Mom Self-Care: A Newborn Sleep Survival Guide
Congrats on your new baby! You probably heard how hard having a newborn is before you had your baby. But you don’t really know how hard it is until you’re in it. The good news is that the newborn stage is short-lived, even if it doesn’t seem like it right now.
Lack of sleep can be the hardest part. Even though you’re also dealing with leaky boobs and diapers and maybe a little isolation while you’re stuck in the house with your baby. Still, not getting more than a few hours of sleep at a time for a few months can make you feel more than a little crazy.
I’ve shared some tips that helped me when my son was a newborn. Since I’m a sleep consultant, I also added some tips to help with your baby’s sleep. Because if baby ain’t sleeping, momma ain’t sleeping. And lack of sleep makes an unhappy mama. And we all know what happens when momma ain’t happy!
Sleep when your baby sleeps.
I’m sure you’ve heard this one before so I’m just going to get it out of the way first. But seriously, if your new baby is napping and you’re tired, take a nap, too! Don’t worry about getting chores done or anything else. Which leads me to my next tip...
Let go of your to-do list.
Your only job is to take care of your baby and yourself. That means that folding laundry, doing the dishes, and showering are not necessary. Saying that, I actually enjoyed getting to do some of those things so I felt normal. If you feel that way, maybe have someone else care for your fussy baby so you can do some of the things that make you feel normal.
I can’t emphasize this point enough. You’ve had a successful day if you took care of your baby and you took care of yourself. Nothing else matters!
Leaving your baby for even 5 minutes can make all the difference in the world. Going to the store or doing something else “normal” can feel weird but oh so freeing. So when grandma offers to watch the baby so you can take a quick walk or a nap, do it! Your baby will be just fine. And you will come back excited and recharged to take care of your sweet baby again.
Get out of the house
With or without your baby, getting out of the house is key. Go for a walk with your baby every day. Go to your favorite coffee shop. Meet a friend at the park. Staying in the house can make you feel stir-crazy and, well, crazy. Most babies love being in different environments, too. So get out and about every day!
Start developing healthy sleep habits in your baby.
Yes, newborns need to wake up every few hours to eat. But by the time they’re about 8 weeks old, they should be stretching their first leg of nighttime sleep longer and longer. The more you encourage them to sleep on their own, the sooner they will sleep through the night.
How do I encourage healthy sleep habits, you may be wondering. Try to let your baby fall asleep on his own without a sleep prop. A sleep prop is anything external that your baby needs to fall asleep. Like nursing, or rocking, or driving, or a pacifier.
(Learn other ways to encourage healthy sleep habits by signing up for my free guide called the 5 Secrets to Get Your Baby Sleeping Through the Night at www.happylittlecamperjh.com.)
Here’s why. We all go through sleep cycles all night long. If your baby only knows how to go to sleep with a sleep prop, he will need that prop every time he transitions from one sleep cycle to the next.
You don’t have to make sure your baby falls asleep on his own all the time. You can start with trying for the first nap of the day. And in the middle of the night after a feed, put him back in his bed awake. Most babies fall asleep easily in the middle of the night once they’re full and content.
Let it go.
Try to keep in mind that this sleep deprived, 24-7 mothering state is only temporary. It’s hard to believe when you’re in it, but remember that it will pass all too quickly. Almost all babies can sleep through the night by the time they’re 6 months old, so your loss of sleep won’t be forever.
Try not to worry if your baby won’t fall asleep on his own. The newborn stage is survival, so do what needs to be done to get your baby to sleep. Newborns need 15-18 hours a sleep a day. So ensuring they get that sleep is more important than worrying about not using sleep props. And, you can start more formally teaching your little one independent sleep skills when he’s 3 months old.
I hope these tips help you not only survive having a newborn, but maybe even thrive a little, too! It’s amazing how small and helpless newborn babies are but also how quickly they grow and develop. So enjoy this special time with your precious baby. And know that things will get easier day by day.
Martha's first passion was nutrition, but she became fascinated with sleep when her son, Parker, was a terrible sleeper as an infant. She hired a sleep consultant and her 3-month old went from waking up every 1-2 hours all night long to waking up once a night within 4 nights. Excited about how good she felt getting a good night's sleep again and how much happier her baby was, she trained with Dana Obleman to become a certified Sleep Sense consultant so she could help other families get the sleep they so desperately need. She lives with her husband and son in Jackson Hole, WY where she enjoys mountain biking, hiking, snowboarding, yoga and adventuring with her family.