Advice you should keep for yourself and why parents will learn on their own when it is the best time to get their sleep
When you become a new parent advice from outstanders is most likely inevitable. And while every advice is well-hearted for sure and some can even be life-saving, sometimes certain advice can be irritating and even annoying.
‘Sleep when your baby sleeps’. Words that would drive me over the edge. Words that I always hear around new parents.
Don’t get me wrong, sleep and rest is the number one thing you deserve as a parent. But in my opinion it simply does not work for the majority of parents. It does not only make assumptions about the baby’s sleeping behavior but also does not really take into concern the huge change in lifestyle a new parent has to go through.
So here are all the good reasons why you should never give this deeply frustrating advice to new (and old) parents.
Your are assuming the baby actually sleeps
Baby sleep and especially newborn sleep is the most unpredictable thing you will have to learn to cope with as a new parent. Never knowing how long your little one will doze this time, frequent changes to their sleeping behavior and the dreaded catnappings. Things that will crush the even most prepared parent.
Some babies only sleep in carriers, other only in their stroller. Mine would not even let me sit down while holding them. Not to mention that naps can go from 15 minutes to 4 hours.
And if your baby sleeps in their crib, your little one might just wake up the minute you have snuggled into your bed and closed your eyes for a split second. And there is really nothing more frustrating and mentally drowning than getting up from a not even started nap.
Self-care is extremely important
Parenthood can struck you like a lightning. You love it and would not trade it for anything in the world but adjusting to being responsible 24/7 for a little human being can be overwhelming. You are giving away most of your freedom and it is only natural that you need time to cope with this new situation.
And since it is difficult to integrate me-time or self-care while little one is awake, the only time you can take care of yourself is actually when they are sleeping. So it is just human that you would rather trade that sleep with time that is yours. And it doesn’t matter how you spend that time. You decide what you want to do. It gives you back some sense of control over this uncertain and still confusing time. So this may be what you actually need instead of a 9 am nap.
Something called postpartum insomnia
Although you might be up all those hours of the night feeding your baby that might not the only reason you are awake or have trouble falling asleep. Postpartum insomnia is a real thing and especially affects many new mothers. There is this euphoria about new motherhood and at the same time the constant worry about your baby. The feeling that your baby will wake up any time now so why even bother trying to go to sleep. Somehow a nervous energy builds up around you that just makes it so difficult to either fall asleep or stay asleep. And in those cases the naps you do actually take do not really feel restorative but rather take a toll on your nerves.
While the idea of falling asleep any time your infant is sleeping sounds really blissful, the truth is that you cannot program or force your body and mind to fall asleep on a dime, especially during this new part of your life. At some point this will get better but every mother (and father) needs their own time to get there.
You have zero other responsibilities
As new mom we know that cooking or keeping the house clean should have no priority now and we should have to lower our expectations around things that have nothing to do with the baby. But the reality does in fact look different. You may have other children at home to look for, the laundry does need to be done at some point and how often can you really eat takeaway? Of course, these are not things that we always need to go right away but there are simply things that need to be done and some of them are even daily tasks.
So what I want to tell all of you, parents, grandmothers and even new dads, please keep that age-old and impractical advice for yourself and never ever tell a new mom (and/or dad) to sleep when the baby sleeps. Let them complain about how tired and at the same time mindlessly surf the internet or social media. Because that is simply what they need to do right now.