How to survive sleep deprivation as a parent

Ahh sleep deprivation! Something all parents know far too well. My first experience was in pregnancy, especially during my last trimester. I was SO uncomfortable, with a mixture of heartburn and restless leg syndrome making it almost impossible to get sleep, not to mention it taking hours just to get comfortable. Of course I still had silly comments like… “Get the most of sleep, it’ll be gone before you know it” – incorrect! At 35 weeks pregnant I felt like I had already said farewell to sleep.

After my beautiful boy was born, I thought I had hit the jackpot. Oliver slept through, that’s right… SLEPT THROUGH! He would maybe wake for a breastfeed at around 5am, but would sleep back through until around 9am, and boy did I brag about it. Obviously karma got the better of me because at around 4 weeks old his colic kicked in and it was “Adios, sleep!” and “Hola, sleep deprivation”. To put it bluntly: The. Child. Would. Not. Sleep. Yet, still I had people making stupid comments like “You look tired, you should sleep when baby sleeps” – assuming that said baby even slept? I remember thinking to myself “f*****g idiots”

Now at 2.5 years Oliver is slightly better with his sleep, I say slightly because last Sunday he had me up at 4am (ON MY ONE DAY OFF). I think all parents have experienced sleep deprivation at some point, and it’s a whole new level of tired because, although you’re exhausted, you still have this little human to care for (and I’m convinced Oliver has this way of sensing when I am shattered).

So here are some of my tips for surviving sleep deprivation with a little one:

  1. Forget the house work, if you have had a bad night with your little bundle of joy IF they nap, you nap too.
  2. Lazy days are a MUST. If both you and baby have had a rough night, a day with blankets, snacks and films are essential.
  3. know your limits, say no to people ” popping round ” Unless of course it’s a close friend or relative who is prepared to help said sleep deprivation
  4. IGNORE any comments on how tired you look. There is categorically no such thing as a perfect-looking sleep deprived parent – they’re a myth.
  5. Caffeine (unless you’re breastfeeding) – I have had and still have many a day where I can be seen clutching onto a coffee first thing in the morning, followed by an energy drink at lunch time to stop me crashing. A girl’s gotta do what a girl’s gotta do, and a 7 hour shift with 3.5 hours sleep is no walk in the park, let me tell you!
  6. Accept any help. I’m fortunate that my sister is studying to be a SEN teacher, so she often offers to watch Oliver for an hour if I have had a bad night so that I can get some much needed shut eye (especially if I am having an endometriosis flare up/PCOS flare up)!

My final piece of advice is remember that sleep deprivation isn’t permanent. It does get better, and although you may feel like a complete Zombie right now, it will pass, and to put it bluntly (because I never have and never will sugar-coat parenting), you are not the only parent going through this. Anyone who says their child has always slept through the night is lying, all children go through a phase of not sleeping!

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Things that new Mummies and Mummies to be are sick of hearing…

