This is not a blog about how to get your baby to sleep longer (sorry). But assuming you've already read all of those to no avail, this will give you some tips to cope with the inevitable lack of sleep. Whether it's a regression, leap, illness, or just babies being babies, you will definitely go through periods of bad sleep (sorry, and yes, it does get better).
1. Manage expectations
One of the reasons we all struggle with lack of sleep is probably down to the expectation that we should be getting more! This can be compounded by comparing yourself to friends/social media where it seems as though their babies sleep much longer/better, and so you feel frustrated that you're getting a worse deal. The fact that I can confidently write this and expect it to resonate with most people, means this isn't true. People (you included), are great at seeming like they have it all together, and not revealing the fact that they didn't get dressed until 1pm and spent the whole morning in a death scroll on social media and eating chocolate until they made it out to the cafe in the afternoon and put on a show of being a normal person. If you can accept that you aren't alone, and that it's normal (and awful) to be this tired, it might be easier to cope with.
2. Do what works for you
If co-sleeping, crying it out, or whatever method you're currently trying isn't working for you, stop. If you find something that does work - hallelujah! You might feel like co-sleeping is 'creating a rod for your own back', or something you didn't particularly want to do, but if it means you get some sleep, embrace it! Same with controlled crying, or any other method, if it actually results in sleep, go with it! Depending what media you read, there are a lot of very strong opinions on sleep. But you might be surprised if you actually talk to your mum group that most of them will have tried several of these methods, so don't feel guilty or pressurised into doing something that doesn't work for you.
3. Get out, meet friends
There's nothing like being stuck in the house with a whiny baby all day when you're already exhausted to make you feel even more awful. Although sometimes leaving the house will feel like an immense task, you will probably feel a lot better if you can manage to visit another mum friend. They are probably going through the same issue and will empathise in a way not even your partner or mother can.
4. Ask for help
We are expected to do it all - mother, work, clean, cook, organise. And all with insane expectations thanks to social media. Doing it all by yourself is a recipe for bad mental health. You are not failing at anything if you ask for help. Perhaps you can do it all by yourself, but it might just be easier if someone else lent a hand. And there is nothing wrong with making life easier for yourself. Practically:
- ask any family members if they can babysit for a few hours, or take the baby for the night
- think about introducing a bottle or two if you're breastfeeding so someone else can do a night shift
- ask if your partner can take the baby for a set time in the morning/lunch/evening so you know you have a dedicated hour off every day to nap/relax. Ideally they should take the baby out of the house at this time!
- consider nurseries or childminders. Even if you're not ready for your baby to start going regularly, they might be able to just give you a few hours a week
5. You are important too!
It's hard to be a brilliant mum on 3 hours sleep. That is a fact. You might feel guilty about some of the above, whether it's doing controlled crying, or leaving your baby with a family member overnight. But you are not being selfish. If the mum guilt is something you struggle with, try baby steps, like asking your partner to take the baby out for half an hour every day. And you might be surprised to find that friends or family would jump at the chance to help out, but didn't want to step on your toes, or didn't realise you were struggling.
Most importantly, try and remember that this will pass. You baby won't be a baby forever, and the sleepless nights will become a thing of the past. Keep going, and remember to look after yourself, because you matter a lot to one small person in particular.