Friday, 13 December 2013

Things I Know About Sleep And Parenting

I know that sleep is something I value highly and always have. I love my sleep, I love my bed. Those who dare come between us will hear my wrath.  Having my sleep disrupted or taken away from me was a huge concern in becoming a parent, but my desire to become a parent rated just higher than my passion for sleep.

I found out pretty quickly how exhausting parenting can be.
Although my body had been trying to get me ready for the sleep disruptions to come with needing to visit the toilet, the movement of the baby, and limited sleeping positions, it was nothing compared to the actual lack of sleep and exhaustion I was about to experience once baby and I got home.

With both of my children, I found the demand of initially feeding every four hours, the efforts to breastfeed, and the healing after childbirth quite taxing. Just when you start getting used to a schedule, your baby moves into the next phase and everything adjusts.

I actually get a giggle now, when I hear a parent say that they can't wait for their child to start moving around independently, as I know that life in fact does not get easier once babies start rolling, crawling, walking and running. In fact, as exhausting as a new baby is, I would say it was the easiest time for the fact that baby always stayed where baby was put. I became quite the fan of the notion of "sleep when baby sleeps" when it was possible, which was not always or regularly given the chores, appointments and visitors.

Initially, I did not have an opinion on co-sleeping. 
I listened to the advice given by professionals and other parents, and decided that each person had their own bed to sleep in, but cuddles and feeding in my bed was fine. My children, on the other hand, soon let it be known that they wanted to be comforted and close all of the time. Both of my children did not cope well with self-settling, and this became an issue in getting them to sleep each time, and settling them if they woke.  It soon became standard practise that my children would sleep sometimes in their own bed, and sometimes in ours. We did try different techniques and options to encourage sleeping in their own bed, and with quite some determination, but in the end our need and love of sleep determined that baby was welcome in our bed if it meant we were not standing by theirs all night or up and down between the two.

As I returned to work, the co-sleeping acceptance became even more of a sensible choice for us.
With the alarm clock set to go off at a regular time each work morning, there was nothing worse than watching those numbers click over closer and closer to that time as you pat a child's back, and try to convince them that Mummy won't rush back to her warm bed as soon as their eyelids droop. There is also nothing worse than that exhausted, hang-over feeling that comes after little, interrupted sleep, whilst trying to perform your duties at work and make it through to the end of the day.

As I write this, I can honestly say that our children have never been the sort that take themselves off to bed when they are tired. At the ages of 9 and 6, they would still prefer one parent to be present when they drift off to sleep. What can I say .... we are pretty irresistible!
They are old enough to understand now that sleeping in your own bed is important for a good night's rest. There are also plenty of incentives, or consequences at this age to encourage going to sleep on your own. As they got older, there need to be in our bed and help them to get sleep has improved. Some days are better than others.

I am proud to say that I am instilling in them my love for sleep.
They now look forward to weekends where they do not have to get up early to start the school morning ritual. "Sleep-in days" are becoming things that they too treasure.