Of all baby advice to give, can we please retire the phrase “sleep when the baby sleeps?” Sure, sometimes it’s practical, and you bet we will embrace those glorious naps without needing to be told to do so. But mostly, it’s not practical and only serves to remind us of our current state of sleep deprivation. It also oversimplifies the full scope of what our day entails.
1. We are tired, yes, but we are also hungry as hell. Breastfeeding moms especially need an extra 600 calories a day, and since we’re nursing round-the-clock for some 20-30 minutes at a time, we pretty much never have two hands free to sit down and eat. What’s the first thing we want to do when our hands are finally free again? EAT. ALL. THE. FOOD.
2. Yes the dishes can wait, but not the urine-soaked onesies and blowout stains seeping into the rug. Or the dog who is staring at you for some TLC as you try to remember if you actually fed him breakfast today, and the bills with approaching due dates glaring at you on the kitchen table. We can’t let all of the housework go, even though we wish we could.
3. We need time to adult. Sleeping baby means we finally have an opportunity to connect to the outside world again, whether it’s catching up on Facebook or calling you back. We need to have real conversations with people who don’t just poop on us all day. It is just as important to our mental health as sleep is!
4. We need time to ourselves – time to brush our teeth, wash the crusty spit up out of our hair, actually attempt to change out of our pajamas (or at least into a shirt that doesn’t have breastmilk leakage on it). Hell, maybe even soak in the tub for two minutes.
5. We are always running low or out of everything. Diapers, wipes, toilet paper, milk, you name it. Baby napping is a chance to re-stock on Amazon in an attempt to make the rest of our week a little easier.
6. It’s freaking daytime. Unlike newborns who don’t have their circadian rhythms down, we do. And it is difficult to just fall asleep at noon after we finally finished our 8 am cup of coffee that has been re-heated seven times. And damnit, we’re hungry again.
7. We’re paranoid, alright? It’s inevitable. Babies make the weirdest noises and we constantly need to check their breathing little squirmy bodies. There is absolutely nothing you can say to ease this anxiety. Nope. Let it be.
8. Sometimes, a sleeping baby is our only form of payment and we need to bask in it. Being a mother obviously doesn’t come with a salary. After dealing with a day of bodily fluids, temper tantrums and constant outpour of our attention and care, snuggling them asleep is our greatest reward. We need to kiss their cheeks, hold their little hands, smell their skin, and stare at them before they grow up. Yes we could be sleeping, but we also need these peaceful moments to remind us why we do what we do.
Instead of telling an exhausted mommy to get more sleep, what we really, really need to hear is a reminder that our hard work is paying off. A simple “You are doing a great job, mama” can go a very long way in energizing our sleepy selves.