Saturday, January 16, 2010


Don't underestimate how much sleep you need. Having a baby is different than when you were out partying pulling all-nighters and going to raves. Even the last stages of pregnancy often lead to insomnia. Still, no one is ever prepared for how deeply tiring it is to be a new mother. Of all of the adjustments that are required of new parents, sleep deprivation is the ultimate killer.

For the first few weeks after bringing the new baby home, energy reserves and adrenaline can protect from the full effects of sleep deprivation. You may not be sleeping for more than two hours at a stretch but we are so busy getting to know this new little human and so concerned that something terrible might happen to it when we're sleeping anyway that we don't' mind not getting sleep. Then, as the baby approaches her first-month birthday, and you have been deserted by your mother and your significant other, it occurs to you that this lack of sleep thing may not be ending any time soon. A sense of panic starts climbing up your spine and over the top of your skull and you start to panic. Relax and breathe. Like I mentioned in other writings, when you can call in a favor for a baby sitter even for a few hours, take a nap. Don't run errands or clean the house. You need to sleep. And, don't panic. The baby's sleep paterns will change, often dramatically in a little while and it will get easier. The best thing to do is erase from your mind all of the expectations about how babies are 'supposed' to sleep because each baby has its own unique style and even more important, because there will be many things that happen in her early life that will affect her sleep patterns. Getting your child to learn to sleep through the night at three months has no effect on how she will be sleeping nine months from now when she's walking and finds her crib more like a holding pen.

So how much sleep do you need? It turns out that we really do need about eight hours of sleep a night just like you've always been taught. If you are sick, under unusual stress or recovering from injury or surgery you may need even more sleep. Brand new mothers are almost always a little sick, they are definitely stressed out and recovering from anything from a C-section and they are lucky if they get two stretches of two hours of sleep. Also, studies indicate that you need to get eight consecutive hours of sleep a day, not a one-hour catnap every three hours. We depend more than you now on going to bed at night and getting out of bed in the morning to offer structure to our lives. Even the simplest things become mysterious and confusing when you lose that daily punctuation.

We are really so unprepared fro the chaos that a baby brings that we react as though something has gone terribly wrong. If we are not sleeping, if we can't seem to get a shower in, if we feel crank and overwhelmed, somebody must have done this to us. Our plan for motherhood was a graceful transition in which we redirected our organizational and management skills from our jobs outside the home to the relatively simple tasks of taking care of a baby inside the home. In our minds it did not include feeling out of control, unprepared and overwhelmed. No one ever really explained to us that motherhood is like a cruel race. There is no start and no finish, you just run in circles.

The truth is, the birth of a baby is supposed to blow your schedule to pieces, even if it nearly kills you and your significant other. This si nature's way of making sure that we get our new priorities straight. The three most important things are the baby's health, the baby's comfort and the baby's parents' survival. lol Hang in there. I know you're tired and seems like you won't through this but you will. you may want to also consider investing in an over-sized bean bag chair, no one can resist how relaxing they are! Now go take a nap! Sweet dreams!

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