You do not have to be sleep deprived to be a good mama.
They say you should sleep as much as you can before baby comes because once baby is here, no one will sleep. But you truly don’t understand the magnitude of how sleepless you mama will be until you have had to wake up every two hours with a crying baby. Every night. For weeks.
So then they come back at you saying that you should sleep when baby sleeps. But can’t they see the 15 loads of laundry that have accumulated over the last few days? Don’t they know that baby bottles need to be washed and sterilized? That the dishes from dinner last night are still in the sink?
Sleep is a rare commodity with a newborn. A very prized commodity. In fact, just spending time away from baby feels like mission impossible. A new mom is solicited by her baby pretty much 24/7. And as it should be. Babies need so much help from mama at first in order to be able to grow and adapt to our world. But as they grow older, they are supposed to mature and gain more and more skills.
How sleep/ night time looks like when you’re a mother:
Most babies will be able to sleep longer and longer stretches as the weeks go by. And some will even become pretty independent sleepers on their own. Some lucky mamas might even win the lottery with a baby that sleeps through the night at 3 months. But that’s a unicorn. It almost doesn’t
exist. I’m just saying…
What I’m so un-eloquently trying to say here is that things are supposed to get better.
Don’t they also say that this too shall pass?
So why is it that MONTHS after your baby is born, you dread the approaching sunset because you know that your baby will wake you up many, many times before sunrise. You spend the better part of the night sleeping on the floor or your child’s room, or if you are lucky, uncomfortably (and barely, might I add) holding your spot in a toddler bed.
Bedtime has you all worked up because you know it will take you over an hour to get your child to actually fall asleep.
You have a whole plan worked out to lay your baby down after they have fallen asleep on you, hoping they will continue sleeping in their crib. Unfortunately, they almost always end up waking up at the transition. You walk around all day in a fog because you can’t remember the last time you slept for more than 2 consecutive hours.
Naps are a nightmare: you know that baby will wake up exactly at the 20 minute mark you spend your day counting how many hours your baby has slept and if it is time for them to sleep again and always feel guilty that it’s not even close to what you read about. Speaking of reading about, you spend the better part of your day, and night, researching sleep and why your baby won’t sleep.
Why is sleep so important “especially” for a mother:
So now tell me, did you find yourself in any of the above scenarios? These are all real situations from real mamas that I have spoken or worked with. And personally, I know I have experienced many, if not all of the situations above.
If we were to say the same thing about any other basic need, say nutrition, these situations would totally be unacceptable and society would be encouraging us to do something about it. Yet, when it comes to sleep, its almost like we are expected to sacrifice our sleep as the price of motherhood.
But lack of sleep has a major impact on our physical and mental health. Poor or fragmented sleep increases the risk of conditions such as diabetes, cancer, and cardiovascular diseases. When we don’t sleep, it is hard for us to remember things and stay on point.
Driving without proper sleep has been likened to driving under the influence of alcohol. Sleep and maternal mental health are also closely linked as lack of sleep is considered a risk factor for postpartum depression. That is without going into how lack of sleep affects the relationship between husband and wife and even between mom and baby.
Where to start for better sleep as a mom:
So if sleep is so important, why do we wear the lack of it like a badge of honor? Why do
we assume that a mama who is not sleeping is a good one, even though if you pay attention, she may be so tired that she isn’t even enjoying the time she is spending with her bundle of joy? Let’s change the narrative and put sleep first. Let’s try, one act at a time, to get you the sleep you deserve.
Knowledge is Power
There are so many resources available to you mama. Books, articles, blog posts, specialists. Get your hands on as much information as you need to feel prepared. Having knowledge means you have the tools to make informed decisions.
Make a Birth Plan
Seek out a lactation consultant to help you start your breastfeeding journey on the right foot and have a chat with a sleep consultant to help you understand how your baby sleeps. Knowing that will help you establish a healthy sleep foundation from the very beginning.
Create a team and have plan
You and your spouse are a team so act like one! When possible, plan for mom and dad to take turns with night wake ups, have mom take weekday duties while dad takes on weekends, or assign different roles for each parent (Mom can feed and burp, dad can change and settle baby back to sleep).
Remember your spouse is also the baby’s parent, not the babysitter, so make full use of that and get them onboard to help from the beginning if you have the option. And when you know who is responsible for what, there will be less time spent discussing, and more time spent doing.
Perfection is Overrated
Acknowledge the fact that your hands are much fuller than before. Now that baby is here, make you and your baby your priority. It’s ok if the living room is not tidy, if the dishes are unwashed or if the laundry is not done. It can all be done later. Or even better, it can all be done by someone else (more on that later).
Focus on what your baby needs, and intentionally plan to get the rest you need by actually sleeping when baby sleeps.
Actively seek and accept the help of others. Find someone to take care of the cleaning, accept your friend’s offer to baby sit or grandparents meal drop offs. That will give you time to rest, recharge and come back as a mama full of energy and ready to tackle all of baby’s needs.
And if you find yourself still lacking sleep months or years down the line because your child is still waking up at night, consider making some changes to your routine and to the way your child sleeps sleep. If your situation is no longer sustainable for you or your family, know that change is possible and it can be only a couple of weeks away. Trust me, I’ve seen it with my own eyes.