You’ve finally done it! You’ve achieved the next level of parenting: getting your baby to sleep through the night, and you’re back to your regularly scheduled sleep. It doesn’t matter if you’ve set them up in their own room, co-slept, room shared, or any combination thereof – they’re finally sleeping, which means YOU are finally sleeping.
The next thing you know, your breasts start to ache; your blissful morning coffee becomes the most nauseating smell in the world; your body starts to grow, and 9 months later you find yourself with a beautiful, fresh, sweet little bundle in your arms. Again. After the adrenaline and excitement of your baby’s birth has settled, the realization that you’ve hit the “Empty” button on your newly acquired sleep tank sets in. Oh crap, what now?
There is going to be a period of time where everyone in your home needs to adjust because of this big life event that just happened. Your body will need time to recover, your partner will be helping out the best they can and in the ways you need them to, and your only child – now your oldest – will learn they need to share you with the baby. The first few weeks will be the hardest for you because not only is your body recovering from giving birth, but you’re also dealing with the pure exhaustion and sleep deprivation that comes with caring for a newborn. Here’s a pro tip: you’ve done this before. You CAN do this again. You WILL survive this.
Getting to know each other
You have a new little roommate, a sweet someone to share your room, your space, your home, and rather than the inside they will share the outside of your body – your skin for snuggles, your lips for kisses, perhaps your breasts for milk. You will get to know their cries and their cues. You will learn what things they like, and what things they don’t. You will use a variety of techniques and devices to provide comfort and sleep. The best advice I can give is to try them all, and treat yourself with kindness and patience.
Make a plan
You’ve done this before, but I guarantee going from 0 to 1 child and from 1 to 2 children will be very different. Take what you learned from your first postpartum experience and turn it into a plan for success. Consider the following ideas to get you started:
- Support – Who is going to support you? Will you hire a postpartum doula? Will family members step in?*
- Nourishment – Can you meal prep in advance for quick freezer meals and snacks?
- Environment – How will you keep warm while you recover? Do you need to rearrange furniture?
- Professional help – Did you struggle the first time with PMADs? Did you reach out to a care provider or therapist? Did you require medication?
*Be very clear in your discussion with your partner about what exactly you will need help with once your newborn arrives. Visitors can wait until you’re ready to have them over, so for the first little while choose family or friends to come over that will actually help you in the ways you need help (grocery shopping, child care, food prep, etc.).
Have a routine
Sleep trainers will tell you not to start official sleep training routines before 4 months of age. At this age, your baby is able to have longer stretches between feeds, and their circadian rhythm (sleep at night and awake during the day) is starting to develop. This does not mean you can’t have your own sleep routine before then! Doing certain activities at the same time every night will help prime your baby for sleep, activities such as a bath, a massage with lotion, dimming the lights, reading a story, feeding, etc. Not everyone will need a sleep trainer, but they are a great resource in the community and it is always a good idea to reach out if you’re experiencing getting your baby to sleep.
There’s no magic number
I’m sorry to say, there is no magic number that exists as the marker of when you will start sleeping again. The most comfort I can provide is to say each baby is different, and no one will know your baby better than you.