How to sleep after having kids
We had our first child 2 years ago. Ever since birth, he's been remarkably alert. He doesn't want to miss anything, and he'll try to stay up to take in more of life, despite being tired - kind of like his parents. At 12 months of age, when most babies are sleeping 16 hours a day, he slept 12 hours a day. At 24 months, he's sleeping 10 hours instead of 14. Basically, he's only sleeping an extra 2 hours more than me! Believe me, I've tried to see if he would sleep more, but he'll just wake up earlier or not fall asleep during the next sleeping period. Crazy superhuman baby.
I only wish I had a good answer for getting a good night's sleep after having kids. There are many books on this, and I've read quite a few, with a good variety of viewpoints. We've tried various ones, but I'm starting to think that a child's sleep is something that adults just can't control very well.
As an infant, we kept him in a small crib/rocker next to our bed. Then he moved into our bed at 3 months to make night nursing easier. But then he became used to nursing to sleep, so anytime he needed to sleep, I needed to nurse. It took sleeping with daddy only to break that cycle. I slept in another room. We also tried to let him "cry it out," but it never worked for naps. So we still had to drive him around in the car every day for naps. Either that or we walked around with the stroller. When he started to (dangerously) climb out of his crib at 18 months, he could no longer be contained for falling asleep or staying asleep. So he ended up back in our bed.
I nursed him until he was 2 years old and finally weaned less than a week before leaving for an overseas trip. I left him and his daddy at home for 2 weeks while I traveled for business. Being only with daddy finally helped him learn to sleep until he was satisfied in the mornings. Prior to the trip, he would only sleep well in the mornings when he was with me. That meant it was impossible for me to wake up before him and get things done in the mornings. It's great that he's finally able to sleep for 8 hours without needing me next to him. He still needs someone though, so he spend most of his sleep time with daddy.
We're now trying alternate schedules so I can get more work done. I go to bed early so I can get up early for the tasks that require concentration. When the baby wakes up, I take over and take him outside for a walk, breakfast, and morning play time. Daddy can get his work done at that time. We take turns playing with the baby in the afternoons and evenings. Daddy puts him to sleep at night when mommy's in bed already. It's a long routine with taking fluoride drops, brushing/flossing his teeth, changing his diaper and clothes, and reading a book. He is much better at falling asleep at night now. But the naps... we're still driving him around!
I think that having the expectation of sleeping with your partner for 8 hours at night while the child sleep in his own room is simply too much to ask for some families when faced with children with certain temperaments. Trying to achieve that ideal has caused me a lot of stress. Plus, trying to maintain a consistent schedule is simply impossible when running a business out of your home. Employees are always coming and going, and we frequently have to travel for business - twice a month, plus having guests over sometimes. (We train remote employees by having them stay with us for 1 week or sometimes months, depending on the position.) But since I run a business focusing on sleep, I try to walk the talk. I use SleepPhones when I need to, and I value my sleep.
Perhaps more flexibility is helpful. It's okay to sleep with different schedules from your spouse. It's okay to sleep in different beds. It's okay to sleep with your child. It's okay to nap. It's okay to make a trip to the bank or post office simply for the drive. It's okay to leave the child in the car seat for a nap (in the garage) while watching on by video monitor. It's okay to let him cry sometimes. It's okay that he sleep far less than other kids. It's also okay that the house is never clean. Getting enough sleep as a parent simply requires a frame shift. Letting go of some beliefs, letting go of ideals. As long as we all get enough sleep, we're all much happier and ultimately more productive.