The second we find out we’re pregnant we download all of the apps that tell…
Whether your little one is one month, four months, ten months or even three years old, when you’re sleep deprived, sleep becomes your obsession.
“WHY isn’t this working?”
“HOW am I supposed to figure this out?”
“WHEN will this get better?”
“WHAT am I doing wrong?”
It’s the way we used to feel about sex? Remember that? Me neither.
Your entire life now revolves around sleep and which panic purchase you can make that will fix the baby. And you. Black out curtains? Check! Sound machine? Check! All 5 S’s? Check!
And all you really want to do is put in ear plugs, turn off the monitor, and go the eff to sleep.
I see moms struggle with this every day in my work as a certified pediatric sleep coach and lactation counselor. And I get it. I’ve been there three times. And five years into this motherhood gig, I still think these things sometimes.
The thing is, sleep ISN’T about the baby. It’s about the parents (and you know when I say that I mean the mom). I am the mother’s advocate to support, encourage, and empower her to make her best decisions.
If crying it out sends you spinning, it’s not the right decision. If sleeping with one hand on your baby’s tiny little belly gives you both peace, go for it. The #1 most important thing, my priority, goal, and mission is for you to feel more rested than you do right now. To set up a strong, healthy foundation for you and your baby.
Because sleep is the foundation of health. I know you know this. And I know you may be mad at me for bringing it up right now. Because you’re obsessed with it like a middle schooler with hickeys. That’s ok! You’re allowed to be mad at me! That won’t change the fact that if you want to make mindful decisions, find time to move your body, be emotionally available for your family, and be your best at work (whether that’s inside or outside the home), you have to be well rested.
We need sleep. AND sleep deprivation is the reality of life with a newborn. There are times during motherhood when that’s just the way it is right now.
Newborn sleep is erratic and it takes time for them to figure out what’s going on in the outside world. They don’t even know day from night! That’s just the way it is right now.
Maybe you have a unicorn baby who sleeps perfectly and then all of a sudden their brains explode. And they stop sleeping perfectly. They’re teething, or going through a leap, or it’s Thursday, who knows! That’s just the way it is right now.
Or you have a sick toddler with a stomach bug and you’re up all night changing sheets (this is my worst nightmare). When you find yourself eyeball deep in sick kids, vomit, and diarrhea, you can remind yourself that this is just the way it is right now.
None of this negates the mental insanity we experience when sleep goes off the rails. Whether it’s an ongoing issue, teething, a leap, Thursday again, or the fan is blowing in the wrong direction, these are my recommendations to keep you, mama, from going completely insane:
Learn the Basics
Ignorance is not bliss when it comes to baby sleep. Understanding the science behind when and why common sleep issues occur will help you realize, “Okay, this is normal. It sucks and this is just the way it is right now.”
Find a sleep consult or another resource that resonates with you and your parenting style. Get the tools you need to get over the hump. A great place to start is Christine Lawler’s book Get Your Sleep On: A no-nonsense guide for busy moms who want to preserve attachment AND sleep through the night.*
Say YES when offered help and ask for help when it’s not offered. That can be in the form of a sleep coach, postpartum doula, family member, or friend. Let them come over and take the lead so you can get some rest.
This can be so hard. To accept help. Why are we so conditioned to deny ourselves the support we need?! Let’s let go of these antiquated ideas and ideals that motherhood means doing everything by yourself (more on that here).
Raising a child was not meant to be done in isolation. There are cultures today that still have entire family systems to take care of mom and baby. Unfortunately, in our culture it is expected that mom handles it all, which only increases the chances of postpartum depression, anxiety, and burnout.
Find Your Village
We need our village. Find a local mom group, a breastfeeding support group, a mom and baby exercise class, or a local Facebook group. Make sure you choose the support systems that actually feel supportive. And when you find them, lean on them. We are all in this together.
According to a study at Cornell University, as little as 10 minutes to as much as 50 minutes spent in nature significantly improves stress and anxiety.*
So take your shoes off and get really grounded into the earth. This alone will reduce your cortisol levels and boost endorphin and dopamine production. What?! Truth.
Other ways to make this happen?
Go for a walk and let the baby take a stroller nap. Listen to your favorite music or a podcast.
Podcasts we love:
- The Myth of Motherhood with Alissa Alter
- We Can Do Hard Things with Glennon Doyle
- Expanded with Lacy Phillips
- Lead with Love with Jadah Sellner
- The Melissa Ambrosini Show with Melissa Ambrosini
Or anything else focusing on a topic you are super passionate about. Listen to anything that fills you up.
I suggest staying away from any strategy-driven parenting podcasts. While they are great resources, they tend to add to the “what am I doing wrong?” mindset. And you don’t have time for that sh*t.
This Is Just The Way It Is Right Now
Everything will keep changing. The sleep cycles will connect and the night feedings will eventually end. The “rhythm” or “schedule” you are currently comfortable in will go out the window and they’ll stop sleeping on your chest while you smell their delicious little heads.
The hard stuff and the good stuff will shift and change. Annoying, right? I know. It’s part of the deal with parenting. Knowing this can be grounding, but doesn’t change how hard and overwhelming things are when you’re completely sleep-deprived and just want to fall asleep wherever you are, whatever you are doing. Like reading this right now!
I find it helpful to set a reminder on my phone to breathe throughout the day. You can find guided meditations here that will help you reset. Place affirmation cards strategically around the house.
We mean it. Stop. I have spent many hours panic Googling in the middle of the night and seen too many other parents do the same. I know it’s tempting to consult Dr. Google about every little thing, but this is a sure-fire way to go absolutely bonkers.
Need something else to do when you’re up for the fifth time that night with your baby? Here are some suggestions:
- Listen to the sound of your baby eating (maybe take a video? Or voice memo?)
- Smell the top of our baby’s head
- Scroll through articles here on pstprtm
- Listen to a guided meditation here
- Play soothing sounds of ocean waves or rain
Because tomorrow is a new day and that baby will be just a little bit older.
This is just the way it is right now. You’ve got this.