I love sleeping. Before motherhood, napping was one of my top three hobbies. Having a baby changed the game, but newborn sleep training saved my sanity.
When I became pregnant, my biggest concern (besides labor and delivery and how to even take care of a tiny human being) was lack of sleep. I slept late and napped as often as possible, telling myself it would be at least 15 years before I’d be able to do so again. My mom generously offered to hire a night nurse for us, but I declined. I knew I wanted to struggle through the early days myself and create precious, late-night memories with my little newborn baby, and I’m so glad I did. I did, however, quickly realize that I needed a plan and more sleep than I was getting after the first week.
We set up a Pack N’ Play with a bassinet in our bedroom, but neither my husband nor I got much sleep that first night home. It was my feeling that it would be better (for our marriage/as parents/as a functioning human) if at least one of us was sleeping through the night, so the baby and I moved to her nursery where, thankfully, there was a daybed for me to sleep on, not that I did much sleeping. After the first two weeks, I knew something had to give because I was barely getting by. While talking to my grandmother on the phone, she asked how I was doing, and I started weeping (hormones + sleep deprivation!). I was exhausted and constantly crying, pretty typical for new moms, but I knew I’d be a better mother and wife if I was getting more sleep.
I researched and found an article that had a few recommendations on how to split newborn parenting duties, and the one that worked for me and my husband was taking shifts. He took over baby duties from 8-11:30 PM, and I’d try to get some sleep, then we’d switch. I had night duty until 5:30 AM when he’d take over until 8:30 AM so I could pump and nap. This schedule probably wouldn’t have worked for us if it hadn’t been at the height of the pandemic; we were on lockdown, and he was working from home, and business was slow.
For the first eight weeks, most of my time at night was spent in our very comfortable recliner with my baby in my arms. Our nursing sessions typically lasted an hour, and then she’d sleep for an hour before waking up to nurse again. She would wake as soon as I put her down in the crib, so I ended up holding her to my chest while she slept. I was too afraid to fall asleep cradling her, so I kept myself awake by watching British period pieces on my iPad (I even began to regret not naming her Demelza #ifykyk). I also did a lot of Googling about what was normal, not normal, what the hell I should be doing in X situation, how to practice newborn sleep training, etc.
I’d heard about Taking Cara Babies (@takingcarababies) and read Moms on Call (@momsoncall) before I had my baby. Moms on Call had beneficial information about schedules, common illnesses, and how to stock your medicine cabinet. Cara’s gentle approach and her comforting personality present on her Instagram page won me over. Luckily for me, my daughter turned out to be a good sleeper, and I credit a large part of that to @takingcarababies. I purchased her 4-5 month ebook and, later, the ABC’s of Sleep. I found it helpful to have resources and a plan to implement, from knowing your baby’s wake windows to methods and products to help transition the baby out of the swaddle. She started sleeping 8-9 hours a night and dropped night feedings around 14 weeks (I credit this to a big bottle before bed). At six months old, she was sleeping 10-12 hours a night and sleeping so soundly that I moved out of the nursery and back into my room.
There have been painful regressions (my friend was startled to find me half-naked, boobs out with baby sleeping in the bathtub–the darkest room in the house–when we visited during her five-month sleep regression). I know we will face more regressions, but I feel confident knowing I have a plan of action to take when it happens. And I’m enjoying 11-hour stretches of peace and quiet, and I am so grateful for a happy, rested baby.
About the Author: Lucy Mabry
Lucy Mabry is a mother, wife, and secondary educator. After a brief stint in the Big Apple, she returned home to Texas and began her teaching career to create authentic human connection and appreciation for a good book. Lucy is committed to the motto “leave it better than you found it” in all aspects of life. Through her actions, she hopes to inspire others to lead more sustainable lives, make healthy choices, and read more books! She is also a part of the Wild & Pure team!!