Wednesday, 27 March 2013

5 ways to get through a LONG night

Having babies is hard work, but always worth it, right? These mothers in shops who yell at their kids are just bad parents - after all, they're just children. Any mother who feels tempted to hurt her baby is quite simply a bad person.

That's what I thought before I had my wee frog. I was wrong. Here's my reality check - I've gotten so frustrated with my baby I've yelled, I've cried, I've kicked his cot. There have been times when I've come to the end of my rope and have had terrible thoughts. And most of the mothers I've spoken to are the same.

So, how do we deal with that frustration? I've put together a list of the pathway I go through. Some might not work for you, some you might not need. This is a list about how you can deal with frustration, not how to get your baby to sleep/stop crying (I'm afraid after 10 months I still don't have that list). I would love to know how you get through these nights that seem never-ending.

#1 Breathe
Okay, an easy one to start with, I'll grant you. But how many times have you been holding your crying baby and realised you're also holding your breath? Try this:
Gently move your neck from side to side, and drop your shoulders. Release your jaw (because you're probably clenching it) and relax your face. Now breathe in, counting to 5 as you do so, and breath out through a soft, open mouth for 6.
(Just to be clear, the numbers don't matter. Maybe repeating a phrase such as 'relax' or 'in/out' would help you more). I know this seems simple (and maybe a bit hippy-ish?), but trust me, don't miss this step. You might not even need the others.

#2 Gently
Any mother who hasn't held her baby a little too tightly or spoken to them a little too harshly, well done. I most certainly have. And I've found that when I feel most frustrated, I do pat him too hard or bounce him too vigorously. So when I realise I'm doing it, I try to do the opposite. Release your arms so you're holding your baby just tightly enough to stop them falling. Stop rocking or patting them, or do it extra gently. Speak soft, gentle words, sing a quiet song. I don't know about you but when I get mad and am sarcastic or yell at my frog, all that happens is he cries harder and I feel even worse.
My husband once mentioned to me that I was patting my frog harder and harder the more he cried. I responded angrily, but he was right to point it out. We now try to mention to each other when we think they're getting too harsh. Often ends up in harsh words towards each other, but that's a risk worth taking.

#3 Distract yourself
I couldn't have gotten through the first few months of my frogs life without The West Wing. At night I'd have it on pause, ready to start the next time he woke up (then it was every hour or more). Did it distract him? Yes, of course it did. I minimised this by muting it and having subtitles (usually couldn't hear it anyway) but the light still bothered him. But I would always prefer an hour of manageable time spent feeding/trying to get to sleep than 45 minutes of hell. Yes I know this goes against all the parenting books and doesn't create a 'dark, quiet environment'. Sometimes it's about getting through to the next morning, plain and simple. When you start dreading every night (I would cry just at the thought), you have to find a way of coping. This was mine.

#4 Change what you're doing
Yes, babies need to sleep and eat. But do they have to do that right now? If you've held a crying baby for 3 hours trying to get them to sleep, you're punishing yourself and your baby. If you're wanting to establish some sort of routine, fine if it works for you. But is it working right now? Take your baby downstairs, play with them. Most importantly, try to make your baby smile/laugh. This is not to let them get their own way/spoil them! This is because you will feel better and remember how much you love your child (sometimes easy to forget). And try again later.

#5 Take 5
My husband and I have an agreement that as soon as one gets annoyed with the frog, the other has to take over. It took us a long time to come to this arrangement, and I wish we'd done it sooner.
If your partner isn't there, then leave your baby somewhere completely safe, and go away for 5 minutes. They will cry and probably be more upset by the time you get back, but you'll be more able to handle it. Give yourself a task to do so you're not just sitting listening to them, such as:
  • Make a cup of tea
  • Get a snack
  • Put a load of washing on
  • Unload the dishwasher
  • Check your emails/Facebook
  • Read a few pages of a book
This is not about letting your baby cry it out (something I'm not willing to do), it's about having a break and coming back a slightly calmer mummy.

These things work for me - just last night I went through stages 1-5 twice (it was a long night). Maybe come up with your own coping 'pathway'. Things you'll try and if they don't work, other things to move on to. These things won't help your baby sleep better, but they will help you feel better about being a mother. Try not to feel guilty about doing them - pick your battles and get through the day. If your baby constantly cries and you don't know why, a trip to the doctor might be in order.

A last note about terrible nights, when your baby is cry/moaning/just plain not sleeping. Do not think long term anything. This is not the time to worry about what you'll do when you have more kids/your husband goes to work/your in-laws come to stay. Similarly, this isn't the time to devise a plan about a routine/schedule for your baby. You're tired, you're probably in a bad mood, and nothing looks good at 3am. Fight these long-term thoughts away, and focus on the mundane and superficial (if Josh and Donna/C.J. and Danny will get together is a good example, and one that got me through many-a-night!). If I've discovered anything, it's that things really do look better in the morning.


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