged me to time the crying to see that what sounded like an eternity of crying was in fact a handful of minutes. But when it went past that handful of minutes, well, let’s just say I didn’t let it go past that handful of minutes, especially because she’s a reflux baby.
What would I do differently?
- I would go on a breastfeeding diet starting as soon as possible, like at least one month before I’m due because it takes 3 weeks for all potential allergens to clear your body. That was a huge problem with our baby…she’s sensitive to so many foods: soy, dairy, nuts, citrus and vinegars, fish and shellfish, and too much sugar. So I wish I would have cut them out from the start of the pregnancy in fact because as it turns out, I am healthier now having been on the diet for a few months. My nails are stronger and my skin is clear. Korean and Chinese cultures have you drinking chicken broth and seaweed soups for the first three months. I thought that this was mainly for mom but now I’m thinking it’s for baby.
- I would find someone like my mom to spend time with…she hasn’t been able to come and stay as originally thought, but she was here for the baptism and she showed me how to have fun with our baby…she was so calm and relaxed and the baby just chilled out with her. She didn’t worry, she said the baby is just fine and she really was during that visit. I was so tense as was my husband that I’m sure our faces and our vibes were too negative for our baby. So get some relief! Be around people who know babies and get them. To this day I’m grateful that my mom and I talk every day and we speak of good things and she gushes about her granddaughter to no end which is fun. My mom learned what I needed too and has been so good to both me and my daughter. I’m so grateful to her.
- Get a doula in right away to give some relief especially on the overnight
- Try not to worry…it may seem like it’s always going to be difficult and it will always be challenging, but not in the same way. Smile lots at your baby and sing to him/her and play, tell him or her you love them as much as you want. Especially when they are wailing away. Say whatever brings you peaceful feelings. I did break down and pray tearfully to the Virgin of Guadalupe for her intercession. It just helped me to pray and regain hope when I was feeling very distraught from the fatigue of the evening screaming session. This too shall pass, and it did.
- Get a baby carrier to wear him or her around
- Get around people to help hold the baby
- I would have read to the baby in utero and continued daily once she was born because babies learn routine and at comforted by consistency
I learned an interesting fact – in researching sleep trainers/consultants I was advised that they won’t work with babies younger than 5 months due to the immature system of a newborn. Their nervous systems especially are only forming. When I learned this, I relaxed. A consultant friend of mine tells me that whatever “bad habits” are used now to get her to sleep can always be undone after the 5 month mark. The most vital thing to do in the meantime is protect her sleep! And to form a most healthy child with happy chatter and hugs and smiles and kisses.
Every baby is different and every mom will handle it differently and I think that as long as we ask for help when we need it, and remember to be gentle and loving with our little ones, we can build up the confidence that we can handle the curve balls that these little angels throw our way. It’s a chance to be better than we ever thought we could be. And a time to let ourselves cry and pray for help when we feel tired and miserable.
I didn’t go into the wonder weeks and growth spurts and sicknesses because they all do the same thing: they shift things on you and train you to become fluid. Some people are good at this. I am not but I’m getting better, but some days I sure do second guess myself and wish I had someone around to show me how to do all of this better!