The expression “sleeping like a baby” used to be appealing, right? But as a new mom, you know differently. For the first twelve weeks, your newborn will only sleep for stretches of about three or four hours at a time—meaning you can’t expect to get a solid eight hours for the foreseeable future. Between feedings, housework, feedings, social engagements, feedings, cooking, and more feedings, you might feel lucky to get eight minutes.
The good news is, this is temporary. At three months, your little restless bundle of joy will usually start sleeping through the night—and not a moment too soon! The bad news is, those first three months will be brutal. No one said being a mom was easy.
While sleep deprivation is something that every new parent has to face, looking after yourself is now more important than ever. You can’t look after your baby if you’re too tired to even stand up without passing out! Excessive drowsiness can be dangerous, especially if you need to drive—like taking your little one to the pediatrician. Sleep deprivation also makes you more susceptible to developing postpartum depression.
Here are four simple tips to help you maximize your sleep time and conserve your energy during your baby’s first few months.
Sleep When Baby Sleeps
You’ve probably heard this one before, but it’s good advice! Your baby has the right idea—naps are really great. As soon as your little one nods off, put down whatever you’re doing, curl up beneath the covers, and catch forty winks.
Sleeping during the day doesn’t make you lazy. It just better prepares you for the inevitable 4am feeding that’s to come.
Try to nap in a cool, dark environment, whatever time of day it is. Closing your curtains or investing in a sleep mask will help you get the most out of every snooze. And don’t be embarrassed if you find yourself dozing off somewhere other than your bed, like on the sofa. Or on the toilet. These things happen.
Housework? What Housework?
Before giving birth, you might daydream about being a supermom the moment you get home from the hospital—cooking, cleaning, socializing, and saving the world, all with the baby cradled in one arm.
Sorry to break it to you: that isn’t going to happen.
It’s okay to let the housework pile up. It’s okay to forget to brush your hair or put on pants. Priority number one is looking after the baby and yourself—everything else can and will wait. If a chore isn’t urgent and you could spend the time napping instead, opt for option two every time.
Help! I Need Somebody!
If people offer you help, take it. And don’t be afraid to ask for it if you need it.
If you breastfeed, consider pumping so your partner can handle a few of the feeds during the graveyard shift. Find out your insurance provider’s policy on breast pumps—they may cover the cost of a new unit or a rental. If your partner is concerned about losing sleep before work, arrange for them to feed your little one just before you head out in the morning. Raising your baby is a relay race—your partner has to take the baton from time to time!
Drop Everything. Just Sleep.
With your baby’s needs being the notable exception, virtually everything can be put on hold for a little while. Forget your favorite television shows. Forget your weekly gossip sessions with the girls. Rest whenever you can.
If you’re reading this while still pregnant, you might be horrified. But for a few months after the baby arrives, sleep is going to be the best thing that ever happened to you. And that’s okay.
When you feel up to doing more, go for it. The world will still be there after your nap. When your little one is old enough to start sleeping through the night, you’ll have plenty of TV shows to binge-watch, and your partner will have never looked better. But for now, your baby is your only master, and sleep is your reward for your hard work. Enjoy it whenever you can.