Sleep when the baby sleeps.
How often have we new mothers heard this phrase? I heard this from someone or the other practically every day of my pregnancy. And, I didn’t think I would have any problem following this napping advice given how much I love to sleep. In fact, you could even say I took this advice to heart way too soon and started compensatory napping while I was pregnant itself!
Once M was born, I continued to nap when he did whether it was in the day or evening because I was staying with mum and had only one job – keep baby fed and clean. Thanks to this, my body recovered faster, M slept longer and we were both happier people to be around.
Sadly, this piece of advice went out the door after the end of 60 days when I moved back home and came crashing back to reality.
Now suddenly I had to juggle between taking care of M, clearing the house, supervising my business, expressing milk, staying regular with my writing and a million other things that I just seemed to have tuned out in the early happy haze of M being born. After all there is a limit to how long you can use the “I’ve just given birth” card.
Hence, the time that M napped became the golden hour when I could make a small dent in my never ending to-do list. I started reading up on productivity articles and even made comprehensive lists so I wouldn’t waste my time ‘thinking’ what needed to be done when he napped and simply got down to doing them.
As if sensing that I was on a mission, almost immediately M dropped two of his daytime naps and the one that he did take went from being an hour to only being twenty minutes long. What can you achieve in 20 minutes? NOTHING. Because it take me 6 of those 20 minutes to simply sneak away and by the time I started on a task in the remainder time, he’d already be ready to wake up.
Forget about becoming a productivity machine. It was the opposite! Since M wasn’t getting his rest, he would be more clingy the rest of the time and since I wasn’t getting any time to do what I love – or even time to keep the house in a manageable state of cleanliness I would be grumpy, frumpy and unable to enjoy the time we had together. Moreover, since he still isn’t sleeping through the night and I wake up multiple times a night to feed him as well, those black rings around my eyes seemed to take up permanent residence.
I went from being a happy mom to an unhappy frumpy mess.
And then one day, the unthinkable happened. I fell asleep holding M while trying to put him down for a nap. Wait, that’s not the unthinkable part – I am blessed with the ability to sleep pretty much anywhere. The amazing bit was that because I was next to him, M slept deeply for more than an hour!
We both woke up well rested and he was happy to spend the next hour playing by himself so long as I remained in his line of sight. Rested as I was, I was able to make quick work of cleaning the room, whipping up dinner and even catching up on some reading. The best part was that my brain seemed to have used the quiet rest time to come out with some great ideas I could write about and instead of faffing around at the keyboard, the words simply flew.
Thinking this was an anomaly, I tried napping with M the next day and the day after too. And, I am happy to report that rather than falling, my productivity has increased dramatically. Sure, I still had to carry M around as I completed my tasks but that’s easily resolved by baby wearing or even by making him a part of what I do – he bangs away on his piano while I bang away on the keyboard.
You see, now that M knows I am not going to desert him the moment he closes his eyes, he goes to sleep faster and sleeps deeper. And, because I intend to sleep as well, I don’t waste time on social media or watching videos but simply get to the business of napping. In an hour we both wake up refreshed and more importantly, happy. He is happy because I spent some quality time with him and I am happy because I got some sleep.
Instead of being productive about work, we have become productive about sleep.
In fact, I am happy to report that we have gone back to taking two daily naps rather than the measly 20 minutes he used to sleep earlier. You’d think that having two waking hours less would make my to-do list longer. But, being more rested along with a child that’s more secure has meant I get more done faster. Nowadays, when I say I made a dent in my to-do list it is actually a dent and not a feeble attempt at having achieved nothing.
Moral of the story? Rather than thinking the only free time you will have is when baby naps, flip that around. So long as baby is well rested you can easily make him a part of your day or even allow him some time for self-play.
Once again, our mothers were right. We must sleep when baby sleeps.