Sleep? Who needs sleep?

Anna is a friend of mine whose baby, Charlotte, is just three months old. Even though she is a medical doctor, being a first-time mum is as much a shock to her as anyone else! Without the help of her mother, who lives quite close by, she would find it much more difficult to cope.

The first few nights’ home from hospital, Charlotte wouldn’t settle, so Anna and husband Charlie, pretty much held her for 48 hours straight. They were a wreck. Anna is having a break from work right now. But Charlie still needs to function in his job, and they realised they couldn’t continue with that system.

“We tried to settle him in the bassinette in our room,” explains a weary Anna, “but she kept making little baby noises and waking us up!”

Since then they’ve tried many methods, systems and “latest fads”

Taking pieces from one style, and adding it to the next in their growing list of fails and successes they finally reached a turning point came a few weeks ago. Anna’s mum suggested they let Charlotte sleep just outside their room. That meant she was nearby but not so close as to wake them with every little grizzle.

Three months, and many sleepless nights later they have come to a place where Anna stays up most of the night, and gives Charlotte a final feed in the early dawn, when she then sleeps for the longest stretch. Anna’s mother comes around to relieve Charlie of the baby when he goes to work, and then she can let Anna sleep-in until mid-morning.

It is an interesting compromise, but it works for them. And that’s the main thing!

Anna was scathing about some of the books and literature she read.

“I didn’t even want to take the book I was recommended to the Second-Hand Shop – in case someone else got hold of it!”

All she could do was throw the book in the trash. While some new mothers found the system offered a boon, for her, she could hardly bear to subject her baby to the “horrors” suggested.

I have every sympathy for Anna

Being a mother for the first time is one of the most difficult transitions anyone can make. Contrary to what many people believe before they have a baby, you can’t organise them, plan your days with them, or MAKE them do anything! In the meantime, your own confidence in your abilities take a rapid dive south.

Instead of panicking and adding to your stress levels, it is necessary to slow down and stop trying to prove yourself. Opposite to what it feels like sometimes, it is a time to be easy on yourself and to love your baby. You want to be a mother who treasures her baby, and to do that you must first treasure yourself. Trust your intuition – you will know more about what to do than you realise if you take a step back and look at things a little more objectively.

Every first-time mother has a story, and every story is different. As Anna discovered, there is no one-size-fits-all solution that will be right for every family. And she learnt about trusting her intuition.

What to do? What to do!

Maybe these ideas will bring some peace to your soul as you treasure your squirmy little bundle

  • Every baby is different Part A

So, glean from other people, search the internet, and read books. But don’t expect every method will work for you. Just like different weight-loss programs will work better for some people than others, various baby regimes will work better for some babies and their families.

  • Every baby is different Part B

So, the first child in your family is likely to be the most challenging as you make all the myriad of first-time decisions. How to manage diverse issues will continue! Sleeps, feeds, bath-time, playgroup, friends, schools, music classes and driving lessons will be in the mix. As you can see the list goes on and on. Your subsequent children gain the benefit of your experience on the first-born.

  • Every baby is different Part C

For subsequent children, you can so easily fall into the trap of thinking all you need to do is repeat the lessons learnt last time. But it is not quite so simple! Each of your children will have their unique challenges. The penny dropped for me about this after baby number five. You would think that by then I would be very proficient at breast feeding. But for some reason it just didn’t come easily. Both my baby and I had to start from square one!

  • Trust your intuition

You are your baby’s mother, and you are intelligent and resourceful. Almost always you will know what the best action is to take. Think about it, do your research, do some trial and error if you are comfortable with that, talk to trusted people, ask God for wisdom and guidance. And then make your decisions, with your partner if you can. Intuition is an amazing thing! With my mother out of the picture, I always ended up trusting God would lead my intuition in the right direction.

  • Stay calm

I am the first to realise staying calm is difficult. When the baby has been screaming non-stop for hours and you haven’t slept a wink all night, it is difficult to maintain your cool. If you feel your inner sense of calm is going haywire it is a good idea to ask for help. A family member, a friend, a trusted grandmother-type, the local church, or even the Salvos – get help to have some rest, before the last of your calm disappears and you do something you might later regret.

  • Your family is unique, special and to be treasured

Take a moment to treasure them and yourself. Take encouragement from knowing that this time will pass. As much as you can in the moment, treasure your days with your little one.

Tell me! How did you manage on those first nights with a newborn?