Ever wonder how other parents have managed to make it through the seemingly endless nights of interrupted sleep without becoming completely unglued? It is possible, but like anything, it takes work. Here are some top tips on surviving this exhausting time in your life.
1. Balance the need to stay home so your child can nap against your need to avoid cabin fever.
You can quickly develop a case of cabin fever if you feel like you're trapped in the sleep-deprivation zone 24/7. Rope someone in to help, family members, a neighbour, your partner, friends. Don't be embarrassed to ask for help.
2. Seek out other moms who will allow you to speak honestly about the challenges of being chronically sleep deprived.
Researchers at the University of California at Los Angeles have discovered that women are hardwired to nurture their young and seek out the support of other women during times of stress (the so-called “tend and befriend” stress response triggered by the surge of oxytocin, which is released when women are under stress). Call up a friend, your mom, or a family member who can lend an ear and some support. People love to offer advice and will be willing to hear you out and commiserate (and hopefully give you some good tips or at least reassure you), but sometimes you have to make the first step.
3. Make a conscious effort to de-stress.
Even very young babies can pick up on their parents' stress levels, so one of the keys to keeping your child from becoming totally stressed out (something that will only make it more difficult for your baby to wind down and fall asleep) is to reduce your own stress level. Find something that helps you de-stress and do it, regularly. It could be walking, baking, reading, even shopping. Make sure you carve out the time to relax and enjoy yourself. Think back to the things you used to do pre-baby and see if you can take them up again.
Page 1 of 2 — on page 2, find out how to find some 'me time'.
4. Balance the need to sleep when the baby sleeps with your need to have some "me-time."
"I know that there's logic behind the advice to 'sleep when your baby sleeps,'" says Cathleen, mother of an eight-month-old. "It makes a lot of sense! But that doesn't leave time for R&R activities, whatever they might be for each person. Reading a novel, taking a bubble bath, painting your toenails -- these are luxuries for moms! I gladly forfeit sleep to grab some me-time. It saves my sanity in a way that sleep cannot. Tomorrow I'll just cross my fingers and hope that Miyoko decides that she wants a nice long nap, and I'll lie down and catch a snooze with her then."
5. Don't waste energy by fighting your child's sleep problems in nonproductive ways.
"If I can get five to six hours of sleep a night now, I'm pretty much good to go and I've certainly learned to go with the flow," says Jennifer, 28, mother of 20-month-old Rose.
"That's not to say that I am not sometimes very frustrated when Rose has relapses, but I would say that I am much, much, much better at handling it all now. If I want to enjoy my baby, I have to enjoy all of her, including the night waking, so I just look at it as a normal part of my life. But it took me a long time to get this point. I guess what I've learned is that it's all a matter of perspective. If you look at it as a problem or something bad, then that's where your mindset is at. If you look at it as normal or as part of having a baby, the night waking is much easier to deal with."
Excerpted from Sleep Solutions For Your Baby, Toddler and Preschooler by Ann Douglas. Copyright 2006 by Ann Douglas. Excerpted, with permission by John Wiley & Sons Canada, Ltd. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.