Sleep – the holy grail for new parents

With four children, TalkMum blogger Jax knows how important it is to get a good night's sleep. She share's some valuable sleep advice for new parents from things she's learnt over the years.

It's funny, before you have a baby, you don't really understand why people who do are so fascinated by sleep. Once you've got one (or more) you understand why the first question you get asked is 'how do they sleep?'

The answer - generally speaking - is in the daytime. Or is that just me? I can't believe I'm the only one with nocturnal children. My fourth is dozing happily in his car seat next to me right now in the leisure centre cafe. He's dozed most of the day and just woken up every two or three hours to feed. But he will really come to life tonight when we go to bed and he will feed for what seems like hours!

Sleep when they do

The best advice that people hand out when you have your first child is to sleep when they do - and it certainly makes sense. So don't take that nap as an opportunity to catch up on the housework, or the shopping, or working from home, or socialising - get your head down! It will help you in the long run, far more than a tidy house will. Every little bit of sleep you can bank in those early days will get you through yet another sleepless night.

Of course, this is only my experience. I'm currently breastfeeding so I understand the whole thing can be different if you bottle feed (- especially because it means there is half a chance you can kick someone else out of bed to do that feed in the middle of the night, which is not really possible when your breasts are required!) Interestingly however, I just read this week that breastfeeding mothers actually get more sleep. Apparently it is something to do with hormone levels supporting a quick return to sleep post feed - so that might be something for you to consider.

It won't go on forever!

It might not feel like it, but even the most reluctant of my children was sleeping through by 18 months. And in the grand scheme of things, although that might sound fairly horrendous, it's not actually such a long time.

Who knows, you might get lucky and have a child who sleeps through much earlier - my first child was sleeping through by 6 months and that was with breastfeeding in the equation. Granted, we had a much stronger routine then, with work and nursery and so on and I think this makes all the difference. I'm not very good at routine if it's not externally enforced - I'm guessing other people might be better at it than I am.

Decide what works best for you

I also think there are some choices involved. Overall we're happier getting our sleep in the morning - I'm not good at 5.30 starts! However other families tolerate the early mornings so that they can evening time for adults. Decide how you want to live your life and stick to it.

If you only remember one thing...

The bottom line - in those early days, snatch every little bit of sleep you can. You'll thank me for it!

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