Did you hear about the Mum who was pulled over by the Police for being sleep deprived? Well that was me.
Fortunately my baby was not in the car at the time. I was living in the country and on an errand and so tired that I was slightly speeding and driving with a swerving motion. The local policeman pulled me over, asked me to get out of the car, and started to explain why he had detained me. Within seconds I was bawling my eyes out and spluttering how sorry I was but I felt so tired I thought I was living in the ‘twilight zone’. He was a little surprised by my outpouring of emotion and not sure what to do in that situation (I don’t think it is in the manual). Anyway, bless him, he was a Dad and understood my predicament; he gave me a stern warning and the helpful suggestion to sleep during the day when my baby did. That was helpful advice and I share that pearl of wisdom knowing it definitely makes a difference to a sleep deprived parent.
There are many books full of ‘How to get your baby to sleep peacefully ’and they are wonderful but the key is to be awake and have a functioning brain so one can absorb the sacred knowledge.
I have researched a plethora of articles relating to sleep issues over the last 30 years and I have come to understand that one key element is crucial and without that element all the schedules and strategies won’t have the outcome you desire. That element is ‘calm’. ‘Yeah right!’ I hear some of you cry ‘how are you meant to be calm when you’re fatigued and your baby is so unsettled/ crying/ teething/’.
It is not as unattainable as you may feel, breathing deeply and rhythmically, and becoming aware of your emotional state, is the way to start. Remember how important and powerful breath is during the labour process, well it is in everyday life too. Our babies are subconsciously aware of our stress levels and can actually smell Cortisol, the hormone excreted by the Adrenal glands, when we are stressed or frightened. Cortisol creates ‘fight – flight’ reactions, and ‘brain fog’ in our being and when we are in this state our babies come along for the ride. When a parent is in adrenal overload and holding their child the child finds it very hard to relax and fall into a safe slumber.
OK, now I would like to stress to any of you who are pointing the finger at yourselves and going into shame and blame about being stressed out and dumping this on your child, stop it. Stress is a normal part of our lives; you can teach your children to deal with their ups and downs and focusing on breath and relaxing the body is a great start. Being mindful of your state of being; especially at sleep time. This will help create the peaceful state and secure feelings that enhance sleep time for your child.
Giving your baby the same cues for sleep will help teach them to recognise it is sleep time, and what your expectations are:
- Start winding down rituals when you notice your baby’s cues that they are tired
- Create quiet time, gentle cuddles and perhaps
- A massage in a darkened room is a great way to wind baby down; it can be just face, arms and legs or whole body. Keep constant eye contact to enhance this special intimacy.
- Feeding and changing
- Wrapping well or putting into a sleeping bag
- Every sleep time, sing or hum the same tune, softly and in a deep tone
- Create your own unique sleep dance, before you put them down
- BE PRESENT. Be aware of your breathing and expectations, if you’re in a hurry to get baby to sleep so you can ‘get on with it’, believe it or not baby will pick up on this.
- Remember it takes most babies approximately 10 minutes to go into a deep sleep, whether they are in your arms or in their bed.
- It is quite difficult for your child to say goodbye to you at sleep time, you are their favourite person
If you have had issues settling your little one in the past, be kind to yourself; there are no wrong ways, just opportunities to fine tune, let go of the old and embrace the new. Imagine the scenario you desire, the power of the imagination when we focus on what we do want can assist in making positive changes.
Do what is best for you and your child, living up to other people’s expectations is very draining. Honour your personal values, stay true to you and what you instinctively feel is right for you and your family.
Every child is different. Some babies require 45 minutes sleep during the day and are ‘nappers’ and others may need two hours. Most parents would love the 2 hours so they can do the day’s tasks, or have a snooze, but if that is not your child’s pattern do your best to find peace with that and not compare them to any other child. When we compare our life styles to others it only causes resentment and frustration, this then leads to stress, and the vicious cycle repeats and affects everyone in the family.
One more suggestion is ‘take time for you’, you are precious too. Filling up your own cup will help you get through the day and have the ability to give all that is required of you. So remember to take some time for you. Organise time so you can do whatever it is that will keep you fulfilled, and keep your chimes ringing. The pile of washing can wait, it may drive you a little crazy seeing it there, so get out and have some fun, it will be there when you get back. Or even better, if someone offers their help say ‘YES PLEASE’ and point to the washing pile.
So next time your little one is stretching your patience; breathe in and let it go slowly. Put your baby down in a safe place and if it helps, grab a pillow and have a good scream into it, a healthy stress release, no judgement. It is far better for all concerned if a parent is stressed to remove themselves from the situation. Let the tension flow out of your body, hang loose and breathe in a happy colour, and blow it out. With awareness and practise you will be able to shift your state of feeling stressed, and go back to your precious one with a calmer disposition. Now that is a much healthier, happier cycle to share.
Oh the wonder of hindsight. Trusting my intuition and relaxing into motherhood my way, would have created a much calmer environment for assisting my baby to sleep. Respecting my own values and opinions instead of making other’s more valuable, would have eased tension, self doubt and the stress that was a major block in settling my baby.
Believe in yourself, follow your heart and head and enjoy the precious time with your little one, it can be exhausting but it is worth every second. Keep breathing, do the ‘Hokey pokey’ and shake it all about, its fun and will help you ‘chill out’.
Originally posted on our sister site www.babybargains.com.au