It’s a lie! Sleep advice no new mother should fall for

You’ve heard it plenty of times: the best defense and cure for new-mother exhaustion is to “sleep when your baby is sleeping.” But it doesn’t work!  The sooner you and your partner accept this, the smoother life will go. Some newborns just don’t sleep. Others doze for an hour or so. By the time you’re ready to do the same, the baby is spitting up. You’re lucky if you get in one baby-sized nap a day. More likely you’ll spend baby’s down time doing everything else your continued existence requires, like paying bills and, oh yes, eating. Even if you accept as much help as you can beg or pay for, you will probably still be exhausted. It’s in the best interest of your own sanity and your loving relationship with your partner to accept that the birth of a baby, though joyful, is also a time of crisis. Until your newborn figures out the difference between night and day there won’t be much difference between the two for you either.

Instead of being offered tips that don’t work, new mothers are better off hearing the truth: sometimes there is no solution to parenting problems. Instead, you just have to muddle through until your child out grows them and introduces you to more ghastly or expensive ones. (Here’s something to look forward to: You’ll know you have a teen driver when Christmas brings a “thank you” gift basket from the auto body shop.) Unrealistic expectations about parenting can fuel tension between a couple. If one–or both–of you thinks your child’s problems can be completely solved, you open the door to relentless criticism, frustration and disappointment with each other for falling short.

Tell me I’m wrong! If anyone has a sure-fire solution to new-parent sleep deprivation or any other age-old parenting problem I’d love to hear it.

One thought on “It’s a lie! Sleep advice no new mother should fall for

  1. Are you wrong? Hmm. The mother of my children, generally a neurotic pain in the ass, hired a “special” nanny who specialized in multiples. She normally did triplets and above, but after being wooed by The Mother, she agreed to helping us with our twins’ first three months. Her attitude was if you only slept when baby did, the chances of getting any sleep at all with twins or triplets was basically zero. So she adopted what became known as the “Witching Hour” technique, or what The Mother’s friends called “bordering on torture and fascism.” Basically, you put the babies on a schedule that YOU set. Of course it has to align with the child’s natural needs of being fed every few hours. But you give the kid a couple of days to settle in and then you keep them awake when it is waking hours and put them to bed when it is time to sleep. First few days, maybe weeks, are tough (no worse than letting the baby rule the schedule) but pretty soon, the baby, FAR more flexible and resilient than the parents, adapts to the schedule and everyone, truly, gets to sleep regularly for 4 – 6 hours at a stretch. I must confess that the system slipped once the magic nanny left, and the incredibly neurotic Mother started to indulge the babies, especially the boy, going into the bedroom whenever he stirred. Pretty soon he figured out that if he woke up, all he had to do was bleet and his insane mother would rush in to dispense her special system of comforting, thus keeping her up at all hours, while resentment to the far more rational dad slowly built. The dad (moi) offered to go in the middle of the night to “sooth” the very special child, but he didn’t “understand the boy was very special and needed special treatment and attention.” Dad didn’t “know” the “right” way (right hand on the babies chest, while stroking the head with the left at a rate of 15 strokes per minute…you get the idea) to sooth the poor boy. The kid developed a sleep disorder, or at least had trouble falling asleep and woke up every night demanding attention until he was well past 9 years old when The Mother finally agreed to allow a physician to prescribe micro-doses of Clonapin, an anti-anxiety medication. Within a week he was sleeping through the night and after a couple of months stopped taking the clonapin. Nevertheless, even now he has trouble sleeping as The Mother imprinted a pattern during those nine years he is never going to get over. My greatest regret is I did not stand up to the bitch sooner and insist on having an intervention. But, Ms Silver, how do you deal with someone who will blame you and hold you responsible for every bump in the road thereafter? What can one do as the rational, calm parent suggests just leaving the kid alone, not running off to the hospital at the first sign of a sniffle? Give the kid a chance to sort it out. As long as she is acting over-the-top in everything she does, doing anything less opens one to being “at fault” (a term taken from our divorce decree) since Action A or System C was not followed precisely.

    Well the moral of the story is the kids are pretty much fine. My girlfriend calls them the perfect children; doing well in top schools, no “bad” behavior noted. And I contend they would have been even better of with a calmer, more rational approach, rooted in reality and not Dateline fear mongering. But how can we ever prove that? I’m just happy I got out of the madhouse and found true love with a wonderful, beautiful, smart and loving woman.

    I look forward to your response.

    With kind regards,
    Larry T

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