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Dear New Mom, Don’t Expect to Sleep

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Dear New Mom,

Don’t expect to sleep.

I know you’re tired. I know you’re spent. I know you’re exhausted in ways you never thought possible. But let me assure you, those dark circles will fade, your energy will eventually return and your baby will sleep. But, it might not happen tonight or tomorrow night or even next month. I know; that’s an ugly little truth no one told you in the excitement of baby news and shower planning, is it?

I’m going to let you in on a little secret: that expression “sleeping like a baby” is nothing more than an oxymoron. Let me tell you a tale to illustrate…Dear New Mom, Don't expect to sleep

Seven years ago, I became a mother. I worked from home and had visions of the baby sweetly sleeping in his bassinet in my office, while I typed away at my computer. Then reality hit. My precious baby boy came out of the womb crying and didn’t stop for months. And it took even longer for him to sleep. Okay, maybe that’s a bit of an exaggeration, but the truth is he did not sleep all night long for 13 months. Trust me when I say it wasn’t because we weren’t trying to encourage him to do so. It was just who he was.

His naps were always short, ranging from 15-45 minutes. Sure, if you held him or wore him, he would sleep longer, but life didn’t always permit that to happen. He seemed to sense the moment his back would touch the crib mattress and he’d wake up screaming. In fact, we wondered for several months why we’d even purchased a crib or dedicated an entire room to him because he certainly wasn’t using either one.

Dear New Mom, Don't expect to sleep
This was taken his 1st day home from the hospital. He napped in his crib for 5 min. And not again for several months.

Long story short, he finally slept through the entire night at 13 months of age. And you know what? That’s actually not unusual. Sure, there are some babies who hit that milestone earlier, but did you know that frequent waking is actually a good thing? For survival’s sake, babies need to wake often to feed and be changed. They need to feel the comfort and assurance from their parents. As their little minds and bodies grow and adjust, their sleep will lengthen. And so will yours.

Too often the stories we hear are from the parents whose babies started sleeping through the night at 6 months or 1 month or 1 day. I completely understand if you to want to punch those parents in the face. I have felt that way myself. Just know that the medical definition of an infant sleeping through the night is a five-hour stretch. Really. That sort of changes your perspective, doesn’t it? So, if your little one goes to bed at 8:00 p.m. and wakes at 1:00 a.m., that is technically “through the night.” Mind blowing, isn’t it?

I know you may have had visions of a sweet, slumbering baby in your mind…you know, the ones they typically show in diaper commercials. But that’s not reality. Well, it may be reality for about 5 minutes, but the truth is being a mom is way more exhausting than you could’ve imagined. But you will survive. You will make it through these endless nights and exhausting days. This is a season of life that will quickly pass, even though it doesn’t seem like that at 1:00 a.m. and 3:00 a.m. and again at 5:00 a.m. Your child will sleep through the night, but it might not come as quickly as you thought. Even so, it will happen. And hopefully before high school.

Dear New Mom, Don't expect to sleep
Getting him to sleep took time, effort, patience…and creative positioning.

I wish we could’ve better prepared you for how mentally, physically and emotionally exhausting this newborn stage of life is. I’m sorry that your life might not resemble those sweet slumbering infants in glossy magazine ads. But hang tight. Hold on. Rest when you can. You’ll make it. You’ll get there. It won’t be easy, but it will happen.

So, Dearest New Mom, nap when you can. Snooze as often as possible. Set your expectations low. Forget about the stacks of dishes, the crumby floors and the emails that should be returned. Your priority right now is yourself and your baby. Don’t expect too much of yourself and forget about what others might be thinking of you right now. If they want to judge your crumby floors, they can find the vacuum for themselves. And, have them throw in a load of laundry, while they’re at it.

This is a stage. It will pass. You’ll get there. Keep those expectations low. Hang on for now. Sleep will come in time.


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