There’s nothing more shattering than the first few weeks of motherhood. After living through them three times, I can confirm that the sleep deprivation never gets any less horrific. But I have found ways to make those night feeds a whole lot more tolerable…
My thinking is that you want to spend as much time in bed as possible… even if you aren’t sleeping. So you’ll need to have everything you need for the night at arm’s reach… nappies, wipes, muslins, towel (for changing nappies on the bed), spare baby gros, and clean breast pump and bottles (if using).
If you’re pumping, invest in a some kind of freezer bag (this one is good!) so you won’t have to take expressed milk to the fridge until the morning and if feeding formula, Aptamil’s pre-mixed bottles are great.
Invest in the softest sheets and the comfiest pjs or nightie. Have plenty of pillows ready if you’re breastfeeding and tie your hair back off your face. If possible invest in a bedside cot, so you will just have to reach out of bed to get your baby. I have a Chicco Next2Me with a Sleepyhead mattress inside it which works brilliantly.
If you’re using a chair to breastfeed, wear comfy slippers or socks and make sure you have lots of cushions to support both your back and the baby.
Keep the lights low
I try to keep the room as dark as possible when night feeding as otherwise I can’t get back to sleep! It’s also supposed to help the baby learn the difference between night and day. I’ve been using a portable, dimming night light, which tucks in behind my pillow and means I don’t have to turn on any other lights. I also wear an eye mask as I can’t cope with these light mornings!
Make sure you have loads of lovely, fresh, cold water beside your bed. Breastfeeding is extremely dehydrating and you don’t want to be getting out of bed for refills.
Try not to stress about sleep (or lack of it!)
It’s amazing how little sleep you can cope on. Focus on the next best thing: resting up in a cool, dark room with your gorgeous baby. Remember this stage doesn’t last forever – everyone sleeps through the night in the end!
Don’t worry about creating bad habits
If the only way your newborn will sleep is cuddled up next to you, run with it. I wish I’d allowed this with my other children – I’d have got a lot more sleep. People will tell you that you will never get your baby out of your bed but I’ve found Horatio, now 3.5 months, already settles happily in his cot (and I miss the cuddles!). Just remember to follow the most recent advice on co-sleeping.
Get some space
Equally, if your baby is keeping you awake by snoring or grunting when they are sleeping, set up a monitor so you can go sleep in the spare room if needs be. You can always slide back into bed next to them when they wake up for a feed. Of course ultimately you might find that everyone sleeps better if baby is in their own room but this initial measure is a good first step.
Go it alone
If your partner has to get up early for work, suggest they sleep in another room. There’s nothing worse than trying to feed a baby with someone sighing next to you in the bed. You can swap roles at the weekend, just make sure you train you partner (and your baby) to use a bottle.
Embrace the siesta
I’ve never been a big fan of day time sleeps… I want to get on with stuff…. but I’ve found that even a 20 minute lie down during the day is so healing when you’re getting up during the night.
Ask for help
If it all gets too much, talk to your partner/ mother/ friend as there are always ways to make the nights easier.
When I became desperate when the baby was around 6 weeks, my husband started doing the first feed of the night as a bottle between 11pm and 1am. So long as I went to bed early enough, I was able to get a good stretch of sleep before he woke up again between 2am and 4am. (Unfortunately this little ritual died out when the baby started sleeping longer stretches!).