There are a few sentences that I can be guaranteed to get a bit of a backlash over. Whenever I bring up formula, any mention of attachment parenting…and the suggestion that we should rest as much as possible in the early days or when we’re feeling overwhelmed.
“REST?! Ha! What’s that?”
“I can’t rest, I have a toddler and a baby.”
“Nap when your baby naps is the dumbest comment ever.”
And I get it. Tell a mother to sleep when her baby sleeps and she might just ninja kick you. Or break down in tears and widely throw her hands around. This is because we go days without showering, barely getting time to pee and can’t remember when we last ate something that didn’t resemble a cookie or cracker. WE ARE EXHAUSTED and get to the end of the day feeling as though we did nothing yet at the same time did so much we didn’t have time to do anything. Yet we long to actually do something that makes us feel normal again. Like anything for more than a minute without being interrupted by a crying baby or our boobs leaking.
I have three kids and I’ve been pregnant a total of five times (two loses), so I know TIRED. I know exhaustion. I know breastfeeding through pregnancy, I know waking every hour to breastfeed, I know that feeling of being “touched out” and sick of breastfeeding. But I also know that whenever we are feeling overwhelmed with our baby, it’s usually because we are totally sleep deprived and NEED MORE REST! I am consciously NOT saying “need more sleep” because I actually think that yes, we need sleep but what we need to be focusing on is REST and ways we can get rest without actually meditating, rubbing oil on us and getting into our favourite pajama pants to take a two hour nap.
1. Get creative. I remember chatting with a woman of four children. She said when her kids were little she used to do research at night for a university. In the morning she would come home, her husband would go to work and she would literally collapse on the floor in the living room as her children played around her. This way she could easily keep an eye on them while also lying down and not moving. Genius. She left the washing, left the dishes, forgot about making an elaborate arts and crafts activity for her children and just STOPPED MOVING for the first part of her return home from work. Keep it simple. I did this a lot as a mother with a newborn. Lying down on the floor when you have older children is a great way to keep the older kids happy while also resting a bit with your baby.
2. Let go of your old ideas of the definition of rest. Yes, of course sleeping when your baby sleeps is the ultimate goal to actually getting more sleep HOWEVER it’s not a matter of having an hour long nap to be able to re-charge. Think small moments, ten minutes here or five minutes there where you just lie down and close your eyes. You do not have to actually fall asleep for a long nap to rest your body and brain. Just stop what you are doing and lie down, even if just for the first ten minutes of your baby’s nap. Put your phone down, turn off the TV and drift into a place of silence. Have other children? Refer to step one. GET ON THE FLOOR!
3. Be organized. Get into the habit of knowing what you are going to eat, wear and do the next day. Even if this list only includes a few meals written down and the words, “try to leave the couch at some point”, you will have an idea of what is happening and what you are eating. One of the best bits of advice that I got as a new mother? Do prep work for dinner in the morning. This is when kids and babies tend to be the happiest. Cut veggies, get things measured and be prepared early in the day. Then when afternoon comes and your toddler is screaming because they want to drink from the “blue cup” and your baby is cluster feeding, you will not have to worry about measuring out the ingredients for dinner or chopping the onion and carrot.
4. Two words: slow cooker. Throw a bunch of stuff in a slower cooker, turn it on, walk away, collapse on the couch while your baby sits in his bouncy chair for a few minutes. DON’T CLEAN THE DISHES.
5. Go easy on yourself. I didn’t do my hair for a decade. I never wore makeup, I stopped paying so much attention to how I look because that TAKES TIME! You will look beautiful even if you don’t have full hair and makeup. I know for myself, when I look good, I feel good! However it’s important to have a balance and recognize it’s OK to take a bit of a step back during this time. Your baby is going to think you’re beautiful no matter what. You are beautiful in sweatpants, with greasy hair and hairy legs. You are beautiful with bags under your eyes.
6. Don’t schedule too much into your day. In other words SLOW DOWN. Let’s be honest…WE DO TOO MUCH!! We schedule a bunch of things into our day because we go bat shit crazy of boredom if we stay home for too long. But remember that while it’s important for us to get out sometimes to keep our sanity, it’s just as important to cancel our plans if we are feeling overwhelmed and exhausted.
7. Don’t be afraid to ask for help. People want to help, they just don’t know how! Here are ideas you can give people so when they say, “Just let me know what I can do!” you actually have some ideas to give them. Click on this to download a copy. Plaster it on your door so people just happen to see it when they come over!
My book, “Boobin’ All Day…Boobin’ All Night. A Gentle Approach To Sleep For Breastfeeding FAmilies” is filled with suggestions on how to go about getting more sleep while continuing to breastfeed! Click HERE to check it out.