Babies feed frequently and take up a lot of your time. The more you are prepared for this, the easier and more enjoyable your postpartum life will be. Today’s FAQs focus will be on – How does a tired new mommy get enough sleep so she can keep up with taking care of her baby? I am going to start with the simple things and least expensive things first and work my way up the ladder. I know I am talking to quite a diverse audience. You have different levels of support, different budgets, and some have more time than others to plan for pp. This is not a list of, this is what you must do, but rather ideas that you can use and make a plan that best fits your needs.
And let’s be real here too! We can prepare up the wazoo and we can work like the dickens to prevent some things from happening, but realistically speaking… sometimes life just gets in the way and things happen and we find ourselves in a bit of a pickle. We are going to address this too – because – life does get in the way of the best laid plans.
First things first: A huge dose of reality ladies –
Think about how you feel at the end of a typical work day? Let’s say your average work day is 9 hours. You are pretty pooped by the end of your workday and often need to stay motivated to run an errand afterward, or cook dinner or do some household chore or perhaps meet up with a friend or go to the gym. At least work ended and you don’t have to think too much about your job between dinner and the time you show up the next morning.
New babies – Well, they are a 24 hour/ 7 day a week, new job, so to speak. They require many hours a day of you caring for them. Let’s start with their feedings. In a nutshell, your new baby will take at least 14 hours out of every 24 hours of you needing to be with them, holding, feeding, rocking, burping, settling down. The 8 hours that you have calculated, are not 8 hours of sleep in a row that you are going to get, they are broken up in 1-3 hour increments.
Let me break this down for you – 8 feedings a day times 8 hours , 4 additional hours for diapering, burping, calming down, bathing, and perhaps more for holding a fussy baby that does not want to be put down. All this equals 12 hours. This is when things go smoothly. Add in a few more hours for really fussy, gassy, belly upsetness, spitting up all over their outift and yours and several big changes a day. Diaper blowouts take quite a bit longer for new parents to change and freshen up their baby. You will also likely have a few days where you are out of the house seeing physicians and this can be quite exhausting.
I promise you – as crazy as this may sound to you – This is a fairly realistic picture I have painted for you about what the early days of newborn parenting are like. I also promise you it does not always stay this way, however, if you are on board with me so far, I am hoping I am convincing you that if you think about having a 14 hour workday on a typical day, I becha anything you would be trying to plan for getting help with that 14 hour a day job! This is exactly why you hear some moms complain about how they did not take a shower for days, go the whole day without eating a decent meal and forget about making dinner.
If you have listened to me long enough, you know I am all about prevention. This is actually in your power to plan for your pp time and take action to ensure you enjoy it.
I am going to walk you through this simple exercise:
Make a list of all the chores you do on a daily basis.
Make a list of all the chores you do on a weekly basis.
Make a list of all the chores you do on a monthly basis
These include household chores such as laundry, shopping, cooking, cleaning kitchen, bathroom, vacuuming, mopping, making beds, watering plants, flowers, feeding pets, walking pets, paying bills, yard work.
Next think in terms of how long your mommy days are going to be and think about how difficult it is going to be for you to maintain these chores.
Which of these chores do you think you could be okay with not getting done during the 6 weeks postpartum?
If you cannot do these things, who would you assign these tasks to?
If your partner cannot do these things OR you don’t want your partner spending time doing these tasks, rather then spending time with you and the baby, who could you assign these tasks to? Family member? Someone else who will be staying with you?
What would it cost to pay someone to do these chores for you? For one week? For one month? 2 months?
Some advice from experienced mothers: We often think that our partners will take over all these chores and household tasks. Many of our partners are quite capable. Some are just not or you doubt you can count on them or they are capable but is this what you want them spending all their time doing. Doing all the chores of running the household. Will there be enough time to relax and spend time with you and the baby? They are also going to be quite exhausted and may not be up to the task either. Only you can answer these questions. But be real with yourself. Remember, you will be having at least 14 hour days and your main goal is to ensure you can get much needed rest to get through the early days and nights without exhausting yourself and being able to enjoy your baby.
Now that I have your creative juices flowing, here are some additional thoughts:
What is it that new parents say are their biggest stressors:
Meals, cleaning the house, getting some sleep, breastfeeding help and newborn help. These are the most common stressors that new parents have. I am going to offer suggestions on how you can help cover yourself in all these areas.