It might not be the same for all women, but you can pretty much guarantee that the second that you announce your pregnancy, comments will start to roll in. Quite often, positive and supportive comments, slowly start to roll into slightly more rude and patronising ‘advice’. I truly believe that most people offering this advice, mean well. However, I am a firm believer that- unless you are asked to give advice OR a baby appears to be at risk due to a new Mother’s uncertainty (even then, there are ways to go about this nicely!) then you shouldn’t feel compelled to launch comments and advice from your mouth, so sternly that it wounds. In fact, really you don’t need to mention anything at all.
Listed below are the comments that have got to me the most, in my nearly year and a half of being both pregnant and being a first time mummy.
“You can’t expect him (the baby’s father) to take an interest in the baby straight away. When the baby starts doing more, he’ll find the baby more interesting and become more involved!”
Okay! SO a man can partake in making a baby, he can do the dirty, the dance with no pants. BUT doesn’t have to commit any responsibility until ‘the baby becomes interesting’? If everybody had this outlook, babies would be solely raised by robots up until the age of around 4/5 months. Important bonds are formed within the first few weeks of a babies life, and although they won’t remember if someone doesn’t play an active role in their life during this time. The people who worked so hard to keep the baby happy and ensured that they were set to flourish, WILL remember.
AND it WILL hurt their feelings.
“Was it planned?”
IT?! IT?!  Regardless if a baby is planned or not, a child should not and cannot be branded as an ‘accident’ or mistake. If a woman has made it clear that she is happy with her pregnancy, referring to her unborn child as “it” is endlessly rude, disrespectful and hurtful.  Due to many issues, including but not limited to; Polycystic Ovary Syndrome, a right ovary that is believed to not be functioning properly, a cyst in my uterus, taking the contraceptive pill for hormonal control and the intended use. Topped of a with a very large bleed- Conceiving Florence was nothing short of a miracle for my Partner and our families.
This question is rude, hurtful and honestly? The answer is none of your business.
“Better get used to having no sleep!”
Nothing like new parents being filled with fear before the baby has even arrived. I have found this to be a total myth when it comes to my Baby’s sleeping habits, although I think that I am pretty lucky! Florence has slept through the night on and off, from exactly 1 Month Old and takes frequent naps… So no, I haven’t had to adjust to having no sleep YET.
Thank you for your concern.
“You’re not married? What a shame! I thought you were a good girl!”
Helllllllloooo! We are in the 21st Century where, lots of marriages last as long as a clean nappy. You don’t have to be married to have a baby. You don’t have to have a baby if you don not want one. You can use contraception can prevent pregnancy (well its supposed to, but there is enough stories on the baby group to suggest otherwise). You can have a baby if you’re a same sex couple. If a woman decides to keep a baby that was conceived after a one night stand and raise the baby herself? Good on her- A Happy mummy = A happy baby, and really, that is all that matters. We live in an age where families aren’t always ‘conventional’ and I think that it is beautiful. I’m no less of a person for having my daughter when I had her. Married or not.
Your views are outdated, please get with the times.
“Nappies are so gross! Hope you don’t mind yucky things!”
Nappies can be gross. butttttt… so is your sick after drinking too much and your own poop, for that matter. Worse stuff  has happened. I’m just going to leave this one here. It is so childish and so ridiculous.
You too sat in your own wee and poo. So you really have NO room to comment.
“Your body will never be the same again!”
It might bounce back, but it might not. Most women end up with stretch marks whilst pregnant, but some lucky ladies do not. I personally resemble an albino tiger- Pale. pasty and covered in stripes (haha) but you know what? My body is quite literally a temple of life. As shitty as it may be and even if I do hate it sometimes… My womb made a human life. I grew a beautiful, healthy and strong baby girl. I almost died getting her here, but I did it!
Now that, is pretty badass.
“Well, back in my day…”
Or
“Well, I didn’t do *that* and my baby turned out fine.”
I don’t know, I would like my child to turn out a little better than just ‘fine’? Yes, we get it. You weaned your babies at 3/4 months. Some smoked and consumed alcohol whilst pregnant because you had no idea of the risks, no one did! You didn’t have a massive list of foods to avoid whilst pregnant. Amongst many, many other fairly substantial changes, that have been based on research over a very vast time period. Times have changed and even if babies haven’t- Guidelines to keep them safe and healthy has changed too. No, we don’t need your opinions or comments on breastfeeding or formula. Dummy or no dummy. We’ll give you a shout if you need help though! 
Lets face it, we only want the best for our babies- regardless of if they are 23 days, weeks or years old.
Giving birth was a breeze for me, I cannot see what all of the fuss is about?”
Or
“Yes, I know about your experience, but mine was awful.”
Labour was easy for you? Fab! You go girl! Tell me about your experience! Labour was awful for you? Lets talk about it. I can understand your pain. Just because you had a baby and had no issues with labour, it doesn’t mean that everyone has had the same experience. Women need to be kinder to eachother and support one another with this massive life shifting change. Not turn it into some kind of competition between who had it the worst and who had it the easiest.
We’ve all achieved the same incredible result, so where is the love?
“There goes your social life! Wave goodbye to freedom, nights out and time to yourself!”
Haha. I will keep this short, but sweet. I didn’t have much of a social life before my baby. So I can say with confidence, that not much has changed. In fact with baby dates, I’m probably socialising more than ever.
“Everyone from school is having babies and I am over here, planning my next holiday.”
It’s great that you have a desire to travel the world. But, having a baby doesn’t stop you from traveling the world or doing anything else that you want to do. I am very lucky to have gone on numerous holidays a year, to a variety of places when I was growing up. I’ve been 1/5 of the American states and visited several different contries. In no way, do I feel that my baby has restricted my life or the way I wish to live. She has enriched my life tremendously and I couldn’t have welcomed her into my life at a better time.
“I hope that you’re planning on waiting before you have your next baby! You need time to enjoy this one!”
I don’t plan on having another baby right away, as having Florence was quite nearly the death of me. But, if I wanted to have another child so that my children would be close in age, then I would. Your opinions have no weight on how I decide to live my life. Or how anyone else should live theirs, for that matter. If you spent too much time planning for the correct time and suitable age gaps- you’d probably never have a baby, let alone multiple babies. If a women wants to have a baby straight after having two sets of twins… Her body may not like her for it- but that is up to her! Not you! 
You can stop it right now, with your “you two have been busy!” Crap. 
“How do your parents feel about you having a baby? Are they excited?”
My parents have always been incredibly supportive. This hasn’t changed since them knowing that I was pregnant or since having my baby. You know what? I was so ill before being pregnant with Florence, that my parents thought something was seriously wrong. So a baby was almost a relief to them. However, if they weren’t supportive- it wouldn’t change my wanting to keep and care for my baby. I think I speak for most Mums when I say that. You don’t need supportive parents to be a good parent. Ultimately, it matters to some people, to a degree as to what their parents think- but to some it means nothing. 
Having a baby doesn’t have to have anything to do with your parents. Although having amazing Grandparents is lovely for your children.
Oh, and the incessant and constant sharing of pictures showing horrific nappy spillages on to our Facebook walls, with a comment saying “Good luck, lol” needs to STOP. If you haven’t got anything nice or useful to say, don’t say it at all. 
I hope you enjoy reading these and feel a little less alone, in your constant battle against the views and voices of the world around you.

You’re doing a great job. 

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