Several years ago I wrote about a Mother’s Rights, the first of which is:
You have the right to 8 hours of sleep every 24 hours.
And here it is in a handy image:
Ladies. Please don’t do what I did and think that you will catch up on sleep when your child is done night nursing or done co-sleeping or done teething or through this growth spurt or entering middle school.
Good sleep is necessary for good health. It just is. Everything from skin to metabolism to immune system to mood to heart health, blood pressure, learning and memory, and pretty much every aspect of how we operate in the world.
Ideally, when expecting a child and creating your birth plan, you are also creating your sleep plan and how you plan to get sleep after your baby arrives. Err on the side of caution and assume your babies will be like mine where they wouldn’t sleep without nursing, being held, or being rocked for the first several MONTHS. Followed by night nursing that continued for several years and then a second child who had major sleep problems due to sensory issues.
It is likely you will need support. You will need to nap. You will need to laugh. You will need to line up some local resources and look into what night services are available in your area and which relatives and friends are willing to help out.
I loved the advice of my lactation consultant who said this: After you give birth, for the first few weeks, do not change out of your pajamas until after you have gotten 8 hours of sleep. The day looks like this: baby nurses, mama eats, everybody sleeps. Repeat.
Please know that in the coming months if you are planning to sleep train your baby, it sometimes does not work out and it is not your fault. And it is not your baby’s fault. I know of some babies who, while attempting to sleep train, would cry until they threw up. Or who would cry for two hours or more night after night after night. Babies are people and need different things. Likewise, you may end up needing something different than what you can predict. But one things you will need, without any doubt, is a reasonable amount of sleep.
For a short time, things like baby swings and co-sleepers were helpful too. Though baby sleep books were not helpful for us, a lot of my friends found them extremely helpful, as well as consulting with local sleep consultants.
In my opinion, getting a decent amount of sleep is a basic human need that does not disappear simply because you have a new life to care for. Work with your partner, take time off work or shorten your days so you can nap if you need to. I’ll explore other options for getting sleep in a future post, but for now, know that sleep is your right to claim…so claim it.