I have to admit I didn’t realize how important it was to find a BALANCE and when I say balance I mean balance in terms of scheduling and planning your day when you have a newborn. Do you feel like you have to stay home to stick to a routine or do you feel like you have completely lost your social life? Well, I was afraid of both of these things, but I learned I didn’t have to always stay home and I learned that I didn’t have to completely give up my social life either, I just needed to find BALANCE.
My son, my little precious bundle of joy was born in the summer, ahhhh how I love the summer, I love being out and I was really focused on ensuring that I wasn’t going to lose my mind and get myself into a deep spiral of postpartum depression so naturally I packed up the baby and left the house daily. The baby would sleep in the car, he was happily fed, and well rested, and I was a happy mom! A super happy mom!
What I didn’t realize was I was never offering my son the opportunity to fall asleep in his basinet, I shouldn’t say never but I wasn’t consistent with it. One day it was the morning nap, one day it was the last nap, etc. And as my son’s maternal melatonin started to wear off around 6-8 weeks, I ran into problems…. Big ones! He was more alert, more aware and way less sleepy, I mean way less sleepy… he just WOULDN’T NAP at home EVER.. or at least not for very long. I was adapting to motherhood and adjusting to being a stay at home mom, the Fall was beginning to set in, and truthfully I actually wanted to stay home, but my son didn’t. He would wake the minute I put him down in his bassinet and would only fall asleep in the car, this was fine for 1 nap but what about the other 3 naps? There was a piece to the puzzle that I was missing and I just didn’t know what it was!
Balance – the magic key! I had to find a balance and that’s what I didn’t know being a new mom. I didn’t know that babies need routines, babies have optimal awake times, babies need time on their mats to develop head and neck strength. I mean I knew this yes, but I didn’t know how critical it really really way. So how do you fit your ‘life’ into a new baby’s schedule. You find BALANCE because ultimately the new baby is part of your NEW life.
Suggestions for Achieving Balance with a Newborn
✓ Know and understand the developmental appropriate awake times for your baby
✓ Commit to one or two naps a day at home (the first nap is easiest, the last nap of the day is often the most difficult to achieve and is a great nap for taking on the go- safely of course!)
✓ Give your baby time to get to know his or her safe sleep space, give them an opportunity to get into their sleep space drowsy but awake and practise falling asleep in their sleep space at first with some of your help and gradually on their own
✓ Give your baby plenty of tummy time and time to explore on a mat or
blanket so they are not going to sleep under tired
✓ Expose your baby to natural sunlight when possible
✓ Ask for help from your family, if you need to get to groceries maybe
grandma can come over and watch the baby while he or she naps
✓ Schedule appointments and outings during awake times and schedule travel times during nap times. For example, if your doctor’s appointment is at 12 and your baby naps at 11 and you need about 30 minutes to get there, get in the car at 11 and take a longer route to your appointment
✓ If your in-laws invite you over for a 7pm dinner and you know your baby will be super overtired by then, suggest an 11am brunch instead
✓ Pick 1-2 activities or play groups to be part of during the week, but try not to have daily activities at different times everyday, this is likely going to make it very difficult to help your baby develop his or her biological clock in terms healthy sleep habits
✓ Be social – meet up with your friends for a coffee or lunch – just be
vigilant about your baby’s sleep needs – and know that some days the schedule and routine will be off and that is OKAY – but the next day get back on track so your little one is not going into a cycle of over-tiredness
Once I really understood the importance of awake windows and naps, I always committed to the first nap at home! On occasion, when I had a morning appointment, I would use my travel time as my little one’s nap time and I would include in my driving time the 15-minute falling asleep period. When I got to appointments my son was ready to be awake from his nap and I had a happy well rested baby who wasn’t fussy!
ON THE GO NAPS
If I had errands to run such as go to the grocery store or shopping mall I would also use my last nap as an on the go nap because it was always the hardest to achieve at home. At mid-afternoon, sleep pressure is at its ultimate lowest and so a nap is super difficult to achieve. I would do an on the go nap, use my awake time to shop and be back at home in time for feedings and bedtime routine! Yes – it takes planning and is far more complicated than when you could just grab your purse, lock your door and head out. Is this whole BALANCE thing EASY? NO!!! Not at all, but is it worth it…. In my opinion YES! Totally worth it! My son was on a predictable schedule that allowed me to ultimately meet all of his needs as well as my own schedule and social needs with some flexibility and adjustments along the way! After all, having a baby is a life altering experience all on its own, so we have to be prepared to make some adjustments with a new little human in our lives!
But I promise you if you find balance and respect your baby’s need for sleep you will be a happier momma and you will have a well-rested baby who will allow you to get a better nights sleep, and to me a good night sleep is GOLDEN for your little bundle of joy and for you!