My biggest fear about having a baby (aside from, ummm, how the heck is she going to come out?!) was that I would never sleep again.
You see, I come from a family that fiercely guards their sleep. And when I say fiercely, I mean fiercely. On weekend mornings, you can bet your bottom dollar that the Morris family will be sleeping in as long as possible. There’s no way we willingly forgo an extra second of our precious sleep for anything less than a life or death situation. (Kidding!) (Kind of.). So needless to say, I was a little worried about what would become of my tried-and-true sleep habits.
The first few nights after Briar was born, there understandably was not a lot of rest going on. Between a hungry baby and a sore mama, those two nights in the hospital were the exact opposite of restful. Then we got home and that first night was utterly exhausting. I was having one heck of a time getting comfortable with nursing and being that Briar was underweight, I needed to feed her every two hours. It seemed like as soon as I fed her and climbed back in bed, it was already time to get back up and repeat the cycle again. I began to worry that this phase of life was going to be the death of me.
But ironically, the struggle with nursing totally saved me. Since I needed to plump up an underweight baby and I really wanted to let my body heal a little bit, I pumped exclusively for two days straight. It was a lot of work, but man, it gave me a sense of freedom knowing that John could give Briar a bottle and I could get a little extra sleep. We alternated middle-of-the-night feedings so that we both could be semi-rested and present for our new baby. We fell into a great routine that kept my sanity intact (and my eyeballs open).
When John had to go back to work a week after Briar arrived, we came up with a nice little feeding schedule: I would handle the middle-of-the-night feedings and he would give Briar a bottle before heading to the office. Since I work from home, it didn’t matter how long Briar and I slept in in the morning. I soon realized that it was easier for me to stay up late (2 to 3 am) and then sleep straight through until 10 or 11 am than it was to wake up every couple of hours in the middle of the night and feel groggy. So that’s how we do it: stay up late + sleep in.
The main reason I do it this way (aside from the fact that I’m naturally a night owl) is because John feeds her between 6-7 am everyday. If I were to go to bed earlier, it would defeat the whole point of having my husband take a feeding. I’ll admit that there are days when Briar and I don’t get out of bed until noon, but maui wowee, I’m a much better mom + wife when I have a nice chunk of sleep under my belt.
Here are the keys to my personal sleeping success:
Let someone else feed the baby. Pumping has been a LIFESAVER for me. Not only did it help me to plump my tiny little newborn back to a healthy weight, but it allows me to get a longer stretch of sleep than most new moms probably get. Pumping a bottle every single day takes a little extra effort, but being able to sleep 6-7 straight hours? WORTH IT.
Learn to nurse while laying down. Oh man. Once I realized that I didn’t actually have to sit up to feed Briar, I felt like I had a new lease on life. After John leaves for work in the morning, he lays Briar next to me in our bed and I sleep until she wakes me up for another feeding. Given the convenience of already having her in bed, that morning feeding is a breeze! Of course, I still have to get up to change the inevitable diaper, but it’s much easier to go right back to sleep afterwards.
Find good TV shows to watch. The secret to being able to stay awake until 3 am? Jimmy Fallon. Parenthood. Gilmore Girls.
Have breakfast ready to go. When I get out of bed in the morning, Briar is usually hungry again, so I’m left with only one free hand to make breakfast. (Have you ever tried to make oatmeal + coffee with one hand while nursing a 10 pound baby in the other? Not so seamless.) Thankfully, I just discovered the wonderful world of crock pots, so I’ve been finding all kinds of awesome breakfast recipes that I can put together the night before and eat as soon as I get up. The same thing goes for my coffee. A little prep work goes a loooooong way.
Keep a bedside basket of necessities. I keep a small basket on my nightstand that contains burp rags, extra pacifiers, and snack foods, so I don’t have to get out of bed to grab these items.
Go with the flow. While I would love to have a more conventional sleep schedule, I know that these odd hours won’t last forever. So I’m doing what works best for myself + my daughter, right here, right now. I feel incredibly lucky that Briar is an easygoing babe (for the most part ;)) and that John is a hands-on dad and that my work schedule is super flexible. The combination of those three things makes my life so much easier.
In the spirit of getting some shut eye, one lucky reader will win an Ameda Purely Yours double electric breast pump! Even if you’re not currently nursing, this would be a great gift to a new mom who could use an extra pair of hands to feed her babe. To win, simply leave a comment below letting me know what kind of baby-related posts you’d love to see here in the future. The winner will be announced next Friday (October 31st). Good luck!