Oh, the newborn stage. It’s joyful, overwhelming, pure bliss and crazy emotional all mixed into one. I remember my mom saying “don’t wish these days away because eventually you’ll miss them.” I totally thought she was crazy – I love my baby but how would I miss waking up every 3 hours haha. Honestly, I miss it. Maybe not the sleepless nights but I miss those little baby noises, the tiny features, that cute little cry. I’m so glad we took these photos to document. Per usual of Leo, he was alert and ready for his first shoot. Also, Anthony and I established a newborn sleeping arrangement that really helped us feel rested the first few weeks so I outlined that below too!
Photos by Jennifer Mathews Photography
OUR NEWBORN SLEEPING ARRANGEMENT
I wanted to share this because what started as having no clue what to do as new parents quickly became what best protected our sanity. If you’re an expecting mama or new mom, I hope this is helpful. If you’re a seasoning mom, I’m sure you know exactly what to do and feel free to leave your tips in the comments for the rest of us!
I remember when we got home from the hospital, I was so tired and as soon as we walked through the door, I was greeted by overwhelm. Yes you are so in love with your little one. Yes, it’s the most joy you could ever feel. But, for me… it was also one of the more overwhelming days of being a new mom.
I had places for my baby to sleep. I knew how to change diapers and swaddle. We had the hang of breast feeding.
I’m type A, overly organized, like things color coordinated. I understood parenthood would be very different from life as I knew it… I was mentally prepared for all of that to change. I could deal with mess and a new normal but I struggled not having a “system” for things.
THE FIRST NIGHT
I had this lovely picture in my head that the first night would be something like…
Anthony and I in our PJs. We would be in bed, watching our little one peacefully snoozing next to us. We would turn on the TV for a bit and then fall asleep together. We already knew that we both wanted to wake up in the night with the baby. We were going to be tired but we thought it would be fun to feed, do the diaper change and fall back to sleep as a little family. The next morning, we would wake up and have some caffeine. We would be tired but it would be okay.
We tried that once… and only once.
The first night, the 3 of us slept in our downstairs master bedroom. When Leo woke, we both woke. After the feed and diaper change, we took turns putting Leo down while the other tried to fall back asleep (and you’re definitely not falling asleep while in the same room as a crying baby going to bed).
The biggest thing I underestimated was how differently you sleep when you sleep next to a baby. You’re constantly listening for them and your sleep is so light. They make a noise and you jump out of bed only to find a sleeping baby. You’ve just woken your partner in the meantime. Now you’re both looking at each other at 3:50 am, thinking why are we both awake while the baby is sleeping. You’re somehow full of energy. You turn on the TV only to look at the clock at see 4:30 am. Now, you’re contemplating whether or not you should just get up for the day.
Anthony and I woke up the next morning and we were both cranky and exhausted. I think the longest stretch of sleep we got was like 1 and 45 mintues.
We decided we had to come up with a better sleeping system because two tired, unhappy parents wasn’t going to work in our home.
OUR NEWBORN SLEEP SYSTEM – taking “shifts”
With a little help from my mom, we decided that we would set Leo up in one spot and we would rotate around him. Leo’s mini crib was in our master bedroom so that’s where we decided he would nap and sleep.
Anthony was naturally a night-owl and I’ve always been more of a morning person.
We decided to split the night and take shifts. Anthony’s shift was from bedtime to somewhere between 2 am-3 am. Then, we switched shifts and I took over until morning.
To break it down…
Let’s say Leo “went to bed” around 8 pm. Anthony’s shift would begin and I could “check out.” Remember, Leo is sleeping in our downstairs master bedroom. I would go upstairs to the guest room and sleep. Anthony slept downstairs with Leo during his shift; Anthony preferred sleeping on the couch in the family room, which is next to our master.
When Leo would wake (let’s say at 11:30 pm), Anthony would bring me Leo, I would breastfeed and then Anthony would take Leo back downstairs. Anthony would then do the burping, diaper change, and get Leo back to sleep all on his own while I was already fast asleep.
When you’re breastfeeding, being able to feed in bed and then fall back to sleep because you have your partner to do the rest actually almost feels like you never really got up.
When Leo next woke – again let’s just pick 2:45 am – we would switch shifts. So, I would come downstairs and feed Leo. Usually, we would do this feed/diaper change/put baby to sleep together unless one of us was really tired then the other one would do it solo.
Now it’s my shift. Anthony goes upstairs to the guestroom to sleep and I would go back to bed in our master bedroom. So when Leo woke again at maybe 530 am, I would feed, change his diaper and put him back down. Obviously, there was no reason for me to wake Anthony so he would continue catching his ZzZz’s upstairs.
Whenever Leo next woke, we would usually all already be up together and our day would begin.
THE BEST BENEFIT TO SHIFTS: clearly, you can see by this that taking “shifts” allowed me to get 2 huge chunks of sleep back to back which felt amazing. Anthony then was able to sleep from 2/3 am as late as he could (or as I would let him haha).
BOTTLE FEEDING CHANGE: I think we waited until 6-ish weeks to begin bottle feeding. As soon as Leo was taking a bottle, Anthony would do that feed during his shift without waking me. Let me tell you… uninterrupted sleep for 6+ hours will change your life as a new mom.
Now, when you’re exclusively nursing, there’s a concern that your milk supply could dip if you skipped a feed. When we began doing this, I pump every AM after Leo’s first sunrise feeding and my milk supply didn’t at all suffer from this. I think it’s because I was giving my body the same milk quantity demand… it was just at a different time. Also, I only began doing this at 6 weeks when my milk supply was already well established. Obviously, you’ve got to do what works for you.
Honestly, Anthony and I will probably never ever do a full night of baby duty together. Taking shifts allowed us to get blocks of quality sleep. For us, protecting our sleep was most important as it allowed us to be even better parents and partners.
We have friends who 6 months into parenthood, wake up every night together to feed and change diapers. Do what works best for you. Let others do what works best for them.