When you are in your last trimester of pregnancy, everyone is so excited to meet the baby. And in your mind, that sweet, angelic, little bundle of joy is going to come into your life, go with the flow and make everything perfect. Suuuuure! What people don’t tell you is that those newborn months can be brutal. Of course you love your little noise-maker more than life itself, but sleep deprivation is real. I’m convinced that mommy’s train Navy Seals. Yup.
Here are some tips to help you, your partner and your baby get more sleep.
1. Accept help. This one was tough for me because I felt guilty, as if I were an inadequate mom, if I couldn’t do everything for my son without help. But that is ridiculous – there are no “supermom” awards given out. You are actually doing your baby a great service by napping because sleep deprivation can impact your mood and cognitive function. Had I known then what I know now, I would have willingly accepted any offers for help. If someone calls and asks, “do you need anything?” the correct answer is yes! Say it with me now, with no shame, “yes, I need help.” Having someone bring food, help clean your house or even watch the baby while you shower/nap is a precious gift. Graciously accept it and when they have a baby return the favor.
2. Routine. Don’t bother trying to sleep train your newborn. Babies have a natural sleep/eat pattern and if you keep a log it can be easy to follow your baby’s lead. Try to stay as consistent as possible with your daily routine to encourage your baby to develop a good sleep pattern. There are lots of apps that help you remember the last time your baby slept/ate/poo’d or you can use good ‘ol pencil and paper (which is convenient for keeping your partner in the loop). I had no idea about schedules when my son was born. Here is a sample schedule for new parents to get an idea of how to predict your baby’s needs.
3. Dr. Harvey Karp’s book (and DVD – check your local library or buy it here) The Happiest Baby on the Block Guide to Great Sleep. This book really helped us get into a good sleeping routine. His signature 5 S’s (swing, swaddle, suck, sush, side) technique is a gentle way to help your baby fall asleep and stay asleep.
4. Shift work.
- If formula feeding: You and your partner can alternate feedings every other night or nightly (ex: 10 p.m. – 2 a.m. or 2 a.m. – 6 a.m. shift) so that you both can get a solid block of sleep. It can also be helpful for each person to take their shift in the nursery as to not wake your partner. Keep bottles with pre-measured formula next to your bed with a jug of room temperature water for easy midnight feeds. No need to run to the kitchen or even warm the bottles.
- If breastfeeding: Your partner can change the baby’s diaper, then bring the baby to you to nurse. That way your partner can be included and you don’t have to be groggy very long. Also, pumped breast milk can sit at room temperature for up to 4 hours and in some cases up to six hours. So nursing before you go to sleep, then your partner doing the next feed, will allow you to get more sleep.
6. White noise (machine or CD) is your best friend. It mimics the sounds that they hear in the womb and drowns out T.V., talking, cars and squeaky floors.
7. Blackout curtains and a dim lamp. Having a dark room promotes melatonin, the hormone that regulates your sleep-awake cycle, which helps you to fall asleep. Babies melatonin levels increase after 3 months of age. Turning off overhead lights, turning on a lamp and limiting noise 30 minutes prior to bed or nap time can really help your love bug get in the mood for sleep. I still do this with my 15 month old.
8. Chamomile tea can be given to newborns (it helps with colic too), but not as a substitute for milk. After steeping the tea, let it cool completely, then add 1-2 oz (diluted with water) in a bottle or medicine dropper if nursing. Do not overuse this tea as it can block iron absorption in larger amounts – which is crucial for breastfed babies.
9. Buy baby pajamas with minimal buttons. Buttons are the devil to a glossy eyed, slightly comatose new mom. Zippers, gowns, swaddles, sleep sacks, even onesies with pants are much easier in the middle of the night when you feel like a living zombie fumbling around in the dark.
10. Sleep when the baby sleeps. Everyone gives this advice and honestly, it’s almost impossible to do, but try to implement some of the strategies above for yourself as well as for the baby.
Regardless as to what I am telling you, you are a new mom, with a brand spanking new baby, so there’s no way you aren’t going to stare at him all night making sure he is breathing. Or just thinking of how beautiful he is and how you’re now somebody’s mama. And it’s okay. You’ll eventually pass out, get a few hours of sleep and feel like a new woman in the morning! At that point, feel free to brush your teeth, brush your hair and change your panties. Don’t worry mama, you’re doing a great job!