Were you awake last night with your baby? Feel exhausted from multiple trips to the crib? Are you awake night after night? Then you already know that the nights are very long this time of year. The Winter Solstice just passed on the night of a total lunar eclipse, giving us the darkest day in 372 years according to NBC Nightly News with Brian Williams. The last time this occurred was in 1638. Now that is a long night and a lot of darkness to deal with!
I was on the night shift for a long, long time with my baby. Her Gastroesophageal reflux symptoms were worse at night, causing frequent night waking, sometimes every hour, night after night. She was fussy and exhausted from the pain and discomfort. I was exhausted from the moment I woke up until the moment I fell asleep. My brain didn’t work very well and I was forgetful and in a fog most of the time. It was a like a case of “new mother’s brain fog” but it lasted much longer. When she woke up at night, I tried everything I could think of to comfort her and get her back to sleep. Holding, rocking, changing, feeding and more rocking. During the time we both sat in the dark, my mind would wander. I would hear little noises that might go unnoticed by day-the wind blowing, the floor creaking and the 4am newspaper delivery. Even in the dark, I could see the things that needed to be cleaned, the places that needed a coat of paint and the dust on the high shelf. It was hard not to feel “stuck” and depressed. Fueled by the lack of sleep and the lack of control over my life, I felt discouraged about the reflux and my inability to get my little one to sleep.
I am happy to report that night waking is a stage and it does eventually end. Here are some ideas for coping with the long nights that really helped me survive this difficult season of parenting:
- Take a Nap: I took a nap every day, even if it was for five minutes. I was so sleep deprived, I could quickly get re-charged on a short power nap. Lock the doors, put everyone in a safe place (or next to you in bed) and re-fuel.
- Get Some Sunlight: It might not be practical to get your baby bundled up and outside on a cold winter day. If she is a spitter, you might need a lot of spare snowsuits and jackets. I would sit by the window with the most natural light and take in the sunshine.
- Dress for the Job: Make sure you have the most comfortable clothes for your night-waking job: soft, comfortable pj’s and fuzzy socks, a robe or blanket. You need to be warm and comfortable if you are going to work so hard.
Published On: December 23, 2010