How to Sleep When the Baby Sleeps

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Late in my pregnancy with Bean, the advice changed from how to survive my pregnancy to how to survive the first few months as a new mom. Without a doubt, the most frequent advice I heard was, “Sleep when the baby sleeps!”

Hearing that before I had any children, it seemed a little silly. Of course I’d sleep when the baby slept! What else would I do? But within one day of having Bean finally in my arms, I realized how much there was to do!

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For one thing, I’d had a c-section, and so I had to take care of my own healing body, but that would have to wait until he slept because I couldn’t change bandages with a newborn in my arms.

And there was the laundry. Oh, Lord! The laundry! Epic amounts of laundry because I insisted on changing Bean’s clothes every time he touched anything and because we went through so many blankets and burp cloths on a daily basis.

And there were other tasks, too, like sending thank you notes, cleaning up the house for the next round of visitors, and preparing meals. I started to understand very quickly why everyone gave that advice, but I still didn’t know how to follow it. With so much to be done, when would I ever sleep again?!

It really wasn’t until Gracie was born that I finally figured out how to sleep when the baby slept. The first thing I learned was to lower my expectations. I learned to accept that my house wasn’t going to be tidy and neat every day. Some days I managed it, but other days I didn’t. And on those days when the house looked like it had imploded, I just let it go. Because in the grand scheme of things, dishes in my sink or laundry piles on my floor weren’t the worst things to happen.

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Another tip I learned was to get “close enough.” Gracie was a colicky baby, and on days when she cried for hours straight, I settled with getting the laundry “close enough” to the washer, and so I’d collect all the dirty laundry from around the house and throw it into piles on the floor of the laundry room. And then (this is my favorite part!) I’d shut the door and walk away. I did the same thing with dishes. We bottle-fed, so I had bottles everywhere. And we ate when and where we could in those first months, so that always left a trail of dishes.

Then there were the guests who were stopping in to visit, which meant there were coffee cups and snack trays sitting out. Dishes were everywhere, and when I had a few minutes free, I started getting them “close enough” to the dishwasher. I’d make a sweep through the house with Gracie in one arm, collecting all the dishes and throwing them into the sink with the other arm. I’d get to them later.

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Getting “close enough” made my whole house feel neater and organized because at least the messes were contained in specific areas, and the rest of the house could be salvaged. That did wonders for my new-mom psyche.

In the evenings when Chris got home from work, he and I would work together to actually DO the laundry and WASH the dishes. Having that extra set of hands to help was such a blessing after long days at home with a newborn!

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The last thing I learned was to let people help – and not just Chris. When my parents offered to come over and help for an afternoon, I asked them to do some laundry. When my Grandma asked if she could come bring us a meal, I said yes (and I even let her do the dishes!). Before I had kids, I would never have asked someone to do my chores for me, and even with my first I had a hard time. But by the time Gracie was born, I learned that that’s just what people DO. Anyone with kids knows what position you are in as a new mom, and it makes us feel useful if you let us help. We feel like we’re passing the torch, and what a heavy torch it can be!

Using these simple little tips throughout your busy days as a new parent will actually free up some time for you, and you’ll be surprised that by the time the baby is ready for a nap,  so are you!

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