Today we have a guest blogger with us; Bob Brotchie is a counselling psychotherapist, a retired Paramedic and Flight Medic. He is an advocate for mental health and emotional well-being, and sees individuals, couples and families in his consulting practice at Kentford, near Newmarket. You can read more from his regular blogs at angliacounselling.co.uk. Today he is going to discuss baby sleep problems, and give us some advice on how we might manage them – take it away, Bob!
I’m unsure at what point this was ever part of the plan! Yes, of course I wanted a family, and yes, I knew it would be tough…how tough though when sleep deprivation occurs for us – and our children.
We do get lulled into thinking that once our baby passed through the milk demolishing, nappy destroying and sleep hating stage; surely, the worst is over…isn’t it?
Let’s review that early stage of complete self-denial (for pleasure) and self-sacrifice. Many of the thoughts are likely to be relevant later on too!
Of course, so many dynamics mean there really is no one size fits all solution. Considering factors such as; age of parents, difficulty of pregnancy, first child, single-parent situation, interference from other well-meaning family and friends, diet, work-life balance, finances, general health of parents, post-partum depression…it seems the list is endless, and yet we manage. However, could it be easier?
Focusing here on the sleep aspect as a stand-alone and critical to wellbeing of the emotions and the body, well yes, I believe we can at least consider some options. One of the problems I see in my professional capacity is that we do have a tendency to wait until something becomes an issue before tackling it. I’m often no different!
The problem however with tackling sleep issues is when they become established, and all sense of proportion and perspective may be lost in that stage of gross fatigue. Where possible, my belief is that planning contingencies before the event can provide for interventions that we can make sense of, and implement.
Prepare for battle, or at least the demands!
- At the earliest possible time, preferably during the pregnancy, adopt the best possible healthy diet you can.
- Ditto, for your general physical health and fitness. Treat your bodies to the best you can afford and give yourself time for reflection, balance and physical harmony.
- Be ‘positively selfish’, that is, do what you want for you, and that doesn’t cause harm to others
- Do try to clear any emotional baggage that may otherwise surface during the sleep deprivation periods.
When we prepare ourselves for the demands – that if we think about it we know are likely to challenge us, we give ourselves greater opportunity to be less resentful, and more tolerant to the rigours parenting can provide. (I do know first-hand what a privilege and joy parenting is by the way, but this is about the reality of some of the associated challenges)
Another crucial stage of the planning for this utopian vision (!) is for the parents to ensure they communicate with each other exceptionally well. That is considerate and mindful to the needs of each other, as well as ourselves
The resentment is all too frequent when one parent has been on the night watch for baby whilst the other sleeps, even if it is because the other has to go out to work. There is no escape, you will both be required to accommodate each other’s needs if you are to create and maintain some form of harmony during sleep loss.
I think most people understand that baby, and older children, will have periods of growing up where sleep will become the enemy – and the reasons for this.
Hungry –Teething – Not tired – Bored – Lonely – Fretful – Unwell – Bodily Changes – Bad dreams – Anxiety…to name a few!
So what’s to do?
Some classic tips are…
- Try to monitor feed times, and what is being eaten. Some foods will create less than ideal digestion or absorption for the little ones!
- Introduce routine; as much as is practicable try to have your cherished ones go to bed/sleep and wake-up within + or – 20 minutes.
- Quieten the household down at least 1-2 hours before bedtimes. It may be somewhat unrealistic to expect little ones, whose senses are being bombarded with the flurry of dinnertime preparations, others coming in from their work, T.V and games – to then be immediately withdrawn from all that stimuli and placed in the calm, quiet nursery or bedroom! I can recall now the shock in me when laying a son down in the cot…only for his eyes to become saucers with the shock of it all!
- Parents – Sleep when you can! I’m amazed at how many become martyrs to the cause, feeling guilty at grabbing an hour here, or there, even in the middle of the day. This is not a time to be socially mindful – this is self-preservation time!
There are many more! So come share them with us, what are your tips for getting some sleep with babies, toddlers and little ones.