I don’t think there is anything in this world that can possibly fully prepare you for the minefield that is life with a newborn. I was 19 when I had my first baby and going from sleeping whenever I liked (10 hours at night and an afternoon nap were a common occurrence) to a sleepless blur of milk, nappies, hormones and crying from both me and my baby was a shock to the system to say the least. I read endless baby books and articles and I spoke to countless other people to try and gain some wisdom. Sometimes it helped, sometimes the conflicting advice did the opposite but overall, I had to learn for myself like every new parent. And I got it wrong. A lot. But I’m here, 2 children later, surviving and believe it or not, quite enjoying life.
With my first baby, the sleep deprivation was like nothing I’ve experienced before. I was breastfeeding but thanks to undiagnosed tongue tie, he would cluster feed in the evenings/ night-time for up to 7 hours. The newborn days were a struggle to say the least. Luckily, he took a bottle of expressed milk so his dad would be up with Isaac for a few hours so I could get some sleep. At this point, I was still living with my father too so without having to worry too much about housework, I would sleep during the day when I could. I was still exhausted but getting the support wherever possible helped.
As my baby grew, I realised I was in desperate need of some mum friends. My other friends were brilliant, but they were all going back to university, so I forced myself out of the house to mum and baby groups. Developing a network of friends who were in the same boat as me helped no end. We were tired but we were all tired together and we just understood what it was like. My baby reached 5 months but he was still waking frequently though out the night. It was here that I reached peak levels of sleep deprivation and I began to question my own parenting. There was so much pressure out there to get him sleeping through the night and I thought I was doing something wrong.
Luckily, a blog post someone shared on Facebook saved me. The blog post explained that it’s normal for babies of this age to wake frequently throughout the night, there was nothing wrong with my parenting. I was still tired but this shift in mindset got me though the worst nights and the worst days, just knowing that my baby was normal and that I was doing my best was such a relief. He didn’t actually end up sleeping through the night till he was just over 2 years old, when I was already pregnant with my second child. I can imagine that thought sounds horrific to a new parent who is wondering how they will get through the next week of uninterrupted sleep, let alone the next couple of years but it reaches a point where they’re (hopefully) not waking up for too long and not to frequently. You definitely adjust as well, and the sleep deprivation eases.
When my second baby arrived, knowing what to expect and repeating the affirmation ‘this too will pass’ helped no end. So did some chocolate next to the bed to snack on when he woke up… I was in a mindset where I was a lot kinder to myself than I was first time round. I practiced a lot of self-care and sought support whenever I needed it. I wasn’t as critical of my own parenting and with all of this, I got through those early weeks of waking up frequently.
To all the new parents out there struggling with sleep deprivation, you have got this! It is hard but you’re doing so well and you’re doing it all because you love your baby. Look after yourself, treat yourself and find support wherever you can. There are always plenty of people who want to help new parents because they have been there too.