In my family, we joke that my superpower is sleep. I am one of those people who lay my head on the pillow and if a minute has passed, I am more than likely asleep. My kids used to say goodnight to me, because I was often in bed before they were. I sleep well, and I need my sleep. If I don't get enough, well, my brain just doesn't function until my body forces me to take a nap. Like yesterday, a wave of sleepiness hit me at around 4 pm. It was all I could do to put a blanket over me before I was out - until 7 pm! It was a very hard nap. I didn't even realize how tired I was until I woke up feeling much more clear headed and alive.
When my kids were little, this superpower was not my friend. My kids loved to "sleep" with me, nursing almost all night. I remember one particularly sleep-deprived night where I yelled at my infant to leave me alone and let me sleep! Looking back, I think I was really yelling at my husband to do something so that I could sleep. We co-slept because I couldn't break sleep well enough to know where baby was if not right next to me. I could latch them on without much thought, but to locate and sit up with them to nurse them was really more than this sleeping superhero could manage.
In the past couple of weeks in my practice the topic of infant sleep has come up several times. Parents are looking for solutions to get their infants to sleep in longer stretches, especially longer than 2 hours at a time. Sometimes the methods don't take into account the variety of breastfeeding patterns, and mom & baby temperaments. Ironically, moms make the most milk between 2am - 6am, exactly when you don't want to wake up. But why don't moms want to wake up then? Is it because most moms stay up after they have put baby to bed to catch up on things? It has taken myself and my family years to recognize that I need to be in bed somewhere between 9-10pm so that I can get at least 7-8 hours.
Sleeping through the night for an infant is defined as a 5 hour stretch. What does a 5 hour stretch look like? Falling asleep at 9pm, would mean waking at 2am. 10pm-3pm. 11pm-4am. So, if as a mom, you get your baby to fall asleep at 9pm, but don't go to bed until 11pm yourself, you are shorting yourself of 2 hours of uninterrupted sleep. (This is in theory, because we all know that not every night that baby will sleep the same schedule.) Then you try sleeping from 11-2am, and you maybe get 3 hours, and then baby is up every 2 hours from then on. This means as a mom you are getting 2-3 hours of sleep at a time for weeks or months on end. Which is some intense sleep deprivation!
I remember growing up that my parents always went to bed after I did. They would stay up and watch the news at 11pm. Honestly, I don't think that I would be that inspired to miss sleep to watch the news, but that was their thing. As I became an adult, I thought that is what adults did - we stayed up late, and got up before the kids during the week and used our weekends to sleep in. But this adult cannot function on such a sleep deprived schedule. I go to bed between 9-10pm, and I wake up at 6am. Because lack of sleep is my kryptonite.
If you need sleep to function, I would start first on your own sleep routine. Sleeping when baby sleeps is a great start, and establish an evening bedtime that may not seem as adult as you (or your partner) would like. This means getting off your phone at 9pm, and turning off the TV. Do some research on sleep hygiene for yourself, because you may find that when you create an environment of sleep for you, it creates an environment for baby too. Sweet dreams!