Dear New Moms and Dads
Dear New Moms and Dads,
We all know what being tired feels like, but the adverse effects of a limited amount of sleep goes beyond just a tired body. Little sleep not only affects the way we think or how we cope and carry out daily activities, but can also have an effect on our feelings towards our partner and/or our baby. I’m pretty sure that most new moms have felt some sort of resentment towards their partner when it comes to the lack of sleep that comes with having a newborn baby. I’m not going to lie, there were many nights with our first born while I planned my husband’s funeral as he snored away and slept through our daughter's wake ups. She would be crying, and I would be struggling to nurse her, all the while he was in dreamland. Okay, so I'm only half kidding about the whole funeral thing. But I'm not going to lie, I had many moments of frustration because I so badly wanted to sleep, but I didn't express my feelings to my husband in the beginning.
The good news?
If you’re currently feeling resentment towards really anyone because you know that they are getting more sleep than you are, then guess what? That’s totally normal. Remember the funeral that I was planning?
Even better news?
There are things that you CAN do to help you get more and better sleep, especially for those early weeks when your baby somehow seems to be asleep 24 hours a day, but at the same time awake 24 hours a day (strange, right?)
So what can you do?
ALLOW OTHERS TO HELP: While every new mom and dad has some emotional attachment to their newborn babies, it is so important to take and ask for help when you need it. Or even when you don’t think you need it! With my first born, I felt lesser of a mother when my in-laws were constantly wanting to come over and bring us food, help clean,and take care of our daughter. I don’t know why, but I felt like I shouldn’t feel like I needed any help and I was expected to do it all on my own. Nobody had these expectations of me, and I was really being harder on myself for no reason that I could really explain. When our second arrived though, I rarely hesitated when a friend offered to bring coffee, or take our eldest out for a play date.
I loved it when my in-laws came over and brought us food, and I appreciated it all so much more than I did the first time around. We need to get rid of all that pressure and those inner thoughts that tell us that we have to do it all. You do not have to do it all. Ask for help. Trust me, you’ll appreciate it later.
ROTATE SLEEP TIME: It’s hard for a lot of us to process sometimes, but guess what? Being a mom is a full-time job too! Just because one parent is going off to work everyday, doesn’t diminish the importance of the job it takes to stay at home with your baby. I’m not saying that you should expect both parents to do all the night wakings 50/50, as that rarely works, but I am saying that sleep is SO IMPORTANT, and so you shouldn’t go every single night with only 2-3 hour stretches of sleep. Set out a plan where the weekends are where you rotate sleep, and maybe one morning one parent can sleep in and the next the other can. Ask your partner to do one feeding in the night if it’s possible for you to pump or your baby is bottle fed already. Sit down and have a chat with your partner about how important sleep is, and how you both deserve at least one or two nights of good rest in the beginning.
HELP YOUR BABY TO SLEEP LONGER IN THE NIGHT: Can you imagine how amazing it would feel if your baby were sleeping 8, 9, 10, 11, or even 12 hours straight at night? You would undeniably feel like an entirely new person, and let me tell you: it is a wonderful feeling. There are so many things that you can do to help your baby begin sleeping longer stretches in the night, but my biggest tip would be to end any and all sleep associations that your baby has with falling asleep in the first place. Does you baby fall asleep while nursing? Stop nursing them to sleep. Instead, move their feeding to the beginning of their bedtime routine rather than at the end. Do you have to rock your baby to sleep and then transfer them into their crib while you pray to the gods that they’ll stay asleep for more than the 5 minutes that it usually takes before they wake up again? Or do you sit on your yoga ball bouncing them up and down while rocking them and singing twinkle twinkle little star over and over again (anyone? no? just me?). Do you want to know why they wake up in the middle of the night and can’t fall back asleep? It’s because they are so used to falling asleep however you have allowed them to fall asleep and they literally don’t know how to do it anyway else. Until the sleep associations are removed, your baby will more than likely continue to wake up multiple times during the night and need your help to fall back asleep.
CATCH A NAP WHEN BABY IS CATCHING A NAP TOO: “Sleep when baby sleeps.” I know, I know, insert eye roll here. But seriously. Do it. That’s really all the advice I have for you on this one. It took me having another baby eighteen months after our first to realize how much I missed being able to nap when the baby was sleeping. The dishes can wait, and the bathrooms will get cleaned eventually. Catch up on your sleep when you can and remember: the newborn phase is so short in the grand scheme of things. You got this.