That in the first year of your baby’s life you’re going to lose around 350 hours of sleep. Possibly even more, depending on your child. I was pretty lucky with my two.
My daughter actually started sleeping through the night (and by “through the night” I’m talking 7pm till 5am) from about 6 weeks old. But she never slept of a day time, or if she did it was only for 20 minutes max. And she had colic as a result of a milk protein allergy, so she spent every day from about 3pm till 7pm screaming her little lungs out non-stop. By 7pm she was just so exhausted she had no other choice but to sleep through the night. Poor little thing.
My son was closer to 8 weeks when he first slept from 7pm till 5am. He’d spent the first 2 months of his life ONLY sleeping on me, so I’d pretty much only had 2-3 hours’ sleep a night max for those first 8 weeks. When he first slept though, I felt like a completely new woman and had an amazing day full of energy! He kept doing that until the 4 month regression when he started waking once or twice in the night. I had never really experienced an older baby waking in the night so it was a real wake-up call for me and my tiredness! Thankfully by the time he was 1 he was sleeping through again.
I’ve heard my friends telling me that their older babies still wake up numerous times a night, need bottles or want to play, and I feel for them. The biggest problem once you have an older bub, is that they are also more active during the day. They don’t sleep as much, and might be running around which makes it even more tiring. And by the time they are 6 or 12 months old, you might also be back at work – which means there is no chance for you to get a nap!
Rest, rest, rest
So … before it gets to that point, get in as much rest as possible. You’re going to need to recover some of that energy you’ve lost with giving birth. You’re going to need it for … oh, let’s say … the next 18 to 20 years.
Here’s how you can get more rest, keeping in mind that even 20 minutes will have you feeling like a million bucks in those first few weeks:
Forget the housework! Who cares if your home is looking like a massive bomb site of baby clothes and toys? When your baby sleeps, TRY to sleep at the same time. With a newborn this is especially hard because it’s like you have a sensor going off in your brain that captures every single movement or slight grunt they make. But you need to at least try. Turn off your phone, lie down in a dark room, close your eyes and see where the quiet takes you. This is hard when you also have a toddler or other children, so put a movie on and lie down with them for “quiet time”.
Ask for help.
I know, it really isn’t that easy to do so, but when you have a new born, asking for help is truly something you should do. Get your partner to watch the baby while you go hide out in the bedroom (or the park) to try and get a little kip in; if your partner is back at work, ask a friend or a family member if they could come over for an hour or so. No doubt they’ll jump at the chance (everyone loves new baby cuddles!), and you’ll get to nap. If you’re lucky, they might even help clean up that mess you haven’t had the chance to touch!
Try to stay away from things like caffeine, alcohol and nicotine. If you’re breastfeeding you are hopefully doing that anyway; but even with bottle fed babies, those three things are going to affect YOUR ability to nap.
If you’re going to exercise, do it first thing in the morning. Exercising at night will make your sleep even worse thanks to the stimulation it gives your brain; so if you really want to get the most out of the hours of sleep you can get at night – avoid anything strenuous for at least 3 hours before you hit the sack.
Breastfeeding is exhausting, physically and mentally.
And add the newborn to the mix; you’re going to have little energy. Sometimes I could barely even sit up to feed. So I learned to lie on my side, with my baby beside me, feeding, while I got a little rest. I didn’t sleep like that (maybe once or twice I drifted off); but I was able to close my eyes and just take a moment to myself, which made me feel a lot better.
Don’t stress that you’re going to squash your baby if you DO fall asleep, because your mother’s instinct is usually more prominent, provided you haven’t taken any medication or had any alcohol or drugs.
And finally, when you are back at work and you’re still faced with your children waking at night; make sure you take your lunch break. Go for a walk to a quiet park, sit down or lie on the grass, put your head on the table and have a little nap. Set your alarm if you need to.
I’m Susan Steven – writer, friend, artist, nerd, movie lover, avid coffee drinker. I have also been a janitor, a receptionist, a child care worker, a teacher, a gas station attendant, and a tutor. I also have a lifestyle blog: http://www.healthyarea.org/.