The second baby sleep blues
Guest post by Jake Laurie
I had never been so tired, and never been so worried about my wife. Adding to the stress of struggling to cope with massive sleep deprivation, I was emotionally guilt ridden that I was not bonding with my baby.
I know that a parent can never compare their children, never measure their love. The births of both of my sons were euphoric, intensely emotional experiences. The two years we had had as a family of three had been amazing. Sure we had our sleepless nights, periods of sickness and all that comes with new babies, but it had seemed manageable. The love my wife and I developed for our growing son was so huge, so joyous, that it easily cancelled out the difficulties.
Soon enough, number 2 was on the way, and again we felt blessed and excited. A mate of mine with 3 children of his own told me to get ready for a wild ride.
"Mate, having two kids is more than twice as hard as one."
I laughed and thought, sure, it can't be that bad. We had been coping so well. It turns out my mate was spot on.
The first weeks home with our second baby nearly broke us. He cried and cried, and was so hard to settle to sleep. I was spending hours through the nights pacing the house with this baby, sleeping in the armchair, tag teaming with my wife. She was having a nightmare run of breastfeeding. A low milk supply meant a relentless timetable of feeding and expressing milk, and a huge list of supplements, pills and dietary requirements to try and boost the supply.
Making life even harder, our two year old went haywire. He stopped sleeping through the night. He was waking up with screaming tantrums in the night that would sometimes last for hours. At times I had to resort to driving him around in the car for hours. More than once I was reduced to tears.
And through all of this, I had this nagging guilt that I was not bonding with my newborn son.
Soon enough it came time for me to go back to work. Holy shit. How was I supposed to function professionally? Would my wife cope at home on her own? The next couple of weeks brought the roughest ride yet. I was a zombie, sleeping through my lunch breaks, just keeping my nose above water getting my work done. My beautiful wife was finding her days even tougher.
The little bugger would only catnap through the day, and build up his exhaustion into long bouts of crying. My wife toiled so hard to get the baby into a sleeping routine, but the relentless demands on her attention by our two year old made this virtually impossible. She was calling me desperate and in tears, and I'd never felt so useless and unable to help. I was so frightened that I called her mother and sisters for advice, praying that it was just exhaustion and frustration, not post natal depression my wife was suffering.
It was time to reach out for professional help. We needed sleep. Two months of 3-4 hours of broken sleep a night was taking a massive physical and emotional toll on all of us. I had heard about a Sleep School, and the wonders they had performed for other families, so I gave them a call.
What a joke. The phone call went like this:
Sleep School: "I'm sorry, it is a 3-5 week waiting period before a consultant will be available to speak with you on the phone."
Me: "Really? We are pretty desperate. Is there any other help I can access?"
Sleep School: "How about you give me your wife’s number and we can call her back. We usually deal with the mothers."
I was furious, and dumbstruck. Locked out of help for what seemed an eternity, and belittled as a father.
Luckily, our lactation consultant put us in contact with a private sleep expert who could help us. Luckily, we could afford it. It was the best move we ever made.
She came to our house within days, and while her techniques were not revolutionary, she was calm, reassuring and authoritative. In our desperation we had been grabbing solutions and advice about getting our babies to sleep from all over the place. What we needed were clear, simple instructions.
The first night our sleep consultant came, our 2 year old went straight to bed and slept all night. Within a week or 2 he happily moved from the cot into a big bed of his own accord. The baby took a few more days to get into the routine, but the key was that we had a simple, consistent routine now. We didn't let him cry to sleep, but we learnt to know his different cries, positions to move him too, ways to gently soothe him while allowing him to learn to fall asleep by himself.
It was life changing. As we all got more sleep, the frustration eased. I slowly moved from survival mode into enjoying my new son. Six months down the track and my worries about bonding with the baby have disappeared. It has happened differently than with my first son, but I guess that is to be expected.
I’m smitten in love now.
Jake is an educator and founder of The Supportive Parent, a resource for parents to help their children with homework, school work, technology & friendships.