Monday, March 16

8 Ways for Newborn Mothers to Feel More Rested

Our sleepy little duckling, Declan :-)
I've come to terms with something. Tiredness is just a part of life now. I can't even remember the last time I couldn't describe myself as "tired." Because of this, it's far more impressive when I describe myself as exhausted, which wouldn't even be an exaggeration on most days. But truthfully, I don't feel as though being tired is something I can justify complaining about. I guess in my mind, there are people who have it much worse--like nurses who work the night shift and not only have to be awake but remain coherent. I could never do that. Or the people who work at 24-hour grocers or gas stations. Without a doubt, I'd rather be at home, groggily snuggling a fussy baby in my bed than dealing with the odd people who buy groceries at 3am.

I have said before that I have easy babies. I don't technically know if this is true since I have no other babies to compare them to apart from the stories I hear other mothers tell. I realize that not all babies--very few in fact--are good sleepers. But I can't help but wonder if my babies are actually great sleepers, or if I've just adapted to their schedules, or if I'm doing certain things that make it so I can get a lot more sleep than most moms.

I've already shared with you Tenley's fairly strict bedtime routine (which is a piece of cake now--I love that she knows just what to expect at night--it makes it so easy peasy on me) and though Declan doesn't really have a set routine at this time, he sleeps at least six hours every night. I was thinking about why (apart from he probably just loves sleeping more than other babies) and came up with a few ideas for those moms who are only getting scattered moments of rest during the night.

1. Go to bed at a decent hour. I have not been taking this advice lately, solely because I had an essay I've been trying to finish (for months now...) and I can only concentrate on it once the kids--namely Tenley--are asleep. But now that I have finished it (hallelujah!) I am going to get back to my routine. Tenley's bedtime is about 8pm. Once she's down, it's wonderful to be able to accomplish those things around the house that a toddler just makes impossible. It's also nice to be able to relax and enjoy some of my hobbies that I can't easily do when she is awake (such as painting, reading peacefully, etc.). It can be tempting to stay up until midnight making up for lost time--don't do it. If it is a choice between getting chores done and leisure time, I would say do one major chore (such as folding laundry which is super challenging with a mobile child) and one leisure activity and tell yourself you must be finished by ten o'clock. Try combining them if you can (for example, folding laundry while watching a movie or listening to a book on tape). By giving yourself a deadline, you'll be more productive and when ten o'clock rolls around, you can do a quick sweep of the house and leisurely prepare for bed. By ten-thirty or eleven, you'll be in bed with the lights out. Put off your tasks until tomorrow. It might seem counterproductive, but once you do that for a night or two, you'll have more energy during the day to get them done faster and more efficiently.

2. Once you're in bed, go to sleep. Don't pull out a book or sit on your laptop and troll, just turn the lights out. If you do those things, you are much more likely to get distracted and stay up forever. Soon it's one in the morning and you wish you could take back the time. Read, write in your journal, use the computer--whatever you have to do--before you get in bed.

3. Feed your baby right before bed. For obvious reasons, if you do this, your little guy won't be waking you up moments after you've fallen asleep. Declan is usually asleep on the couch or in his bouncer before bed. I wake him up if I have to. I nurse him back to sleep and set him next to me. He could go the whole night without food (he doesn't wake up until morning) except that I need him to nurse in the middle of the night (which means I have to wake him up usually) or there might be a milk explosion.

4. Have everything you might need at night prepared and handy. Getting out of bed several times during the night is partially what makes moms so tired. To avoid that, I have a little container on our bed near our headboard which holds a few diapers, wipes, nursing pads, burp cloths, a pacifier, a bulb syringe, small flashlights, and my glasses. I don't have to get out of bed in the middle of the night because I have everything handy. If I accidentally get soaked, I just toss my clothes and wet burp cloths off the bed to deal with in the morning, and grab some fresh ones so I can go right back to sleep. If I had to supplement with formula, I'd probably keep a pre-filled bottle of water next to me and a little container of formula so I could just scoop it in and be good to go.

5. Have your baby sleep close to you. I know this isn't always possible if you or your baby are noisy sleepers, but I definitely think it's the way to go if you want more sleep because it's a time and energy-saver. Your baby is a few inches away if you need to nurse. You need only help him latch and you both can fall back to sleep. If noise is the reason you can't have your baby near you, I would try using a sound machine (or just an app on your phone) that drones out the little huffs and snores that babies make. Or just wait until you adapt. I feel like I instantly became a light sleeper once I had children. Also, just for background, I personally co-sleep with our babies because I do not feel safe with them far away. Tenley slept between Dalin and I until she was about six months. With Declan, we bought a changing pad mattress with a soft cover and we have that against the wall next to me. That way, he's a few inches off of our mattress, but close enough that I can sleep with my arm around him and grab him with ease when he needs to eat. Most of the night he ends up next to me on the bed anyway because of the next suggestion.

6. If you're nursing, learn to nurse laying down (side nurse). This is literally my favorite way to nurse. It's hands free, comfortable, and I can do something while the baby nurses (like read, type, text, etc) or I can just fall asleep. Plus I love snuggling up against my baby's body. I really feel like it helps us bond. It came naturally to both of my newborns, possibly because I started doing it from day one. I would definitely recommend learning to side nurse if you haven't yet.

7. Take mornings slow. Don't plan appointments or activities in the morning. Just sleep in as long as your children will permit and then feed them, eat something yourself, and then let the plans and errands begin. If you keep your mornings free, it gives you that freedom to sleep in without worrying about missing an obligation.

8. Start a routine. I mentioned that we don't have a routine for Declan yet. That is mainly because it has not been necessary since he sleeps all the time anyway. With Tenley, we began a routine once we moved her to her room at six months, then added to it more and more before she turned one. Her routine helps her to know that bedtime is coming. Her body tells her she's tired because she knows she goes to sleep after brushing teeth, reading scripture, and praying. Similar little triggers can help your little one, too. Babies don't necessarily understand the difference between day and night so it's important that you help them learn. As evening approaches, use dimmer lighting or fewer lights. Talk a little quieter. Do things in the same order (for instance, give a bath, change their diaper, swaddle--if you do those things). Once babies are a few months old, you really can let them cry it out to teach them to fall asleep on their own. It took three days of letting Tenley cry it out with times ranging from fifteen to thirty minutes before she learned that when we set her in her bed, she goes to sleep. It was not easy letting her cry it out. I would usually cry, too, and would have to do something loud like wash the dishes to drown out the sound. Fortunately, it gets easier, and it's a great feeling when you realize your child is okay and you've taught him or her how to go to sleep.

These things have clearly worked like magic for us, but like I said before, we might just have great sleepers. Still, these little tips have definitely helped keep them that way!

Good luck, moms! Wishing you much more relaxing and snuggly nights.


  1. what a useful list! i hate mornings and i hate being looks like i'll have to step up my game when we have kids!

    1. Me too, Julie...I'm a bear in the morning. If my morning goes poorly, my whole day is pretty much ruined, which is lame.


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