Based on your answers, you will decide what kind of help you need and what it will cost. Depending on your budget, you can decide how much you need to put aside for these helpers.
There is plenty you can do ahead of time, to help reduce the stress in the household that may not cost you any more money than you might have already spent. It is just that you are spending the money ahead of time rather then stretching it out.
Meals – Here is my best tips for planning on having at least 4 weeks of meals. More if you plan it right. Think about the dinners you are making now. Plan on making at least 3 dinners a week that you can double and freeze. In 4 weeks you will have 12 dinners of your favorite dishes frozen. If you start doing this 8 weeks before you give birth, you can have 24 dinners put away. Not enough space in your freezer, ask a friend or family member to give you some space in their freezer. When they come to visit, they can bring one of your meals. This does not take that much more time and it does not cost you over and above what you would have spent anyway.
Once a week, purchase a gift certificate to you favorite take out places. If you do that for 2 months, you have easily will have at least another weeks worth of dinners accounted for, again perhaps more if you have leftovers.
You now have 3 weeks, plus perhaps another full week, if you have leftovers. See how with a bit of planning you can take care of almost a months worth of meals ahead of time. And remember, having a decent dinner, is high on top of the list that is a common stressor for new parents.
One tip: If there is someone in your life that you are close to and feel comfortable enough to ask: Ask them if they can think of you and when they make a favorite dish, to double it and freeze it for you. They can bring it to you on the day they visit you. This will not cost you anything.
Meal delivery service: Most of us have now hear of these services such as: Blue Apron, Green Chef, Purple Carrot, vegetarians, vegans, gluten free.Look into them now, try it out to make sure you like their food. many have coupons for the first order. Plan ahead and you can now add another more meals. By the time you shop and cook for the food, the price that some of these charge is not really that much more than you might have spent making the dish yourself.
Remember: Having a nice dinner is on the top of the list of things new parents say that stresses them out.
Practical running of household:
Cleaning – perhaps you already have a housecleaner. This is in your budget. Then you have this covered. Good for you! If not, begin by asking friends for references and have them come to your home and get pricing. Go to Groupons or Living Social as they are always running specials. Buy it now and call and set up for a cleaning service about 1 week after your expected due date. Even if you have not had the baby yet, you will be thrilled to have someone else clean your house. Plan on having your house cleaned every 2-3 weeks the first 8 weeks.
Practical side of things: Make a list and shop for all the things you can do ahead of time. If you can purchase non-perishable items, such a paper plates, forks, spoons, diapers, wipes and other paper goods such as toilet paper and kitchen paper, towels, 2 months work, go ahead and do so.
Speaking of shopping: So many of the larger food store chains are offering a fabulous service of doing the shopping for you. You send them a list, they pick out all the items for you. You can choose to drive by the store at a pre-determined time and they will put the food in your car for you. You can also have it delivered to your home. I have looked at several different chains at the fee they charge for this service is actually quite nominal and when you have a hard time doing these chores, you will find it well worth it. Do some of the investigating ahead of time and find out where in your neighborhood you can access this service. You might find this comes in real handy after the baby is born. Perhaps to send partner to pick up on the way home. If you have never used this service before, start paying attention to coupons that perhaps you usually ignore. Ask friends or family to look for you. Many give some $$$ of for your first order. You can try out their service before your baby is born.
Laundry service: Also not a service I would typically think of using, however, I have lots of moms tell me how helpful this has been for them. I just did a quick check a few days ago and saw that quite a few of my local cleaners offer this service, the price is reasonable. Here again, check this out ahead of time and perhaps you might even try their service ahead of time.
Getting connected ahead of time, will save you time and reduce your stress.
Yes, some of these tips cost you extra money, some don’t cost anymore than you would have spent, but you are laying out the money ahead of time.
Most people who are planning for a baby, are spending or getting gifts of high ticket items, like strollers, and car seats and high chairs and swings and clothes and blankets and toys. Ask any mom what she would do different and she will say: hands down… less stuff and more money put towards helpers: cleaners, laundry service, take out meals, help with baby.
The earlier you start to plan, the easier this will all be. Some parents put aside $20.00 every week the second and third trimester. This is usually doable for most people and it really adds up. 24 weeks at 20 dollars is $480.00. You can do a lot with that money. And if you don’t wind up spending it, you can always put it away. Taking care of meals and laundry and shopping trips to the store and cleaning the house, you will be a much calmer and relaxed mom and you will be freed up to take naps when your baby does not need you for feeding.
