Having a newborn or baby in the house usually means much less sleep for everyone in the family. Typically, our busy lifestyles don’t give us the time and space we need to make changes that will help us thrive during this new phase of life. The tips below will help you adjust your expectations and allow you to settle into your new life with baby, feeling more rested and encouraged for what’s to come!
1: Lower the expectations in your household
I know it is so cliché to say but it is true that there will always be another load of dishes and another load of laundry forever and ever (or at least until someone invents an automatic laundry hamper that instantly washes and folds all the clothes). You only have today to parent your new little bundle of joy and you also only have today to take care of yourself well so that you can be your best for every tomorrow you are given.
Now this doesn’t mean you have to live in a pigsty, but give yourself permission to allow yourself shortcuts. For some, it may look like using paper plates instead of dinnerware, throwing a load of laundry in each morning to stay on top of it, or reducing outdoor chores by hiring a lawn service. You may also want to avoid scheduling any household projects or deep cleaning for the first few weeks/months. Forget the dusting. No one is looking at your baseboards.
2: Take two “naps” a day
I encourage the moms I work with to, at the very least, lay down twice a day and shut their eyes for 15-20 minutes. Usually in this time mom will fall asleep even it she didn’t feel sleepy. You may coordinate with your partner or support people to watch over baby while you rest. You can feed baby and then allow your partner or support person to burp, change the diaper, and comfort baby while you are resting. Ask your partner to bring baby to you as soon as early hungry signs are spotted or if baby is unsettled and not easily consoled.
You may only need two naps for the first few weeks and can transition to napping as needed. These naps through the early weeks help you cope with middle of night feedings so much easier.
3: Help baby have a better nights
Newborn babies typically eat every 2-3 hours through the day and night, but often they will have one longer stretch of about 3-4 hours. Newborns will usually need to eat at least 10 times during each 24 hour period. An older baby may still need up to 8 feedings in 24 hours throughout the first 6 or more months. (Consult with your pediatrician to determine the length of feeding intervals that is appropriate for your baby.) Often, parents allow the baby to take this one longer stretch whenever they happen to sleep that long. I often see babies do this during the day when visitors are over, and all the hustle and bustle and cuddles lead to baby taking their longest stretch during the day, BUT then they have to make up for it by waking frequently during the night!
In order to help baby optimize their daytime feedings, you can wake baby for feedings every 2-2.5 hours (start counting at the beginning of the feeding, to the beginning of the next). How to wake a sleepy baby? Around the 2 hour mark, you can gently lay baby on their back in their crib or bassinet, then use the next few minutes to run to the bathroom or get a snack. Usually within a few minutes the baby has begun to wake up and will be ready for their next meal. You can also try some skin to skin or a diaper change to rouse a sleepy baby. Having babies rest in swings and vibrating seats often encourages longer stretches in between feedings so limit the use of these devices.
Recognize cluster feeding (and use it to your advantage!)
Often, but not always, babies will cluster feed just before their longest stretch of sleep. Babies use cluster feeding to fill up on the fattier milk, which comes in larger quantities when the breast is drained. This enables baby to go a little longer between feedings, kind of like a bear preparing to hibernate. By recognizing and understanding cluster feeding you can be prepared to use it to your advantage. The best way to do this is to encourage baby to cluster feed in the early evening hours. Keeping baby close and skin to skin if possible, latching them on as often as they’d like and offering the breast often. If baby is cluster feeding try not to get discouraged and remember there is often a reward of a little longer stretch of sleep at the end of that long feeding frenzy!
4: Fuel your body!
Your body has just brought new life into the world! That’s a HUGE undertaking and now you are sustaining this new life through breastfeeding. Your body needs ‘high octane’ fuel to heal and sustain you through this time. Eating nutrient dense foods closest to their natural state is the best ‘high octane’ fuel on the planet! Increasing your intake of healthy fats and high quality protein as well as a wide variety of fresh vegetables and fruits will provide your body with all it needs to recover and fuel your hard work ahead.
To illustrate this point further, pretend you are tasked with making a complicated recipe: where would you want to cook it? In a old dusty kitchen with grease and grime on every surface, where all the ingredients you need are hard to find and thrown in little bits on the floors and counters? OR in a fresh clean kitchen with every ingredient right at your fingertips, washed and ready to use? This is how your body will be working when creating breastmilk. It can make the recipe in either kitchen, but think how much easier it will be in that beautiful freshly cleaned kitchen, with all the ingredients laid out neatly in front of the cook!
5: Enlist the help of others
Many new moms find it difficult to ask for help in the early weeks, but this is a time where we most need to ask for help and support. Unfortunately, many moms find the ‘help’ that is offered is for the helper to care for or hold the baby, when in reality mom can take care of the baby just fine -- it is herself she needs help taking care of! It’s tough to ask others for help with tasks around the house instead of holding the baby, and sometimes it is best if your partner or support person advocates on your behalf.
Making of list of tasks others can help with may be beneficial. Think of things that would help take care of you like cooking a meal, cleaning up the kitchen, changing your sheets, doing a load of laundry, or a run to the grocery store. Post the list in a visible place in your home where your guests are sure to see it when they arrive. Our blog post Who’s Taking Care of Momma is also a great resource for more ideas!
I hope these tips help you feel a little more rested in this new phase of life! Give yourself a lot of grace during this time, because becoming a parent is possibly the most rewarding time in your life, but it also comes with lots of changes and challenges!