“Take a warm bath,” “Go on a walk with baby,” or my personal favorite, “Sleep when the baby sleeps.” As a new mom, there is never a shortage of advice on how or what you should be doing to manage stress (or any other baby-related topic, for that matter). But, let’s keep it real – the baby doesn’t sleep unless he’s being shushed, patted, held at a 36-degree angle while spinning in circles, and sung “Twinkle, Twinkle Little Star.” You’re too tired/sore to walk to the fridge let alone around the block, and the only bath that’s happening is with a peri bottle, amirite?
When these are our new mom realities, it’s easy to think that these well-intended tips must be coming from people that have in fact, never had a child. This probably goes without saying, but the most important thing you can do for yourself is sleep. As a person who has grown up in the mattress business, I very much value my sleep, so the sleep deprivation that accompanies motherhood was a huuuge adjustment.
So, from one mom to another, here are some ideas to help you get as much sleep as possible in those first few weeks.
Limit Visitors - Create a plan with your S.O. regarding visitors and stick to it. So many people will want to stop by and see you and your beautiful bundle, but honestly, entertaining visitors will leave you exhausted and resentful. By all means accept help if it's offered and would actually make your life easier, but anyone that you feel you need to put on real clothes for probably shouldn’t make the cut in your first few weeks PP.
Be Realistic about Housework - If your baby is anything like mine, they will produce an inordinate amount of laundry. Have enough of the basics to get you by for a few days. When Holden was born, we found that he slept best in a specific swaddle, and that a nightgown was most convenient for middle of the night changes, but we were laundering these on a mostly daily basis. If you can, stock up on items that work so that you aren’t constantly laundering their essentials. And, for god’s sakes don’t worry about folding! Having a clean place to prep bottles and/or wash pump parts is important as well, so my advice is to prioritize keeping an area around the sink clean for this purpose. Tip: if you can, use a separate sink than the one in your kitchen, so that if want to, you can leave dishes in the sink for a day or two, guiltlessly. A bathroom sink with counter space would work perfectly to set up cleaning supplies, small drying rack, and formula, if you’re using it.
Nap Unabashedly - When you’re not actively caring for your baby, try to rest. If baby is fed and not sleepy, snuggle together in bed so you’re able to rest if not sleep. If you can, nap in your bed with the lights off versus on the couch where you may feel compelled to pick up.
Make Sleep a Priority - Rotate ‘night duty’ with your S.O. if possible, even if it’s just a night or two a week. Create consistency in your nightly routine (and don’t be afraid to try a few out) to get baby sleeping through the night as soon as they can. Keep night waking’s streamlined by leaving the lights off and getting through the feeding/changing/etc. as quickly and quietly as possible. Tip: use the two-sheet method to reduce effort if (when!) you need to change dirty sheets in the middle of the night. To do this, alternately layer 2 sets of sheets and mattress protectors, so when one is dirty, you can peel off the top sheet and protector and have the backup underneath and ready to go.
Know that this too shall pass - Someday, you will sleep like a real human again. I promise. When you do get your first unbroken 8 hours, realize that as glorious as is feels, you may still be in “new mom fog” for several weeks or months, so be patient with yourself. The last stat I saw was that moms lose an average of 6 months of sleep in their child’s first two years, so give yourself grace when you can’t find your words or you forget something “important” as you dig out of chronic sleep deprivation. Most of all, and as cliché as it sounds, enjoy this new mom season. There will be some things you miss, many you can’t remember (God’s way of ensuring procreation, I’m sure), and so, so much to look forward to!