We’ve all had a sleepless night. A lack of sleep is something that affects most adults at one point or another; however, when you have a new baby at home, the lack of sleep can send you into crisis mode. Over 76% of new parents have significant problems with their sleep patterns, and not finishing sleep cycles can cause headaches, depression, lowered immunity, and just a bad attitude. One or two nights of that is bad enough, but over several weeks, it can cause all sorts of problems for moms, dads, their relationship, their household, and even baby. Sleep is super important, and not getting enough of it is not something to just forget about. Here are some of the top ten ways that new moms can sleep like a baby after having a baby:
Don’t do mindful or stressful things before bed.
In high school, a professor in my SAT prep class taught us that to get the best test results, we should take the practice tests under the same condition as the real deal. Same time of day, same desk, and over time, we would condition our body so it would be in perfect test-taking form. In college, that lesson was taught again, only in terms of how to get to sleep. By creating a routine, and choosing the same location, time, and conditions to go to sleep time and time again, our body would recognize those conditions, and like a salivating Pavlov’s dog, would recognize it was time for bed immediately. The same thing is true for sleep time. Life is chaotic and crazy, so it might not be possible for you to do everything the same way each time, but definitely establish a routine for yourself the same way you would for your baby. Also, you should definitely avoid anything that’s going to get you thinking before bed. Focus on restful relaxing things instead of stressful mind-consuming ones, and put the electronic devices down.
Sleep when baby sleeps.
You’ve been up all night hoping baby would finally close his eyes, and no dice. Now it’s 3pm, he’s finally sleeping, and you’re exhausted but you can’t stop thinking about new episodes of Orange Is The New Black. Not to mention the dishes and laundry that are piling up everywhere. Use this precious, quiet time, and get a few winks in. You’ll be able to strap baby to your chest later in the day when you’re doing dishes, besides— they aren’t going anywhere. The dishes, and Netflix, will still be there for you later on.
Use your team.
Take advantage of the nurses and support staff in the hospital. This is not the time to test out being a parent knowing you have a safety net there. You’re paying for these people, make sure that you use them. Take every single moment they let you have to yourself. Additionally, all of the myriad of visitors who come want to see you and your baby, but they know what you’ve been through. And it’s just as fun for them to hold your baby as is it to watch you holding your baby. Let them give you a break.
When you get home, if a relative offers to come stay with you, let them. You’re not a worse mother for taking help— you’re smart and resourceful. Pump extra bottles so that you don’t have to do every feeding around the clock, your husband or mother will be able to feed while you get a few extra winks in. But, don’t be afraid to say someone has over stayed their welcome if a house guest is there for too long. Ultimately it’s your home, your baby, your peacefulness. Don’t let anyone stress you out.
Just say no.
The people not allowed to stress you out includes your other children. Add in their teachers, nannies, babysitters, friends, and friends mother’s too. Don’t be afraid to say no. You shouldn’t be baking cupcakes for your daughter’s first grade class when you have a newborn at home, or attending your niece’s dance school recital, and any teacher or friend will understand that.
Proximity is important
There are conflicting theories on this one, so I’ll give you both. Some people will tell you to put baby’s nursery as far away from your bedroom as possible, even on another floor if that’s possible. They’ll say to turn the monitor down when you’re sleeping. The theory is that normal bored fussy crying will not wake you up, but emergency crying will. In my case, I preferred to have my two babies sleep in the same room as me, and put their bassinet so close to my bed, that I could grab them out of it without even stepping a foot onto the floor. This allowed me to nurse or rock them half asleep, and I was able to go right back to sleep after feeding without too much of a disturbance to my sleep cycle.
You aren’t a monster if you ignore your baby.
At some point, though, eventually, you have to stop giving in to your baby’s every whim and desire. Feeding is one thing, diaper is another, but at some point, unless it’s an emergency, your baby needs to learn to stop crying and to sleep through the night. There are different methods for this but use the one that works best for you. Baby will be sleeping through the night in no time!
Learn to nurse while laying down
This is an interesting one I learned only recently. If you nurse your baby on the couch, or in bed, laying down, as often as you can, and it becomes kind of a habit— it will be much easier for you to nurse in bed without missing a beat and without waking up too much. You’ll also be more comfortable that way.
Be vocal about your needs.
Do not be quiet about what you need. You just delivered a child, you can afford to be spoiled or pampered a little bit yourself. If you need something, speak up. If you’re feeling depressed or overwhelmed, please seek help. Postpartum depression is a real thing, and nothing to play around with. Be honest with your spouse, friends, and doctors about what you really need and what’s going on. Be vocal about any fears or concerns and plan your schedule as best as you can. One word of caution here though: fighting is bound to happen, so a rule that you can make with your partner is not too be too offended by anything you may say while your sleep is limited and your hormones are high. Make a plan to forgive each other for anything said in anger when you’re half asleep at a 2am feeding. “Whoever said don’t go to bed angry didn’t have a 6 week old!”
Avoid too much caffeine.
Coffee is super tempting right now, I get it. Heck, anyone who’s over the age of 18 gets it. But don’t overdo it. Not only is it bad for pumping, but it will keep you from going to sleep when it’s actually time to. Definitely try to limit the caffeine after noon, and you should shoot for zero caffeine after dinner.
Remember that this situation is only temporary!
The most important thing throughout all of this, is to be happy and stay optimistic. I know it’s difficult, but the bottom line is that unless you have a child with special needs or a bizarre situation, this is a situation that will remedy itself as your baby learns to sleep through the night. Your own sleep will improve and before you know it, everything will be back to normal. Unless you decide to have two more kids!
To sum everything up, losing sleep because of your newborn is an aggravating part of motherhood, but it won’t last forever. Do what you can to make yourself comfortable and don’t be afraid to speak up for yourself if something or someone takes you over your limits. Train your body to expect sleep and position it in the appropriate moments to take advantage of a few winks whenever you can, and you’ll be happier for it.