Parents all around the world share an important piece of knowledge: When your baby comes home from the hospital, he or she will not be sleeping through the night. Nothing can prepare you for the sleep deprivation that you will experience in early parenthood; It’s quite grueling to be honest. The good news is that millions and gazillions of parents throughout time have done it before you…and SURVIVED. I promise that you will too! If you put in the work to help your baby become a good sleeper, your life and their life will be significantly improved. Remember, no one goes off to college not knowing how to sleep through the night, so there is a light at the end of the tunnel (and I assure you that it happens WAY before they turn 18). My goal is not only to help you endure this sleep-deprived journey, but to also help you live as joyful and as peaceful a life as possible. Remember that your hard work, patience and persistence will pay off, and it will feel incredibly rewarding. Also, remind yourself that you and your partner are not the only ones going through this, and there ARE ways to help alleviate some of the stress that sleep deprivation and caring for a precious baby can put on your relationship.
Having a Sense of Humor:
My husband and I made a deal when our son was born. It was called the “5am Rule.” Anything that happened before 5am, Mama was on duty, and anything after was Dada Duty. It’s all about taking turns, giving each other breaks to refuel and re-energize. There were many mornings when our baby decided to wake up for a feeding at 4:35am and you bet I would do my best to bargain with my hubs so that HE would get up…. I would beg,
Mama: I’ll do ANYTHING if you get up…. how about a long, peaceful and relaxing back massage later when you come home from work…. with hot stones… how about swedish massage?? Thai massage??… Anything your little heart desires, Sweetie!
Dada: (With one eye opened, looking like the word “Massage” perked him out of his slumber) Really??????
Mama: YES!!! Really… ANYTHING!!!!
DADA: (Thinking creatively… outside of the box)….. You stay in bed, Honey- I got him!
Bottom line: A little creativity and a little humor can get you through ANYTHING. If you strive to have a relaxed and light attitude in those not so relaxing and light situations, you will see that it will benefit your relationship.
If you are having a bad day (which we all have from time to time because we are human), try to make it a point to alert your spouse so that they are aware. Whether it’s through couples counseling or on your own, sit down and have a conversation about what you need from your spouse when you are in a bad mood. Some people like to be left alone and need their space to breathe, while others really crave affection and want to be cuddled and showered with hugs. It’s important for you both to know each other’s preferences. When experiencing a bad mood, we often have expectations of how we want our spouse to act or what we want them to do. Sometimes, we get disappointed or let down because these expectations were made without communication and the way our spouse is treating us isn’t ideal. Our spouses cannot read our minds, even when we really want them to. Keep your partner “in the know” as it will result in a quicker turn-around and it will be less likely to result in an ongoing frustration-fest.
It is natural to feel frustrated with your spouse at times. They are an easy target. Remind yourself that he or she is most likely feeling frustrated also. Rather than becoming bitter, express your emotions and work through them together. Problem solve, discuss, and vent to one another. Bond over the fact that you are in this chaotic world of “Baby-dome” together. Work as a team; Be friends, Be Partners, Be lovers and Be mindful. For better or for worse (mostly better) these moments have entered your life. Make the most of this precious time, savor the moment and try to be present because someday you might look back and miss this time after your “baby” is all grown up.
Self-Care (& Prana):
We all know how important sleep is for the healthy development of our babies. Somehow, we tend to forget about our own sleep needs and then we are in trouble. The best thing that you can do for the benefit of healthy and happy relationships is to make sure that YOU are getting enough sleep as well. If you are exhausted it can show up in unpleasant ways. You may show signs of irritability and annoyance, leading you to become snappy. More importantly, sleep deprivation can also cause depression and moodiness. An absence of taking care of yourself and your needs can result in unhealthy and unhappy parents. The bottom line: You know that your number one priority is to take care of that little soft-skinned, cuddly, loving baby, but don’t forget about yourself. You are just as important and need to be cared for too.
If you need to grab that extra hour of sleep somewhere in the middle of the day, don’t hold back from asking a family member or babysitter to watch your baby occasionally; That quick snooze will be revitalizing! Mamas, If you feel like getting a manicure or taking a yoga class- find the time to do it! Dadas- What about watching a football game or going for pizza and beer with your buds? Parents- just because a baby has entered your life, doesn’t mean that your nails can’t be glistening, that you stop saying “namaste” or “Go Bears!”, or your stomach isn’t filled with heavenly cheesy goodness and your conversations filled with more than Elmo (although I have to say that I personally love Elmo). Life continues, and these little pieces of the puzzle, when put together create your best life possible. Taking care of yourself is imperative to successfully raising that bundle of joy to be the best sound sleeper, and of course the best little human being on the planet. You know that cliche (but true) saying, “Happy wife, happy life,” well it also applies to parenthood. “Happy Parents, happy babies.” It’s easy to forget about yourself while in the trenches of survival mode parenting a baby, but I guarantee if you start to focus on taking care of yourself and nurturing your relationship with your spouse, your relationship with your baby will be solid and strong.
“Prana” is a term that I learned in yoga class recently. It was explained to me as, “Prana is what gives us our light and our energy.” In other words, when we are filled with Prana, we are functioning at our highest level and we are as close to being our true selves as possible (which is ultimately the best way to be). It really resonated with me and inspired me to change my life. To be more insightful and present at all times, we should strive to do as much “Prana-In” activities as possible and less (depleting) “Prana-Out”activities. When we are not doing enough “Prana-In,” for ourselves it really takes a toll. I too, was once a mommy who wasn’t doing enough for myself because it was all about my baby and husband. However, once I started getting back to me and making time for the things in my life that ignite me, everything changed for the better.
I truly believe that if you and your spouse take care of yourselves, you will be better equipped to take really good care of your baby and each other. My motto is, “At the end of the day, Namaste.” Your baby will pick up on your positive changes and you will see that he or she will miraculously start mellowing out and will be more able and willing to get some good quality sleep.
Sleep tight and you’ll be alright!
*By the way, everything I learned about baby sleep training, I learned from the brilliant Rebecca Kempton, the “Baby Sleep Pro.” Check out everything she has to offer here: http://babysleeppro.com/ and for those of you with older kids as well, just an FYI, she works with kids up to 6 years old.