This is Day 3 of our series on “Surviving & Thriving with a Newborn” — part of the 31 day writing challenge hosted by the Nester. Every day in October I’ll be sharing a tip about how to make the most of and enjoy the sleep-deprived newborn days. For a list of all the posts in this series, click here.
Probably the number one advice experienced moms give Mamas-to-be is to “sleep when the baby sleeps.” While that’s wise counsel, in reality, finding those little pockets of time and actually using them to rest is something many new moms struggle probably don’t take advantage of as much as they should. I know I’m guilty.
Say baby falls asleep. You lay him down in his crib. Immediately, you think, “Ahh…What shall I do now?” A nap sounds lovely but as you look around the house and see the baskets of clean clothes that need folding and the sink piled up with dirty dishes, sleep does not seem like a viable option. You have a house to run, right?!
Wrong! Well, you still have a home to manage, but in this season of sleep-deprivation, now is not the time to be overly concerned with the housekeeping. Instead, take advantage of this time to catch up on your own sleep. The laundry will wait, but you only have a short window of time before the baby wakes up crying, ready to eat. Take a much-needed snooze, and your body and mind will thank you; your whole attitude and outlook on life will improve significantly.
So, if you have other children, you may think sleeping when the baby sleeps sounds great, but is it doable? Yes, it’s tricky but not impossible.
Here are some tips for how to sleep when baby sleeps:
1. Turn them over to Daddy for some father-son/daughter time. Dad may not feel very helpful with the newborn, especially if you’re breastfeeding, so if you have other children, encourage him to take them out to the park or aquarium, for lunch, to play ball, etc.
2. Pop in a video for your other kids to watch. There’s nothing wrong with letting your children watch a movie or cartoon so you can catch a few ZZZ. Extra points if you find something educational for them to view.
3. Institute a quiet time during the baby’s nap time. Every afternoon from 1-2:30 my kids rest, even the older ones. They don’t necessarily have to sleep but they do have to find a quiet (non-messy) activity to do independently in their rooms. Mine like to read books, listen to an audio book, color, and do puzzles. Inform your kids not to bother you unless there’s an emergency. Right now this coincides with the baby’s nap, so I can rest while everyone else sleeps or rests.
4. Ask a family member or friend to take your kids for an hour. Have a friend who wants to help out? Ask her to come over and play with the children so you can take a nap.
5. Let Daddy give the baby a late-night or early-morning feeding so you can sleep. My friend Sarah’s husband sometimes feeds the baby a bottle at the last late-night feeding so she can go to bed early. Another friend’s husband fixes breakfast for the other children so she can sleep in with the baby.
Still, there will be lots of sleepless nights.
These are a few things I do to help get me through the day when I’m running on little sleep:
Embrace the caffeine. I love coffee and fortunately it doesn’t seem to affect my baby that I drink lots of it right now. As a special treat, I’ll stop at Starbucks for an Americano, or I’ll simply brew a cup of coffee or tea at home to enjoy. However, if you’re breastfeeding, be mindful that caffeine does enter your milk, so if your baby seems to be fussy or have a difficult time sleeping, you may have to cut back on the caffeine and go for decaf or half-caff/half-decaf.
Immerse myself in the Word & prayer. I have a few friends who also have newborns so when I’m having a particularly rough day, I’ll call or text one of them to pray for me. Knowing someone is lifting me up in prayer is such an encouragement! I also keep my Bible out on my kitchen counter. When I’m feeling discouraged, that’s where I try to go. It isn’t always my first thought, but when I go to God’s Word I feel a comfort and peace wash over me.
Choose to have a positive attitude instead of wallowing in self-pity for all the hours you were up with the baby. The newborn stage is a very short season. You will not be sleep-deprived forever. I know it seems like an eternity when you’re in it, but that fog will be lifted before you know it as your little one gradually extends her sleep.
What tips do you have for getting sleep with a newborn?