Sleep When the Baby Sleeps

I do believe every new mother is told to sleep when the baby sleeps. When does that stop? And what does that really mean?

I have had acquaintances and friends that are new mothers that have mentioned that was worthless advice. I have to say from my perspective it is one of the best advices from experienced mothers but it can be the hardest advice to implement.

I also recently read an article that talked about sleep and new mothers. Its titled was “We are torturing new mothers and then wonder why they get mentally ill“. It brought up some interesting points but I don’t agree completely with its conclusion. And it even touches on the “sleep when baby sleeps”.

The article states:

“In the West, mums are not made to rest. They are expected to go on as normal, with the washing, the school run, losing baby weight, going shopping and so on. Mums are told “sleep when baby sleeps”. However, this simply is not good enough. Because mum needs to eat, and she needs to shower, and she needs to get dressed sometimes, and she needs to go to see the health visitor and have baby weighed, and baby might only sleep for 20 minutes at a time. Then, when dad goes back to work, it gets even more chronic, because she offers to do the night feeds so that he can get up and work the next day.”

I find this paragraph interesting. Because, yes, a society can encourage a new mom to do the chores, clean the house, lose the baby weight, and everything else but in the long run it is the individual that has to realize what is important. If a new mom isn’t willing to actually stop and sleep it doesn’t matter what society does.

The article ended with:

“Proper paternity leave, decent postnatal wards with midwives who have time to care, regular home visits, continuity of care. Change needs to happen in attitudes as well. We need to start telling other people how important it is, to look after mum. Encourage partners to “put mum to sleep”. Tuck her up in bed with a chamomile tea (or a G and T) and tell her to stay there. Turn the lights off for her, bring her an extra pillow, tell visitors to go away because she is sleeping, bring the baby to her when he or she needs a feed. The cost of not doing so, could be her mental health.”

It is a good conclusion except that I don’t believe that our healthcare or society should be the one taking care of the home visits and providing the care but it should be the family and friends.

I was very blessed to have my mother arrive right before my son’s birth and therefore our ratio to my son for the first week and a half was 3 adults to 1 baby. I got to go straight from the birth center home just hours after his birth and rest in my own bed for about five hours. And after that my mom took care of everything, cooking, cleaning, laundry, and me. At nights we took shifts if my son wasn’t asleep so I could sleep more.

I didn’t realize how important that was until I was waiting for a lactation consultant right next to my birth center and one of my midwives walked in and was very surprised at how rested I looked. I was less then a week postpartum. I was still tired but didn’t look like death warmed over.

I do credit the first weeks of sleep to having a great support system in both grandparents and then in my community for bringing meals so I didn’t have to cook. I got in the habit of sleeping during the day when my son slept because my mother sent me to bed.

Then once we were on our own (just my husband and me with our son). I choice to start my night time sleep at 7pm. My husband was shocked and thought it was silly until he realized how much it helped me gain the sleep I needed. He also tried so hard to keep my son happy for more then an hour because my young son was a cluster feeder at night. So I would feed him at 6:30pm, 8pm, 9pm and then usually 10pm before he would settle into 3-4 hours stretches. My night would begin at 7pm and go until 9am. That sounds extreme but it was what got me through the first few months of newborn.

I actually took the full advice of “sleep when the baby sleeps” up until even now as my son is 10 months old. We had a really rough night over the weekend where I only got 5 hours of sleep and was fighting a cold. Then next night my son went down at 6pm and I went to bed at 8pm and we both slept until 7:30am with two wake ups. It is amazing how I felt the next day.

I will let you know to fully accept the advice I had to let go of a lot of things. I didn’t keep my house cleaned. I didn’t cook fancy meals. I didn’t lose my “baby weight” super fast. I didn’t get my to do lists done. My husband helped with the grocery shopping quite a bit. I didn’t go shopping much at all. I choose to sleep and sometimes just rest holding my son during the day. It was a huge mental challenge because I knew I should/could be doing so much more but my son and myself was the most important.

And one other note that saved me from having too much sleep deprivation. I asked for help and wasn’t afraid to. In those first few weeks it meant waking either my husband or my mom to get up to watch my son so I could sleep. It meant when I was on a trip with family a five weeks postpartum and I was at a lost what to do with my son and was exhausted asking my mom or sister to help. It meants reaching out to friends when I moved with a six week old and couldn’t do all the unpacking, nursing, and sleeping. It meant asking my husband to fully take care of my son while I recovered from gallbladder surgery at 9 weeks postpartum. He brought him in to feed and put him to bed the whole weekend.

I didn’t have “an easy” first few months postpartum as you can see but I did feel like it was easier due to the friends and family that helped me.

To new moms I would say really listen to the sleep advice and don’t worry what society might say you “should” do. No one cares how fast you lose weight or if you have a spotless house. And always ASK for help.

Do you have any tips on how you got more sleep with a newborn? WP_20150930_001




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