Let’s Talk About Sleep, Baby

Mamas, it’s another one of those weeks. Wait… it’s only Monday. Well, for you other SAHMs, it all kind of blends together, amirite?! Like I was saying, it’s been one of those weeks with a lot going on. I’ve been doing a little graphic design work, deep cleaning our house, and of course, taking care of the babe.

This past weekend the man, RJ, and I had a family day and went to the Annenberg Space for Photography for their Family Fun Day event. Since the Man works like crazy, this was truly a treat for us. And we topped it all off with a little lunch date at our favorite Mexican restaurant. It was nice to get out as a trio and be around other families. RJ loves seeing other kids too, they make his face light up like a little Christmas tree.

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RJ has his 4 month checkup, and my boy is growing like a weed. I’m not surprised, because I see him everyday, but everyone else seems so shocked when I tell them he’s only 4 months and some change. All I know is that my milk is doing it’s job. We also got the OK to start solids, but I’m going to hold off for 3 main reasons. 1. He’s not super interested in food yet when he sees me eating. 2. I plan on making his food so I’m buying myself a little time to make some in advance (recipes and product reviews to come) and 3. I’m kind of dreading real poop! The breast milk poo is still sweet smelling and i’m not looking forward to the funk that solid food brings.

Now back to the matter at hand, the glorious commodity that is sleep. This isn’t a complaint because I know ALL moms, working outside of the home or in it, breastfeeding or formula feeding, with help or without, are missing this precious thing we once took for granted. Every night, without fail, when RJ goes down, I am stuck with a very tough decision:

A. Stay up late and finish a couple other things from my to-do list
B. Lay down and try to get some sleep
C. Play Cooking Dash for an hour or so*
D. Watch RJ sleep because he is just too damn cute and I can’t stand to be away from him for too long
E. All of the above

*I admit, an hour or so, usually becomes the “or so”

The answer, dear mamas, is E. I literally try to accomplish all of this every. single. night. Call me a masochist if you want, but the truth is I’m a night owl so the truth is, my brain works a lot better when the sun goes down. I have more energy in the nighttime and when I eventually do hit the hay, my brain is still moving a hundred miles per minute so it’s not like I can actually just drift away to sleepytown.  In this regard, babies (and daddies) have it so good.

For the most part, RJ is sleeping through the night, but this week I adjusted his sleeping arrangement to be more like his crib for when we’re finally ready to make the transition (More on this to come). So this week he’s been awaking a bit more than usual. Anyway, what this means is that I have a solid chunk of 6 hours to do whatever I didn’t do during my day: clean, think, eat more, watch TV intently, blog, create, spend quality time with boo thang, and so much more and I always choose those over sleep, even before baby.

So, to be honest, it’s really not the night’s that have this mama feeling exhausted…it’s the days. I read somewhere recently that the days are long, but the years are short, and that really stuck with me. Even the past 4 months seem like just a flash in the pan, but those 137 days, now that’s a different story. Those have been long and arduous. I’m not a morning person, so my new 6:30am wake up call (regardless of how many consecutive hours he had the night before) is indeed a wake up call! Then it’s playtime for as long as RJ wants until it’s time for his morning nap. Yes, this kid has the right idea, everyone should fit a morning nap into their day. On a good, day, I can sneak one in with him before we’re up for good at 10am.

Once my day is started, I don’t stop. I get alot accomplished while wearing RJ in my Mei Tai carrier, but the boy is getting heavier and giving me a full body workout. He’s finally getting better at naps, but there are days when he wakes up not even 10 minutes after I get him down and then it’s back into the carrier we go. Those are the days where a task like cleaning the bathroom goes from 30 minutes to “oops I have to finish this tomorrow”. For the perfectionist in me, not being able to cross of those things on my to do list is one of the hardest things in the world. I get a true sense of joy seeing a line go through one of my list items. I digress.

That list is the key to my happiness (said no mom, ever), but also the reason why i’m so sleepy, all the time. I mean on top of caring for babe, I’m constantly adding to the list, trying to get more done, trying to keep a chaos free home for as long as possible until RJ is walking, trying to make my hours at home feel like “work”. I think there is some deeper psychological meaning to that, the wanting to sort of prove myself to outsiders that I’m not sitting at home on the couch all day eating chips and watching soap operas. So by the end of my day, I’m thoroughly exhausted but cannot just shut off with the snap of my fingers.

Studies have shown that even at 4 months post partum, mothers are still significantly sleep deprived. The fact of the matter is that after that many days with frequently interrupted REM sleep, your body and brain have been done a disservice. The funny thing is, it used to be so easy to get by on 5 hours of sleep in college, but these days, every morning is a genuine struggle that I never win. So this sleep thing, how do I get more of it? Here are a couple of tips I try to use, some more than others (1, sometimes; 2, never; 3, often if I’m being perfectly honest)

1. The golden rule of new motherhood– Sleep when baby sleeps. Unfortunately for me, that will never be right at 10pm when he goes down for the night. My family and friends all know, I can stay up until the wee hours without being phased. But, the key here is to get in naps when your LO does. If you’re a SAHM, I think it’s easy to feel like you have to do, do, do, but frankly, we have to take a time out for ourselves every now and then and take a refresher nap (20-30 minutes, at least). We can get back into June Cleaver mode when baby is awake and in the carrier.

2. Have your partner help you in the night– Honestly, this is easier said than done. Sure, in a perfect world, the dads would jump up at the sound of a whimpering baby and come to your aid, but we don’t live in that world, especially not in my house. The Man is a great father, but he sleeps like a rock (unless of course one of the dogs is heaving. Oddly enough, a dog about to puke will wake the heaviest sleeper up in a nano-second). But, if you’re lucky and your partner is enthusiastic about night waking, prepare a bottle for them and hand off that responsibility a couple of nights out of the week so you can get a full 8.

3. Side lying nursing – This is my all time favorite, but don’t try it until your LO has decent head and neck support. When you nurse on your side, and have chosen to co-sleep with your baby (Safety first!), this position lends itself to getting baby off to sleep without the threat of waking him when moving him to his napping spot, and will give you some comfort to maybe even fall asleep yourself. And personally, it makes me feel a little closer to nature. hehe.

In this sleep deprived state, I have done some pretty goofy things – put my clothes on inside out, put RJ’s diaper on backwards, almost picked up dog poo with my bare hand, and most recently, and shamefully, completely missed a scheduled coffee date with a friend, leaving him waiting for me for 20 minutes. That one I cannot laugh at, but it was no doubt because this mama got so little sleep the night before.

But at the end of the day, or the beginning, who’s keeping track, really? I couldn’t trade any of it for the world. Yes, I might graciously accept a trade off from the Man from time to time (*hint hint*), but when I stare at my little one through the crust in my eyelids, all of the worries of the world slip away, no matter how tired I feel and I know in a few short months (though the days will be long), my LO will be sleeping through the night and this mama will know what it means to sleep again.

So mamas, what are some of your sleep deprived (and hopefully hilarious, tales)? What are some ways you cope with not getting enough sleep? Spill it in the comments!



The Black Mama

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