I can honestly say that my 14 week old is now sleeping through the night and I am so thankful for that. I am slowly regaining my sanity and sleeping through the night. However, I discovered early on some things that really helped me get through the night and not lose my head completely. If you have been in this spot, are currently in it or are expecting to be here at some point, you know or will know that being up in the middle of the night can be maddening. I think its because everyone else is asleep and you're not. When the baby needs you during the day, its easier and part of your job, but at night, it just seems cruel. BUT, it doesn't last forever and some of those moments can be precious. I did love cuddling with her in the dark, in the quiet. With an almost 2 year old running around during the day, quiet is hard to come by. But at night....silence. And it can be so sweet. Anyway, here are my tips to survive the night and make it easier.
Don't count the hours. Go to bed at a decent time, prepared to get up at any moment, and just sleep. Don't count how many hours you may get until your wee one wakes up. When the baby does cry and you get up, don't count how many hours you may get once you get back to bed. Just be present. It really does help. Go feed the baby, cuddle and put the baby down and go back to bed. Let that be it. By not counting, you're not allowing yourself to dread it or be frustrated that you may only get 3 more hours before you have to be up. Just go to bed and do your best to get what you can while you can.
Don't use electronics. I know its 4 in the morning and you are so tired and maybe you can't sleep while the baby is eating, so you want to distract yourself with facebook or twitter. Don't. All it does, is brighten the room, awaken your brain and make it harder for you to wind down again when you finally go back to bed.
Don't talk. This is more for the baby than me, but it works. I have a strict policy, we don't talk to our babies at night. I shhhh her if she needs it, but other than that, I stay quiet. This helps separate the night and day for baby. During the day, before nap time and bed time, we may sing, I'll tell her a story, but in the middle of the night, she needs to know that we are just going to eat and then go straight back to bed. I think this helped her know what was expected and as a result, she would eat and go straight back down into her cradle next to our bed or her crib without a peep.
Keep the lights off as best you can. Try to turn a hall light on and crack the door if you need light. The dark is another thing that would help baby know its quiet time, eating time and back to bed time. The dark also helps you be able to close your eyes.
Close your eyes. Even if you don't go to sleep. I was always in a rocking chair and so its not like I could go to sleep. Some moms feed the baby in bed on their side and are able to sleep while baby eats. I am not that talented and we don't co-sleep, so I was always sitting up. But closing your eyes helps your brain and body relax and stay in a very serene state while feeding. Then when you go back to bed, your body has an easier time going back to sleep because its not having to wind down.
Know that you are not alone. You are NOT alone. There are thousands of mom around you that are up right now when you are. So when you are awake and tired and frustrated, its always nice to know that there are other people out there doing the same thing you are. I live in a neighborhood where there are a ton of stay at home moms with babies my kids age. We get together and talk about how we were up last night at what times and its fun to know, they were up too. So find some new moms or dads and let them be your support when you're tired, because they are tired too and get it.
Be flexible. My last tip is to be flexible. If your kid is sleeping in the crib and there is a night where they just won't settle back down, then maybe for one night, take them to the couch and let them cuddle with you. I did that a couple times. It seemed she would only sleep on me and when I would put her in her crib, no matter how many times, she would wake up. So I just took her to the couch and slept with her on me. It let me get rest and sleep and it let her sleep. Then the next night we went back to normal and she went back into her crib.
Here's the bottom line, being up with the baby can be extremely rewarding. You're the only one who gets that precious time with them at that hour, you get extra cuddles and it can be so sweet and full of memories. But it can also be nerve wrecking. You're tired, you're baby won't settle down, all sorts of things can go wrong at night. But just know that here are ways to make it easier on yourself. These tips might not work for everyone. And every baby is different, but what can be constant is to be flexible and know you really are not alone.