When you are in your last trimester of pregnancy, everyone is so excited to meet the baby. And in your mind, that sweet, angelic, little bundle of joy is going to come into your life, go with the flow and make everything perfect. Suuuuure! What people don’t tell you is that those newborn months can be brutal. Of course you love your little noise-maker more than life itself, but sleep deprivation is real. I’m convinced that mommy’s train Navy Seals. Yup.
Here are some tips to help you, your partner and your baby get more sleep.
This one was tough for me because I felt guilty if I couldn’t do everything for my son without help. But that is ridiculous. There are no “supermom” awards given out. You are actually doing your baby a great service by napping because sleep deprivation can impact your mood and cognitive function.
If someone asks, “do you need anything?” the correct answer is yes! Say it with me now, with no shame, “yes, I need help.” Having someone bring food, help clean your house or even watch the baby while you shower/nap is a precious gift. Graciously accept it and when they have a baby return the favor.
Try to stay as consistent as possible with your daily routine to encourage your baby to develop a good sleep pattern. Babies have a natural sleep pattern and if you keep a log it can be easy to follow your baby’s lead. There are lots of apps that help you remember the last time your baby slept/ate/poo’d or you can use good ‘ol pencil and paper (which is convenient for keeping your partner in the loop).
Dr. Harvey Karp’s book, The Happiest Baby on the Block Guide to Great Sleep
This book really helped us get into a good sleeping routine. His signature 5 S’s (swing, swaddle, suck, sush, side) technique is a gentle way to help your baby fall asleep and stay asleep.
- If formula feeding: You and your partner can alternate feedings every other night or nightly (ex: 10 p.m. – 2 a.m. or 2 a.m. – 6 a.m. shift) so that you both can get a solid block of sleep. It can also be helpful for each person to take their shift in the nursery as to not wake your partner. Keep bottles with pre-measured formula next to your bed with a jug of room temperature water for easy midnight feeds. No need to run to the kitchen or even warm the bottles.
- If breastfeeding: Your partner can change the baby’s diaper, then bring the baby to you to nurse. Also, pumped breast milk can sit at room temperature for up to 4 hours and in some cases up to six hours. So nursing before you go to sleep, then your partner doing the next feed, will allow you to get more sleep.
Whether by way of app or cd, white noise mimics the sounds that babies hear in the womb and drowns out T.V., talking, cars and squeaky floors.
Having a dark room promotes melatonin production, the hormone that regulates your sleep-awake cycle, which helps you to fall asleep. Babies melatonin levels increase after 3 months of age. Turning off overhead lights, turning on a dim lamp and limiting noise 30 minutes prior to bed or nap time can really help your love bug get in the mood for sleep.
Chamomile tea can be given to newborns (it helps with colic, constipation and teething too), but not as a substitute for milk. After steeping the tea, let it cool completely, then add 1/2 oz in a bottle or medicine dropper if nursing. Do not overuse this tea as it can block iron absorption in larger amounts – which is crucial for breastfed babies. Also, some babies can be allergic so always check with your doctor first before using this method.
Buy baby pajamas with minimal buttons. Buttons are the devil to a glossy eyed, slightly comatose new mom. Zippers, gowns, swaddles, sleep sacks, even onesies with pants are much easier in the middle of the night when you feel like a living zombie fumbling around in the dark.
Sleep when the baby sleeps
Everyone gives this advice and honestly, it can be difficult if you aren’t a napper yourself, but try to implement some of the strategies above for yourself as well as for the baby.
Regardless of what I am telling you, you are a new mom, with a brand spanking new baby, so there’s no way you aren’t going to stare at him all night to make sure he is breathing. Or just thinking of how beautiful he is and how you’re now somebody’s mama. And it’s okay. You’ll eventually pass out, get a few hours of sleep and feel like a new woman in the morning! At that point, feel free to brush your teeth, brush your hair and change your panties. Don’t worry mama, you’re doing a great job!