10 things I've learnt about babies and sleep

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 Photo: Getty Images

I'm familiar with babies and sleep issues. We go way back, all the way to my firstborn some six years ago, who tortured me for the best part of a year with his sleep refusal. Not only did he refuse to settle for naps during the day, but he was up all night, every night, insisting that I rock him to sleep. It was relentless and exhausting, not to mention emotional. One morning I went to work ­­­­­ having been up since 2.30am. Now that day was emotional.

Fast forward a few years and there have been three more babies added to the mix. And none of them slept in the first year. In fact, collectively, they owe me about 2000 hours of lost sleep. I probably won't get that lost sleep back, but I can hang on to the lessons I learnt over the years.

And boy, have there been some lessons learnt.

1. Newborns are sleepy

Most newborns are born sleepy and curly, and require minimal effort from you to get them to sleep for the first few months, mimicking some sort of dream baby. Resist the urge during this time to label your baby 'a good sleeper', and especially avoid telling anyone about it. It will bite you in the arse. Trust me.

2. Some mums may lie

Further to the above, you'll come across mums who'll tell you that their baby is sleeping through the night at seven weeks. I like to think that any mum who tells you this is probably lying. Of course, some babies do sleep through - it's just that I've never had one. 

Regardless, I'd head to the nearest cafe, where you'll find all the tired mums with regular babies.

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3. Baby sleep consultants - really?

Don't get me wrong, I would have loved a magic baby person to come over and solve all our sleep issues. I probably even called one or two and thought about what I could sell to afford their fees. But does anyone else think this industry preys on desperately tired parents who will pay anything to get some sleep?

4. Babies wake up in the night

I hate to break it to you, but it's normal for babies to wake in the night. NORMAL. Don't be pressured into forcing a sleep regime on your newborn or four month old, as though there's something wrong with your baby because he still wakes up needing you in the night. It's what babies do.

5. Feed if you want to

On that note, there's nothing wrong with continuing to feed your baby overnight, even though he (GASP!) no longer requires a night feed. Here's what I've discovered: if feeding your baby is the only way to get him back to sleep and you can handle the interrupted night, then it's not a problem. If it's not a problem, it's not a problem. See?

6. Sleep deprivation won't kill you

Although I know it feels like it. I've been surprised many times to find my body still able to do its thing and my confused, exhausted brain still more or less functioning after weeks of broken sleep. Keep putting one foot in front of the other, never let your coffee capsules run low, and get help when you can. You can do this.  

7. Coffee is the best

After having twins, I embraced a full-blown caffeine addiction and made no apologies for it. A decent cup of coffee from my favourite barista continues to be the cornerstone of each day, which doesn't really begin until I've had my fix. Caffeine clears the cobwebs and reassures me that I can make it through another day. It's a mum's best friend.

8. All the shushing and patting

This will drive you near mad. With my twins I was shushing and patting until my tongue went numb and I developed some sort of tendon injury in my right arm. It was the only thing the experts recommended to encourage sleep and it did tend to work … eventually. On the plus side, all that bedside patting left me with one arm free to scroll through Facebook and do some online shopping.

9. There are no magic sleep aids     

Not one. No lullaby machines, no fancy bamboo sheets, no cuddly toys. Don't be fooled into thinking there's a product you need to solve your baby's sleep issues. Save your money – in fact, use the cash to buy yourself a few good books to read while you're doing all the shushing and patting.  

10. They all sleep eventually

It's true: they all end up learning to sleep. Eventually you'll figure out what works for your family, whether it's co-sleeping or splashing out for that baby whisperer. And then you won't look back. Keep focussed on the big picture and hang in there.

And after a few months of good sleep you'll forget all about the sleep deprivation and start craving the next baby. I've learnt that, too. 

You can read more from Karina over at her blog, The Laney Files​​.