Sleep is not easy to come by when you have a new baby plus a house full of toddlers, but these 7 tips will make it so much easier to find the moments you need for better sleep once you bring baby home.
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There are a lot of things about bringing a third, or fourth, or fifth (or sixth?!) baby home that are pretty awesome.
You don’t freak about stuff nearly as much. It’s not the end of the world if you have to give baby a bottle instead of breastfeed. You realize the police won’t show up when you let baby take a nap on his stomach this time. You’ve thrown out half of the baby stuff you thought were essential, (but were really just in the way). It’s so fun to watch the older kids bond with baby and “help out.”
You’ve got this.
Um, well, except for sleep.
There are at least five people in the house now, and everyone seems to have a mind of their own–and none of them operate on your preferred sleep schedule!
So, how in the world does a mom get some sleep with so many littles in the house?
Go to Bed Crazy Early
Sounds like a wish come true, right? Actually, I’m serious! When we brought our third newborn home, we still had a 3 1/2 year old and a 19 month old, and this was the one method that absolutely saved me. (You will need your partner’s help for this one, though, so it won’t be a great solution for everyone. )
I would feed our baby around 7 p.m. when he would naturally start to get sleepy, and then join in him our bedroom to get a head start on sleep for the night. While we were sleeping, my husband would bathe our other two kiddos and put them to bed. When baby woke up again around 9 or 10 pm to eat, I’d already had a couple hours of sleep under my belt. Because the night was still (kinda) young, it was easier to wake up for a couple more rounds of feedings during the night, and I still felt relatively rested by 6 or 7 a.m. when my other two toddlers woke up in the morning.
If your days are like mine, by the time you have three little ones running around, the chances of getting a nap during the day are hit or miss. In other words, don’t count on it. 😉 But the 11-12 hours I planned out for sleep each night usually ended up netting me between 6-8 hours of sleep total after feedings. It made it completely doable for me during the week. Granted, it wasn’t uninterrupted sleep–but it was sleep!
Sure, you may not get a ton of stuff done around the house with so much time dedicated to rest, but this is survival mode! And if every night on this kind of schedule is not realistic for you, maybe consider doing it for one or two nights each week. Every little bit helps.
Trade Nights On Duty with Your Partner
On the weekends, my husband and I would switch, and he would get up with the baby for a night or two in a row, while I caught up on blissful, uninterrupted sleep. I wasn’t nursing anymore at this point, so it was really nice to not have to worry about waking up for that. But if you are nursing, consider pumping for even just one feeding ahead of time. Or how about formula? (Love what a life-saver formula has been for us!) Even a 5 or 6 hour stretch of sleep can do wonders for a worn-out body.
This extra sleep was especially helpful after my c-sections. Nothing can really replace good rest when it comes to healing your body, and I think sleeping on my own one or two nights a week (see next tip) helped me to bounce back a little quicker. It definitely kept me saner and reduced the feelings of overwhelm.
Some couples who both go to work during the day will take turns getting up with baby on predetermined nights of the week. So, for example, Dad gets up with baby on Mondays, Wednesdays, and Fridays, and Mama gets up on Tuesdays, Thursdays, and Saturdays, etc. I’m sure that if my husband and I both had been working when we had newborns, this would have been a method we would have tried. It’s not totally practical if you’re a nursing mother, but you might be able to incorporate it at least one night a week or so by pumping ahead of time.
Sleep In Separate Rooms Temporarily
This is perfect when you are trading nights on and off with your partner. It allows you to truly get much-needed uninterrupted sleep for the night. Even just one great night of sleep can do wonders for the next few days!
My hubby actually slept on the couch on the nights he got up so I wouldn’t even hear our little one crying on the monitor or be disturbed by him when he got up for baby. (So kind!) Eventually, our three year old began wanting to sleep with Daddy on the couch too, and together they started calling it “Baby Duty.” Our three year old looked forward to Baby Duty on Friday nights SOOO much that they kept the tradition even after our newborn wasn’t waking up at night anymore! Even today, my hubby will still do “Baby Duty” with our boys from time to time because they love it–even though now it’s just a big camp-out session with Dad.
