Help for a Tired Mama

Help for a Tired MamaNewborns are rough. Man, are they rough. Each and every time I was pregnant, I remember wishing that baby was out during those last 2 to 4 weeks of pregnancy. I thought, “Once this baby is out, I’ll sleep better, I’ll be more comfortable, I won’t have to get up so many times to pee. I can’t wait to have this baby!”

Every time, I thought this.  Every. Time. Clearly our hormones wipe our memory of the newborn months in the interest of the propagation of our species. But, I digress.

Newborns grow so fast, it can be hard to keep up. Every time you solve a problem, be it leaking diapers, sleeping positions, or controlling spit up, like a leak in a dam on Looney Toons, five more issues pop right up to replace it. When you’re talking sleep, it’s no different.

Here are a few ways you can attempt to get more sleep for you and baby.

  1. Talk to your mom and your partner’s mom. I know, I know. You get so much advice. So much. Why would you go seeking it? Well, here it’s not advice you need, it’s information on the genes that are in your baby. Was your husband a great sleeper? Did your wife keep her poor mom up all night? If you can find out what you and your partner were like as babies, you can get an idea if your baby is just one of those who don’t need sleep or if there is a strategy you can employ to make things easier. Just knowing what you can expect can make a big difference.
  2. Start a routine. A routine is different from a schedule in that it’s a regular way of doing things, not a timed way of doing things. Timing is arbitrary to infants, but they can come to understand that things happen in a certain order each day, and what those things are, and they understand this earlier than you think. Your routine could be nursing, rocking, and bedtime. Or, it could be playtime, nursing, books and bedtime. We did the three B’s: bath, books, and bed.
  3. Adjust bedtime. After growth and development spurts, you may find the old schedules or routines may not work as well. Moving bedtime up or back can make a huge difference in how your baby sleeps. A baby that fights sleep at 7pm may go down like a dream a little earlier or later, or even sleep longer. Sometimes my babies would fall asleep at weird times, and I would think that there was no way they would still go to bed at their usual time, but they did. It’s amazing how much sleep newborns need.
  4. Take evening walks. Evening walks can help baby sync to natural circadian rhythms, plus it’s just a great way to soothe them and get a little fresh air for yourself as well. Wearing your baby on a walk can help jiggle them around just like they did in your belly, which can be soothing.
  5. Change up your space. If baby isn’t sleeping well, bring her into your room, either by cosleeping or using a bassinet. If you are trying to transition baby to her own room, start with naptimes and work up from there. You can also put the crib sheet in your bed for a few nights on it’s own before trying a transition so it has your comforting smell on it. Try moving the crib to different places in baby’s room. You may not be aware of lights or vibrations in certain places that could be waking her up, like a pipe in the wall, a dryer in an adjoining room, light from the street, a clock or another device.

Remember, newborns are just not going to sleep through the night for the most part, and night waking has many benefits, including the fact that it’s great for milk production. But the next best thing to prolonged sleep is predictable sleep, and that is very attainable. Just keep your expectations in check and remember that as soon as you get a good pattern going, a growth spurt is probably going to wreck it again. Don’t be too hard on yourself, and call in reinforcements when you can!

Erin Burt is a freelance writer and mother of three girls. She lives and writes in Queensbury, New York. 

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One Response to “Help for a Tired Mama”

  1. katie b says:

    Love this! I remember thinking I did something wrong during my pregnancy because my lil one was so tough in the beginning! Come to find out so was my husband as a baby! :p routine was huge for us! What a lifesaver – it really helps to know what your baby needs. And for #3… in the beginning I didn’t want her to nap too late for fear she would not sleep at night. Turns out an overtired baby does not sleep well bit mine taking a lot of naps did!