Now some practical tips on getting through the early days:
You can rest and have the baby brought to you for feedings. sit upright ad use pillows to breastfeed OR breastfeed side-lying or laid back.
Learn about safe bed-sharing, room sharing and co-sleeping. This is the BEST way for you to get your sleep. Moms who bed share get the most sleep.
Always prioritize sleeping over chores. A 30 minute nap will be much more helpful to you than cleaning up the dishes.
Have a list of things that need to be done, that you can easily ask someone else to do for you. For example: stop off at a store and pick up items, medication, food, etc.
Really helpful suggestion:
Sometimes you just don’t feel the best after birth. If you are like me, you assume you will feel fine after the birth. However, what if you are extremely tired or sore or had a rough birth or a cesarean section and it takes you longer to recover than you ever anticipated. You are not moving as easily or as fast. You set up all the things in the nursery that you need. Which is great that it all is in one place, but is it convenient for you to get to it?
Think about what room in the house you typically spend the most time in now – reading, relaxing, watching TV. No matter how big or small your space is, I find that people tend to gravitate to one area of their place. It makes the most sense to set up a baby station in this area with all that you will need for feeding and changing and dressing your baby.
IF you have no family or friends available to help you after the baby is born, now is the time to look into a babysitter in your neighborhood. A trusted person who can come into your home during the day to watch your well fed baby, while you nap, eat, shower. Look into a postpartum doula who has experience helping new mothers postpartum. Here again, interview them ahead of time. I work with many second time moms, who did not take this suggestion to heart with Baby #1 and this is one of the first things they made sure they had in place for their postpartum the second time around. They really understood the huge benefits.
Lactation Consultant – Let’s not forget about the breastfeeding. By the time your baby is born, you may have spent so much money on baby related items that when you realize you need help with breastfeeding, there is no money to hire me to help you! Preparing for this with money put aside, will help you make that call for help. Do what you can ahead of time, to avoid financial concerns being an issue in getting yourself some help with breastfeeding. One visit will likely mean the difference in you continuing to breastfeed or stopping. Don’t let finances put you in a position of having to give up on something you dearly wanted.
At the very least, if you have not saved up enough money ahead of time, believe me, a family member who loves you will likely be very happy to cover the cost completely for you or be very willing to offer you a loan that you can payback as you are able to.
Last tip: Remember that your significant other is there to spend time with you and the baby too! If your SO is doing all of the work, they will be as exhausted as you are and leave little time to enjoy being with you and the baby. The time off work will be a whirl wind.
If you have noone else to help you out, except for your SO, my best tip would be to tell you to both not be up at the same time together, day and night. Let your partner sleep while you are feeding, changing, diaper, calming your baby. If your baby does not go to sleep easily, let your partner take care of the baby while you sleep. I find that when couples stay up together all the time, they are over the top, just exhausted together. This creates a lot of tension in the household and neither one of you are enjoying yourself. Whereas, if you tag team, one can get some sleep while the other is taking care of the baby. Both of you are tired parents, but not absolutely exhausted that you literally cannot see straight.
So, Please consider taking turns with your partner with naps during the day and sleep at night.
To wrap up todays show, my goal was to share tips on how you can help yourself cope with the early days of new mothering.
The absolute best way you can get in those precious nap times AFTER your baby is born, is by preparing AHEAD of time. Remember I said that based on feedback from moms, the biggest hurdles that get in the way of you getting sleep is: feeling the need to clean house, run errands, cook dinner, newborn help and breastfeeding help. You can see by todays show, that There is so much you can do ahead of time to ensure this happens, which will free you up to lay down, once you have finished feeding your baby.
Lori J. Isenstadt, IBCLC
Lori Jill Isenstadt, IBCLC is a huge breastfeeding supporter. She has spent much of her adult life working in the maternal health field. Once she became turned on to birth and became a childbirth educator, there was no stopping her love of working with families during their childbearing years. Lori became a Birth doula and a Postpartum doula and soon became a lactation consultant. She has been helping moms and babies with breastfeeding for over 25 years. Lori founded her private practice, All About Breastfeeding where she meets with moms one on one to help solve their breastfeeding challenges. She is an international speaker, book author and the host of the popular itunes podcast, All About Breastfeeding, the place where the girls hang out. You can reach Lori by email at: email@example.com or contact her via her website: allaboutbreastfeeding.biz/contact
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