My December Family Guy experiment was originally supposed to be earlier in the year and was going to involve me ‘shadowing’ the routines of busy parents and try and stay productive. And then we found out Chaz was pregnant, so now I’m doing it for real…
I’ve spent the last few weeks marveling at the wonders of nature, biology and in particular the human body. There are so many mindblowing things that the female body does to adjust to having a child: for example, did you know when a child comes out of the womb, if it’s too cold, the mum’s body will warm up 2 degrees so that their child is warmer – and cool down if the child is too hot? Mother nature is a crazy thing. There are literally dozens of factoids like this that amaze you as you got through the whole pregnancy-labour-birth experience.
So given such miracles, I’m calling for a rethink around how parenthood affects your sleep. In particular, the whole part where you’re told “OK, I know you’ve just had your body go through major trauma (and possibly major surgery) and you haven’t slept for three days, but sod your need for rest and recovery, here’s a new human being for you to look after. Now go figure it out!”.
Ours wasn’t quite like this. We had a few days of intensive care and incubators and holes in the heart, which in some ways was quite good! We knew we could catch up on sleep whilst the doctors did their thing, and we bizarrely therefore had a more leisurely easing into the taking of responsibility.
But a few weeks’ later and thankfully Roscoe is settled in at home, doing well and we’re starting to suss out how to do this with me needing to be ‘on form’ during the day at work, no matter what happens during the nights. Chaz is amazingly pragmatic about these things. Here view is that she can catch up on sleep during the day and that in any case she doesn’t need to be fully awake and alert all day, so it should be her that does most of the nighttime feeding. Well, that and the fact that she has free milk on offer.
So we’ve created a “midnight feeding club” routine, which works beautifully in theory and is about 70% successful in practice, too.
The idea is for Chaz to have a concentrated six hour period of sleep, but for her to also shield me from the sleep-interruptions on nights when I need to be on form the next day.
step 1. Chaz feeds Roscoe every 3 hours, so the start of the process is her doing the 9pm feed. Then, she goes to bed in the spare room and Roscoe sleeps in his basket with me, either in the bedroom if I’m going to bed there early, or in the living room if I’m still up.
step 2. At midnight, I do the midnight feed, with a bottle. And often, Roscoe and I will watch The Ashes on my iPad whilst he feeds, which he enjoys immensely. It’s great for his “development”. Then he goes back to sleep, in his basket, next to my bed (12.30am – 3am).
step 3. At 3am, Chaz gets up and comes and takes his basket into the room with her and then feeds him through the night whenever he wakes up. This leaves me total silence from 3am til I get up (and if I get off to sleep at 12.30, only proper cries will wake me between then and 3!).
step 4. (optional) depending on how early I have to leave the house, we’ve started adding a morning part to the routine where either we all sleep together after about 7am, or I have Roscoe again whilst I get ready for work so that Chaz can get another couple of hours’ sleep (particularly if she missed a lot of sleep in the night).
We ditch this whole system on the weekend nights, and all sleep in the same room.
Well, the system has generally been giving me plenty of sleep, allowing me to stay productive during the days. It has a couple of flaws, though. For me, if Roscoe doesn’t sleep after his midnight feed, I could potentially have him awake with me until 3am (which has happened a couple of times, and me on four hours’ sleep doing strategic planning is not pretty). And for Chaz, if he feeds for a long time at 9 or if he’s loudly crying through her sleep time (which a mum can’t ignore, even if she’s allowed to!), she might get much less sleep than the 6 hours we’re aiming for. And of course, sometimes babies just decide to stay awake all night being weird, so that’s happened a couple of times, too.
Obviously, we’ll need to rethink the whole thing when Chaz also goes back to work. But for now anyway, midnight feeding club is helping both of us manage the sleep deprivation – or at least as much as we could hope to ‘manage’ it.
Graham is tempted to write a new book called “How to be a Parent Ninja” as a follow up to his best-selling “How to be a Productivity Ninja” book.