The Second Rule of New Parent Sleep Deprivation: Don’t Talk About Sleep Deprivation

If there’s one thing new parents know, it’s sleep deprivation. That’s because babies  wake up frequently with normal baby needs.

But no matter how well we think we understand sleep durations in those years, we all have different experiences with sleep. Some babies sleep through the night by two months, and some are still waking during the night at 2 years. Every situation is quite different.

So no advice parents get about newborn sleep is going to be perfect, really.

Why, then, is the only thing new parents know better than sleep deprivation, well… talking about sleep deprivation?

As a new parent you find that there are two main sides to the issue of sleep in new babies: the side that says that new babies need to be trained by someone (namely, you) to sleep properly, and the side that says that babies are just wired to sleep differently than adults and you should just let them do what they do. Like many political issues, I don’t necessarily agree with either of these sides. And maybe you don’t either.

The reason I think the topic of newborn sleep should be among such topics as politics and religion is because no matter how much you talk with friends or family about your new baby’s sleeping patterns, the only one that really knows your sleep deprivation is, well, you.

All parents have a threshold of sleep deprivation. Some parents are the sorts of people who pulled all-nighters for weeks in college and are perfectly capable of waking every hour-and-a-half to feed their babies. These parents may tell you to wait out your newborn’s sleep struggles because they don’t really understand sleep-deprivation. For them, they are not being deprived of sleep because they are capable of functioning well on the amount of sleep they are getting.

Some parents have always needed eight hours minimum of sleep each night and are now extremely strict about bedtime routines with their little ones. These parents may advise sleep-training right out of the gate because that’s how they avoided missing out on sleep. So then, they don’t really understand your sleep deprivation either.

Some parents on both sides will tell you to read all about different ways of helping your baby sleep, but that probably won’t be what you want to hear either because a sleep-deprived parent has only a certain amount of energy and that energy is certainly not going to go toward reading.

My point is that neither side can address your sleep deprivation because neither side has felt your sleep deprivation.

So if you are waking up several times each night to feed your baby and it doesn’t bother you at all the next day, you’re doing fine. Don’t let friends tell you that you need to force your generally happy baby to sleep through the night, because that’s ridiculous. Your routine is working for you and that’s all that matters. And if you are waking during the night often enough to cause you to do things like put salt in your coffee or drive through stop signs, then you probably need to make a change in your routine. Don’t let friends tell you that you need to ride it out because that, too, is ridiculous.

You are not a bad parent because you enjoy being there for your child at night when they need you.

You are not a bad parent because you need a normal amount of sleep to function.

You are not a bad parent.

I feel like I have recently found a sweet spot for my family as far as avoiding sleep-deprivation goes, but that’s only because I hopped out of the sleep conversation altogether. I realized that talking about newborn sleep with other parents just made me feel worried or scared or like I wasn’t doing the right thing. So I kept the conversation between my husband and I and our pediatrician.

Nighttime is tough, and we all know that there will be good nights and there will be bad nights for the duration of our parenting careers.

But through it all we have the best people in the world to wake up to.

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