I think the most overwhelming advice I got when I announced I was pregnant was to sleep as much as possible while I still had the chance because I was really going to miss it. Hash-tag what an understatement. Firstly I need to address the ludicrousness of this advice. Trust me when I tell you that an extra few hours on a Sunday morning 4 months before the baby is born will not stop the sleep-deprived wrath you will inevitably unleash on someone. It will most likely be a deliveryman who rings your doorbell while the baby is sleeping, probably to drop off a baby gift.
The other rather misleading piece of advice given to any sleep deprived new mother is to rest when the baby goes down. Apparently we’re no longer supposed to be concerned with wallowing in our own filth or wearing clothes that wouldn't have even passed a health check in the Middle Ages. It also means that you sacrifice gorgeous daylight to catch up on sleep so that you can survive being awake in the dead of night, all alone, with a screaming banshee. It was never super appealing to me in theory or in practice and my biggest error was persisting with it for so long.
Round one for me saw my daughter giving me no more than 45 minutes sleep a day. As she slept through from 7pm until 7am from 7 months I put it down to her not being a very good day sleeper and at least I got a full night, right? I was living my life stressed. I was trying to fit in the running of a household into nights and worried about being a bad mother for not making sure my daughter slept enough (something I was ‘advised’ repeatedly I should be ensuring). I learnt to manage around everything because I was at least getting enough night sleep.
Round two, my son was born trying to sleep during his nap times. He was perfect and it meant that I had a very easy introduction to being a mother of two. So I ruined it trying to attend to him at the sign of any disturbed sleep just to make sure my daughter didn't get woken up. Huge error. Things went from bad to worse as my son slowly unlearnt to sleep. As I got more and more tired, I got less and less consistent with how I dealt with it and by the time I decided to use ‘tough love’ (i.e. semi-controlled crying) I was too tired to persist with it and as persistence is the key the whole idea was doomed.
The solution to all my problems was Sleep School, specifically the amazing team of women at Masada Mother Baby Unit. My only regret is not going along sooner.
The Sleep School program is a whole week devoted to making sure you get as much rest as possible. Whilst you grab a little time for yourself a team of the loveliest women in the world organize for you to have a fully functioning sleep machine of a baby at the end. They even arrange a time for you to have a massage if you want one. It’s the perfect opportunity to get the R and R you need to get back on top of dealing with everything.
The first night away from home leaving your baby in the very capable hands of these women is daunting and even though you are no more than a few meters away, it feels like you’re relinquishing your responsibility to someone else. It doesn't take long before you get more entrenched in the program and you start seeing the benefits for both for you and your baby.
The Masada sleep school technique is based on persistence. The idea is to teach babies that no matter what, the exact same thing will happen every single time they cry. Eventually they will understand that it’s sleep time. The other great thing is that you never have to listen to your baby upset for more than 2 minutes, which is often the reason for women not persisting. Nothing like a tear or two to generate the impulse for cuddles!
So after two children and 1 and half months of intense sleep deprivation, my son was sleeping 5-6 hours daily and 12 hours nightly (at 5.5 months old). He would dream feed in the middle of the night and self settle. He is now 13 months old and still a champion little sleeper.
I now get plenty of cupcake-making time with my daughter during the day while my son sleeps, I enjoy my son because I don’t see him as the reason I am tired and my husband and I get the chance to talk about our days over dinner. Although these seem like small things, to us, they are the things that make life perfect.