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Sleep Advice For New Parents

Why You Should Stop Telling New Moms to Sleep When the Baby Sleeps

When you're a new mom, well-meaning people will tell you things. Seemingly helpful things. They'll tell you their own tales of what it was like for them the first time they brought their bundle of joy home from the hospital. Sometimes they share these anecdotes for the sole reason to bring themselves joy — to revisit a long-lost memory — and other times they do it to genuinely be thoughtful.

Which is why, as a new mom, I can't for the life of me understand why people still tell me to "sleep when the baby sleeps." This run-of-the-mill advice isn't exactly useful.

Here's why being told to "sleep when the baby sleeps" doesn't help me.

I've heard it a thousand times.

If I've heard it a thousand times, you've heard it 2,000 times. So why would you want to tell me something so ubiquitous and ordinary? Tell me something that's super specific. A product you couldn't live without after you delivered. Like a butt washer.

Sometimes the baby sleeps for only 10 minutes.

That's obviously not the goal, but the oh-so-frustrating Moro reflex (that sudden jolt your little one does while snoozing) has woken up my child countless times after just a few minutes of napping. If I'm gonna nap, I need a solid window of time to actually nap.

I need to do things.

You're supposed to let chores fall by the wayside in the first few weeks and focus only on what's important: healing your body and bonding with your baby. I followed orders. I didn't move the car to the correct side of the street on street sweeping days, and I didn't bother opening up the mail for about two weeks. But I had doctor appointments I needed to go to (for me) and walks I wanted to take as part of my recovery. When my child was actually napping, that's when I'd ask my mom to watch her so I could get something done.

I can't sleep on command.

Can anyone do this? Are there people who can quickly transition from that exhausted-but-awake state to a drowsy one? There's an important distinction to make that advice-givers aren't recognising. Yes, I'm absolutely sleep deprived in a way that burns my eyes and forces me to talk to myself as I do things ("OK, I'm in the kitchen now and I'm going to open the fridge and pull out the juice") for fear that I'll end up just shuffling aimlessly around the house, but I'm also, unfortunately, alert. I don't want to be alert, but I was just holding and feeding my baby. So I was focussed. If I'm going to nap when the baby naps, I need some time to wind down and turn off my brain. Some quiet. Some Netflix. Some romance.

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