There was a story on Radio 4 the other day commenting on some new research out which suggested that the average mother gets only 3 1/2 hours sleep a night during the first four months of her baby’s life. The woman that they interviewed in response to these findings- the writer of the Good Sleep Guide- suggested that we all needed to get stricter with our babies as one possible solution. First of all the idea that we need to be strict with a baby under the age of 1 seems extraordinary to say the least. Contrary to what our society attempts to portray, babies are not manipulative creatures who go out of their way to make life difficult. Whilst the first year is trying at times for even the best of mum’s it is because human beings are born utterly dependent and have intense needs- they haven’t made them up, they have them. They need sleep, warmth, food and yes, also comfort. And the last need is as pressing as the first three.
Aside from the implication that babies are out to get us, I find it hard to believe that women get on average 3 1/2 hours sleep. That implies that a lot get no sleep at all. And what, in that study, constitutes a night? Between the hours of 12pm and 5am? The best piece of advice I was ever given was to go to sleep early- and by early I mean really early. If you are in bed by 9 ( boring yes, but it doesnt last forever) then you can get several hours before the clock even chimes midnight- and some other study ( yes they have studied everything!) says that the hours before midnight count for double those after.
The early months of being a mother are hard work. You feel as though your world has been turned upside down, your evenings are no longer your own and yes, you often feel quite sleep deprived. But instead of trying to carry on as normal, bending the baby to your will, try relaxing. If you strip life back to the bear essentials, accept that you are very needed by a very little person and don’t fight their needs, you will find that in no time at all you will be grappling with a marching two year old, will be contemplating nurseries, might well have returned to work- in other words you will get time to yourself back again………you might also find that you look back on that quiet time you had in the beginning with some fondness. There is a huge pressure in our society to be superwoman. If you feel that pressure, then put it off for the first six months at least, and revel in the choice you have made to bring a baby into the world. They are not babies for long.