It’s easy. Wake up every hour and scream your fool head off. Done and done.
We have all been hoodwinked by the phrase “sleeping like a baby.”
It’s supposed to mean falling asleep quickly, sleeping soundly without stirring, and waking up fully refreshed. It refers to the glorious sleep of the innocents… The complete slumber that only those untroubled by doubts, fears, and guilty consciences can enjoy.
If you are one of the rare parents with an infant who passes out quickly and sleeps soundly for hours, congratulations. You are living the dream. Also, I hate you guys.
For the rest of us, a newborn means that you probably won’t get a proper night’s rest for at least several months, if not several years. We have all heard the jokes about how tired new parents are, but none of these jokes prepare you for the slow psychic deterioration that comes from waking up every hour, night after night, to deal with a hysterical infant.
Sleep deprivation is a recognized torture technique. This means people will turn on their allies, confess to heinous crimes, and give up the bomb location when their sleep is screwed with enough. When you’re a new parent, this happens to you… You want food? You want cash? You want me to drive you around the neighborhood in my jammies at 3 in the morning? Sure. Let’s do it, just stop… screaming…
Captured terrorists have nothing on new parents.
When Brontë was an infant, John and I would have to draw our sleepy butts out of bed, put her in her stroller at 2 or 4 in the morning, and painfully walk her around the block to get her to quit yelling. Nothing else worked. One time, a neighbor (and an experienced parent) who was watching us go about our 4 AM zombie crawl, gave us a knowing look and reassured us that “It gets better.”
That felt so good to hear at the time. And he was right, it does. You just have to make it through this rough stage without jumping out the building and running away while maniacally laughing.
How to do that? Unfortunately, different things work for different kids. Brontë needed to be cuddled or walked around outside, whereas we discovered that Bridget couldn’t sleep unless she was put into her own room with the lights out.
On the subject of infant sleep: you are supposed to wake the baby up every couple of hours (three at the most) to eat. The importance of doing this is drilled into your head, over and over, because babies have small bellies that digest food quickly (especially breastfed babies).
My advice? Don’t do that shit. You’re just training your baby to wake up every two hours.
I know it’s what the experts tell us, but instead of slowly unraveling what remains of our collective sanity, why don’t we apply a little rudimentary logic to this concept?
Think about it for a minute. Do you think cavewomen had alarms for waking up their offspring every two hours? When you peel back all the layers of abstract thinking, we are still animals, and animals have very strong survival instincts. If hungry enough, they will eat anything (even each other). Do you really believe we would sleep through starving to death?
I don’t either. A hungry baby will happily wake up and tell you all about it (or, not so happily). Shaking a perfectly content sleeping baby awake every two hours to cram food down its mouth is madness. A week of trying to do this crap nearly broke me, so I let it go, and both of my babies turned out just fine.
Of course, if you have a special situation (like a dangerously thin baby), this advice may not apply to you. But I’m guessing that supplementing with formula is a better option for fixing a dangerously thin baby than constantly waking him or her up, anyway.
My other piece of advice to new parents? Hang in there. It gets better.