Mythbuster Monday: “You’ll Never Sleep Again” — 9 Tips for Getting the Rest You Need

by Kristen King

This post kicks of a new weekly feature at Amateur Parenting: Mythbuster Monday. Each week, we tackle some of the crazy and often discouraging stuff people tell parents — especially expectant and new moms. Want to request a post on a specific parenting myth ? Contact us with your idea!

When I was pregnant, virtually everyone I met told me, “You’d better sleep now, because once you have kids you’ll never sleep again!” and laughed like “Neener, neener, neener.” There was no variation, except sometimes they laughed extra hard when I told them I was having twins.

To these jerks charming and helpful individuals, I wish to say, “Bite me.” And that’s for two reasons:

  1. STOP SAYING DISCOURAGING CRAP TO NEW MOMS. Seriously. Knock it off. I’m sorry you hate your kids so much, but the rest of us don’t necessarily feel that way.
  2. It’s not true.

Maybe I’m just #doingitwrong, but I am a new mom of 10-month-old twins, and I’m generally pretty well rested. And I don’t get much help at night, either. When Daddy-in-Training is home, he’s amazing and a true partner to me in parenting our boys 24/7 — but he ain’t around much because of work. Despite that, I typically get about 7 hours a night, which is about what I got before I had kids. Just now, it’s in two shifts instead of all in one shot. (Unfortunately I need about 10 hours a night to be at 100%, but I basically have never gotten that consistently in my life so let’s not blame that on parenting.)

Let’s be real: When you’re the primary caregiver to a miniature human who needs you for everything, you’re probably not going to get 12 hours of uninterrupted beauty rest every night. But that doesn’t mean you can’t sleep, and sleep well. Here are my favorite strategies for getting the most possible shut-eye with kids.

 

  1. Make sure your kids aren’t overtired. Otherwise they will wake up overnight. I know it’s counterintuitive, but the better rested your child is, the better he or she will sleep. Sleep begets sleep. There’s research backing this up and everything. And I promise, it works.
  2. Develop a schedule and stick with it. And I don’t just mean a daily schedule for your kids. I mean I schedule for you, too. Go to bed and get up at the same time every day. Your quality of sleep is much better when it happens at consistent times, and it’s easier to wake up and fall asleep if you do it at the same time each day. If you need help structuring your day, I love FlyLady’s routines.
  3. Create a sleep-friendly environment for yourself. You know the drill: dark room, cool temperature, supportive mattress, white noise, etc. Remember that habits like sleeping with the TV on are not going to get you the high-quality rest you need to function as a busy parent. University of Maryland Medical Center offers some great guidelines on developing good sleep hygiene.
  4. Divide the nighttime labor with your partner (if you have one). When Daddy-in-Training is home overnight, he takes the midnight to 4:30 a.m. shift and I take over at 4:30 and get up with the boys. This way we both get stretches of uninterrupted sleep when we most need it — me the first few hours after the boys go down and him the several hours before he leaves in the morning.
  5. Take naps. I don’t mean this whole “sleep when the baby sleeps” nonsense that is just unrealistic beyond the first few weeks of maternity leave, but scheduled naps once or twice a week. Going to bed early once or twice a week totally counts. I’ve been known to work extra hours after the kids go bed to make up for a mid-afternoon nap. I’ve also been known to plop the boys in their Exersaucers in front of their sign language DVD so I can get a 30-minute power nap on a Saturday. Princess Mommy’s kids watch TV, too. Don’t judge.
  6. Don’t be afraid to take desperate measures. After a particularly miserable 2 weeks of teething hell while Daddy-in-Training was out of town, I slept in the guest room with the white noise machine for 2 nights and left Daddy on full-time baby duty. I was considerably more pleasant after that. If you don’t have a partner available, bribe your best friend with a jug of sangria and check into a hotel for 4 hours.
  7. Breastfeed. Obviously it’s ideal when your child sleeps through the night, but babies are not biologically programmed to sleep that long until they’re over a year old, and sometimes toddlers need a snack overnight, too. (Read more about normal baby sleep.) If your kiddo is waking overnight to eat, the easiest thing in the world is to stick a boob in his or her mouth and go back to sleep. No prep, no cleanup, no hands required. Major sanity saver. And yes, there’s research to back that up, too!
  8. Cosleep.The safest place for a baby to sleep is in the parents’ room. For some people, that means in the parents’ bed. For others, it means a crib near the bed or a cosleeper attached to the bed.Whether you share a bed or share a room with your child, the shorter you need to travel to get to your kid in the middle of the night, the less awake time you’ll have at night. It also makes nighttime breastfeeding easier if the baby is already in or within arm’s reach of your bed. Learn how to cosleep safely.
  9. Be realistic. No matter how much stuff you “have to get done” before you go to bed, the most important thing is keeping yourself healthy and that means prioritizing sleep. That may mean sometimes saying no to stuff you’d like to do (like cleaning the whole house in one night) so you can say YES to the stuff you need to do — i.e., go to bed at a reasonable hour so you can function for yourself and your kid(s).

How has your sleep experience been with kids? What are your tips for getting more sleep? Leave a comment!

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Kristen King (aka, Mommy-in-Training) is a red-headed, glasses-wearing, wine-drinking, perpetually undercaffeinated twin mom who lives at 10,200 feet in Leadville Colorado, and founder of AmateurParenting.com. She and her husband, Jesse (aka, Daddy-in-Training) have fraternal boys born in December 2011, two dogs, and two cats. They are both endurance athletes. She works full-time from home in virtual training, and he drives the local school bus. Learn more and meet the rest of the AmateurParenting.com team on our About page.

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