Last week, I received an e-mail from a blog friend who had recently become a mother and she asked if I had any recommendations for surviving these first weeks of being up all night with frequent feedings. I made a list for her of things that helped me during those trying early days, and I thought I’d also share those tips here, because I’m pretty sure she’s not the only one who’s ever struggled through these all-nighters.
1. Room in together. Co-sleeping was the most amazing thing ever. It helped us get more sleep during those early days when we were still figuring things out and really needed it most. We didn’t do it forever, only a month and a half before our baby was in her own room, but it was so helpful. Having the baby in our room made night time nursing sessions so much more convenient! I could just pull her into our bed for a quick side-lying nursing session and then move her back to her co-sleeper without as much sleep disruption.
2. Prep things before bed. Prep as much as you can for those middle of the night feedings before going to bed. If you’re using bottles, pre-measure bottles of breast milk and have them ready to go in the fridge, or if you’re doing formula, then have everything out and easy to grab in a zombie-like stupor. I would also prep diapers so I wouldn’t have to search in the dark. It sounds silly, but any steps you can avoid when you’re half asleep are great.
3. Get a red light bulb. When you’re getting up every couple of hours in the night, a red light bulb will be your best friend. In the early days when our baby was in our room and I wasn’t yet experienced enough at nursing to nurse in the dark, I’d always have to turn on my bedside lamp. I got a red light bulb for it, because red light doesn’t wake you up as fully as white light (something about rods and cones and science, blah, blah, blah). All I know is that it helps you not wake up as much and thus get back to sleep more quickly.
4. Avoid playing on your phone and stay focused. In the beginning, I tried to entertain myself during late night feedings by watching TV or puttering on my phone or computer. Don’t do it. You’ll only succeed in waking yourself up more which can lead to insomnia (trust me, it happened to me) and/or buying random things online. Once I stopped playing on my phone while feeding my baby, I noticed we’d both fall back to sleep much quicker.
5. Resist the temptation to talk. Make sure you’re all business during the middle-of-the-night feedings. No matter how cute your baby is, resist the temptations to talk to them. Don’t even make eye contact if you can help it. Go in, feed Baby and leave. It’s just business. Even if my baby was crying, I wouldn’t say anything. I’d just nurse her or rock her to comfort her until she calmed down. If I talked to her, it just got her excited and woke her up more.
6. Remember it’s not forever. Know that this doesn’t last forever, even though it feels like it. Some nights, it feels like you literally might die if you don’t get sleep, but you’ll get through it. It’s such a short time in the scheme of things, but that does not minimize the hard time you’re having right in the thick of it. Just be patient. Your baby is learning and so are you.