Get Everyone on Baby’s Nap Schedule
Once my third had a predictable nap schedule, I pretty much rearranged every child’s life to match it. So for us, baby would nap around 9 and 1, so that means all kids are napping at 1! Period. Yes, it was a huge adjustment and kids were cranky by then, but the absolute bliss of having some alone time or even the option for a nap (!) was awesome and so worth it! Eventually, everyone adjusted, and it was the one piece of life that felt like it had some predictability to it.
And I gotta tell you–I protected that nap time like there was no tomorrow. Mom coming to visit? Sorry, Mom, we HAVE to be home by 1 for naps. (She was pretty much ready for a break from my little circus by then, anyway.) It was so worth it to know that every day I had an hour or two for myself.
Try to Incorporate Moderate Exercise into Your Day
The stress of a newborn along with other needful toddlers all day can sometimes make it hard to relax enough to drift peacefully off to sleep when it’s time. And, seriously, what is more stressful or irritating than being bone-weary tired and not being able to fall asleep?!? And on top of that, knowing that you have to get up again in about 2 hours to feed baby??
I have found that making time to go outside a for brisk walk (or any other exercise) during the day does wonders to clear my head, reduce stress, and make it easier to physically relax when it’s time to sleep. Plus, if you bring all the little ones along, they’ll get a chance to expend lots of energy, and then everyone is just a little bit sleepier when it’s bedtime. 😉 Big plus!
Get a Color-Coded Clock for Your Toddler to Signal Wake Up Time
I want to personally shake the hand of whoever created the Mirari “Ok to Wake” clock that we used with our boys before they could tell time. It is such a perfect and effective way to train little ones to stay in their rooms or beds until the predetermined wake up time.
The clock works by glowing a soft green color only at the time you preset it to do so. Then, when your kids wake up at the lovely pre-dawn hour of 5 am, and you’ve juuuust put your newborn to sleep (finally!), you can train your kids to stay in their rooms or beds until the clock turns green.Yes, it does require the parent to do some training with their kids, but it is SO worth it (!), especially if you can start training them before you bring the new baby home.
The clock also serves dual purpose as a nightlight, and comes with a timer if you don’t want the soft light on all night long. Plus, it’s really cute. 🙂 The eyes will dance when you push certain buttons. We call it “the bug” in our house because it has two cute little green antennas, which can also be switched out for pink as well. Adorable.
Get a Dohm Sound Machine
This one is another life-saver that I don’t know how we would do without. The Dohm White Noise Sound Machine is . . . well, a white noise sound maker that is very effective in making it easier to sleep by blocking out other sounds around the house or outside. It has varying levels and volumes of noise that can easily be adjusted, and it is small enough to set on top of a dresser, bookshelf, nightstand, or even to place underneath the bed or crib. The sound is really pretty soothing–not annoying like some white sounds found on phone apps. I like how you can adjust the levels of sound, and we’ve had ours for at least 7 years now. It still sounds exactly the same and we use it every night, all night long.
It’s a great solution not only to help keep baby asleep, but also to help our older kids get to sleep when not everyone in the house is in bed yet. Netflix night for Mom and Dad? No problem. The kids will sleep just fine and not be disturbed at all by the television. Mom and Dad tired of hearing 6 year old talking loudly in his sleep all night? (true story) No problem again. 😉 I happen to be a pretty light sleeper, so any noises that my kids make will usually wake me up. But this sound machine really helps me to sleep past some of the more unimportant noises. Yet it’s not so loud that I can’t hear true cries that need my attention.
Remember That This is Just a Season
It’s so good to be reminded that everything in life is constantly changing, and nothing will ever be exactly the same as it is today.
Your 3 1/2 year old, and 19 month old, and newborn will never be these ages again. They will never relive this particular Tuesday, where you made pancakes and sausage for breakfast, went to Target, and stopped at the park on the way home. There will only be one first time that your 1 year old said the big new word he learned and your three year old showed you how fast he can run.
And someday soon, you won’t be getting up two or three times a night to rock your last newborn back to sleep.
So next time you get up for the maddening third time to feed that crying baby, as you are rocking him to sleep, try to memorize how those chubby cheeks look when they’re totally relaxed in your arms. Be sure to file away in your mental memory bank the tuft of hair that always sticks up on top of his head no matter what you do, and the way
his your favorite jammies look on his tiny little body.
You’ll be so glad you did.
Then go back to bed and get some sleep.
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