Sunday, September 21, 2008

Fat chance. Forget it. How many parents really remember what it was like to sleep, let alone dream? Even a terrible nightmare? There is no training for how bad parenting-related sleep deprivation really is. Not only do you have to deal with yourself, but you also have to deal with a baby-not at their best either. It can be pure torture. In my own experience, one of my kids was a good sleeper, but woke up ridiculously early each morning and the other still (at 2) doesn't sleep properly through the night.

The bottom line is that even if your child sleeps, you'll spend much of your time worrying about when they will wake up. The worst advice for new parents..."sleep when the baby sleeps". Don't get used to that idea. At first, you'll try to accomplish household business while the baby sleeps. That will last for a couple of weeks, tops. Then you'll finally decide that you need to sleep, but the second you decide Baby is sleeping and you close your eyes to drift peacefully in to slumber, Baby will decide he/she is hungry or needs a dry diaper. That is nearly the most frustrating thing you will experience as a parent.

It seems the best thing to remember during the trauma that comes from not sleeping is that all kids are different and despite all of the "sleep training" methods out there, there's not too much you can do to make drastic changes. The kids eventually figure it out on their own. (At least, that's what I keep telling myself with my 2-year old who accidentally sleeps through the night periodically.)

Remember, that even the best laid plans should be flexible. What "worked" with your first 11 kids, probably won't work with the 12th. Kids are funny that way. The Cosmos has a great sense of humor as you will soon find out.

If you don't have kids yet, I'd do as much reading as I could before Baby arrives about sleep tricks, sleep habits, and (most importantly) the affects of sleep deprivation. Although much of it won't actually do anything to help, at least you will feel better having some tricks under your sleeve. Tools in your parenting tool box, if you will. Plus, after Baby arrives, you'll have a hard time keeping your eyes open for long enough to read an entire book let alone make sense of it.

As with most random acts of parenting, don't feel guilty about how you handle your own child's sleep. There is no right way as long as it keeps you at least on the brink of sane. Just remember though for each act of parenting there is an equal AND OPPOSITE reaction. Consequences are everything. So if you decide to rock Baby to sleep for the first month, be prepared to rock baby to sleep for the next 6 months or more.


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