Moms of newborns need as much sleep as they can possibly get. Just the recovery from delivery requires a significant amount of rest in order to heal and recuperate. But she’s immediately thrust into arguably the most demanding job there is, in caring for a newborn. The physical and emotional energy needed to care for a baby must be replenished, and sleep is the key ingredient in that.
Moms need extended periods of time where they can shut down, mentally, physically, and emotionally. Everyone understands this and agrees with it. However, many moms experience real obstacles (beyond caring for the baby) that interfere with getting the rest they need. Sleep when the baby sleeps? Here we look at the two most common factors that interfere with mom’s ability to do that:
Obstacle #1: But I need to…
Bottles need to be washed, laundry needs to be done, I have to pump...
Any mom’s “to-do” list can go on and on, filled with many important items. The requirements of keeping a family and a house running are numerous and exhausting in and of itself. These necessary chores frequently compete with a mom’s ability to rest, and too often, they win.
Strategy #1: Ask for and accept help.
Many new moms have a difficulty accepting the help that is offered to them. Women who have been self-sufficient and adept at handling all of their obligations and responsibilities, expect the same of themselves in motherhood. Some moms are worried about being a burden to others. Some moms feel the need to prove to themselves, or others, that they can do it on their own.
People want to help. Family, friends, and neighbors take joy in the arrival of a new baby. Or think about where you can cut corners…ala disposable plates?
Strategy #2: Break the busy habit
Benjamin Franklin is quoted as saying, “Don’t put off until tomorrow what you can do today.” Motherhood may be better approached with “why do today what you can put off until tomorrow?”
The shift from career to mommyhood can be a drastic shock to the system in many ways. One of those is losing work as a source of accomplishment, fulfillment and satisfaction that comes from performance and achievement. Consequently, new moms may find an indescribable void that they don’t realize they are even trying to fill. Moms may use the busyness of housework to attempt to scratch that itch.
The problem is: it never will satiate that need. There will always be dirty laundry. The kitchen floor that was just swept will immediately be littered with crumbs following the next meal. It’s a hamster wheel that has no finish line of completion.
Instead, look for ways to find that fulfillment elsewhere. If you need help in determining where those sources are, take the time to do so. Just know, it won't be found in the washing of baby bottles.
Additionally, distress tolerance goes a long way. Learn to live with crumbs. I think that might be the key variable to happiness in motherhood: the ability to lay on the floor with your child, hearing only her laugh and not notice the clutter and chaos surrounding you.
Obstacle #2: I can’t relax. Even if I try to, my mind is so busy.
Many mom’s say that when they lie down to try to relax, their mind starts racing, their thoughts keep them awake and feeling restless. They end up getting up to either escape or chase those thoughts.
Strategy #1: Pay attention to those thoughts
Being occupied in the activity of caring for a baby can occupy your thoughts, keeping your brain as busy as your body is. Lying down might be the first opportunity your mind has to give attention to these pressing matters.
Take a notebook or journal (yes, paper and pen) and write down the thoughts that come in those quiet moments. They are important and need attention; we just want to give them attention at the right time. Once identified, give it attention during your wakeful time. Determine when in the day and with whom these thoughts will get the attention they need and deserve. We are telling our thoughts where to go. We are putting boundaries on when we give them attention, but making sure that we do in fact give them attention.
Strategy #2: Think the thoughts you want to think
Be purposeful with your thinking; direct your attention to the thoughts that create the mood you desire. Emotions and memory are very closely connected. When we think about memories of calm experiences, we will generate a current calm experience.
This means we also need to pay attention to when we are having moments of calm and other valuable experiences. We need to give attention to every sensory detail to establish and cement the memory strongly in our brains. This makes it easier to access in the future when we need it. When we become more adept at directing our thoughts throughout the day, it’s easier to do so when we need to quiet our minds to lay down and take a nap.
Instead of letting our thoughts run wherever they choose – like a toddler given no direction – it will be a mess. Give your thoughts guidance and they will (be more likely to) behave as you desire.
I'm a mom of four children, a wife, and a Licensed Professional Counselor. My parenting life helps me be a better counselor, and my professional experience helps me be a better mom. Both allow me to be creative, to learn and grow, to make mistakes, and to rarely sleep. I love the beach and gardening, reading if I can stay awake, running (which these days is after my kids and not much else), and using humor through it all!
DISCLAIMER: This site is designed for educational purposes only and is not engaged in rendering medical advice, legal advice, or professional services. If you feel that you have a medical problem, you should seek the advice of your physician or health care practitioner.