I can’t or don’t want to safely bedshare. What else can I do to maximise sleep?
Whilst the majority of our members bed-share, and we promote it as part of the biological norm. Bedsharing is not for everyone. If you can’t or just don’t want to bed share, there are still ways you can meet your baby’s needs responsively without losing untold hours of sleep.
One of the most important strategies to coping when you aren’t bedsharing, is to look at your own sleep hygiene and patterns. You cannot MAKE your baby sleep, but you CAN work on setting yourself up to achieve the rest and sleep that is available to you by taking a look at where you are currently missing out.
Think back to pre-pregnancy/pre-kid you.
Pre-pregnancy and baby sleep YOU.
- What did it take for you to feel well-rested? ⠀
- Would you say you were well-rested most of the time? If not, why not? What was getting in your way?⠀
- When you were really tired, what were some things you did that helped ensure you slept as well as you could?⠀
- What time did you *usually* go to bed?⠀
- What time did you *usually* wake up?⠀
- Were you woken by an alarm or naturally woken?⠀
- Did you frequently wake up for a sip of water or a toilet trip?⠀
- Did/do you snore?⠀
- Was insomnia something you’ve struggled with?⠀
- What did you usually do in the hour or two leading into bedtime?⠀
let’s think about how to work smarter WITH your body, environment and lifestyle to make rest and sleep a priority while you nurture you little love(s). ⠀
Are you listening to your body clock? Your sleep is not within your conscious control, it is governed by two powerful sleep regulators:⠀
1. The sleep-wake homeostat ⠀
2. The circadian rhythm ⠀
When they are in sync, your body can find sleep with relative ease but if we fight against them, they lose their synchronicity and sleep becomes harder to find an maintain. In plain words, this means putting yourself to bed when you are feeling tired NOT when you’ve pushed on to finish a show on Netflix or stayed up to finish the chores or any other reason keeping you awake. It means getting plenty of daylight and activity into both your and babe’s day to ensure the circadian clock is set correctly. ⠀
This also means avoiding too much white/blue light at night (this includes using screens - do you currently scroll while feeding your baby? This makes it harder for you to get back to sleep!) ⠀
If you clock watch, count wake ups or calculate how much sleep, it’s okay to stop doing this… these kind of equations usually only equal one thing - further exhaustion... mental, physical and emotional exhaustion. ⠀
Are you fighting against nature to stay awake while you tend to your baby’s night time needs in another room? Night time breast milk has sleepy compounds in it that are there to not only help your baby back to sleep more quickly but also the nursing mother. If you routinely fight against this natural process, you can inadvertently make it harder for your body to calm back to sleep when your opportunity presents itself, meaning you lose even more sleep. Keeping your child close and having a safe shared sleep surface can allow you to reap the benefits of staying drowsy, relaxed and working WITH your body. ⠀
Is your lifestyle sleep-friendly now that it has to be kid-friendly? Yes, you can be sleep-friendly to yourself even with little kids in the house BUT it may take some compromise and lifestyle change to accommodate it. ⠀
You have the control here and YOU can recognise that for this time in your life when you will often be needed at night just as much as you are by day, you need to adjust the way you live to maximise the sleep and rest you CAN get. ⠀
Has your lifestyle adjusted?⠀
You may have always liked going to bed at 11pm pre-child and waking at 8am the next day. But if your child is asleep by 7pm and you continue to stay up until 11pm but they naturally wake at 5am (with most likely several wakes and settles in between), you can see that while you feel tired and are lacking sleep, you had hours of extra sleep on offer had you been able to go to bed earlier yourself. ⠀
You may not like the early morning wake, but it’s pretty normal for young children to wake with the sparrows. You can see it as either a problem or you can see it as an opportunity to shift your life and expectations of sleep to match your new reality and find so much less stress, tension and weariness than you can hope for fighting it. ⠀
You may have to actively teach yourself to nap, or at least meditate, so you can rest when the baby sleeps. If you can’t because you work - how else can you get more sleep and rest?
This is just one example of a common lifestyle pattern, how could this apply to your reality? Have you found ways to enjoy yourselves socially with your children? Have you found ways to connect and feel socially nourished with loved ones? Often, considering ways to meet your needs WITH your little family alleviates some of the need to fit EVERYTHING into the time your child sleeps, this may relieve some of the frustration and despair if that time is hard to come by when your child needs you a lot.
Environment also plays a factor here.
Is your sleep environment fostering sleep?⠀
Is it comfortable for your whole family?⠀
Is your sleep surface comfortable and supportive?⠀
Space - is there room for every body?⠀
Is it dark enough without unnecessary artificial light (including screens and clocks)?⠀
Is it cool/ warm enough for comfort?⠀
Does it minimise how much physical movement is required of you to tend to your child’s needs? Houses that are designed with the master bedroom on a different floor or wing of the house are not designed with little ones in mind! Even if we forget about the massive SIDS increase (that comes with sleeping a baby in a separate room) for a second, having to get up and walk to a different room multiple times a night, has far greater impact on your sleep than when you only have to turn to the cot next to your bed.
If your environment is impacting your sleep, what could you do to improve in these areas?⠀
A side-car cot or kindy beds for extra space? ⠀
Removing phones and bright clocks from the room and ensuring the space is well- ventilated and a more comfortable temperature are all things to consider. ⠀
Finally, it’s important to look at your own health.
If you are feeling particularly tired or foggy-brained, it’s worthwhile considering talking with your healthcare provider about having some blood tests and checks done to ensure that your iron, thyroid and other important body chemistry is sufficient as this can manifest in a range of ways with regard to diet.
Exercise, plenty of water, sunshine and healthy foods will all help your body to restore itself faster, improve energy and help you sleep.