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Breastfeeding and Sleep

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There was a time, not so long ago, when I didn’t think about sleep. I went to bed at night, I woke up in the morning. I woke up when I was done sleeping, or when I had to go to work. The end.
That was before December of 2003 when I got pregnant for the first time. Since then, I breastfed one baby for 10 or 11 months ( I can’t remember), got pregnant again, had another baby 18 months after the first one, and breastfed the second baby for 13 months. Hence, the slight change in lifestyle.
Before I joined the land of the stroller-pushing-sleep-walkers, I had no idea that babies ate around the clock, 24 hours a day. Sure, I had heard rumblings about babies that didn’t sleep so well. In fact, I may have rudely even asked a friend, “Is he sleeping through the night yet?” I’ve since learned that that question is the parental equivalent of asking someone, “How much money do you make?” But I had also heard the phrase, “Oh, I slept like a baby last night.” So I had no idea what I was in for.
Perhaps it was a willful ignorance. Perhaps I wasn’t paying attention in breastfeeding class when they told us that newborns eat every two to three hours. Whatever the reason, when I was pregnant the first time, I never really thought about what would happen at the end of the 40 weeks. In fact, when I wasn’t sleeping because of nausea, anxiety, hip pain, and lack of bladder control, I was actually looking forward to getting the baby out so I could get some real rest.
Surprise, surprise. You all know what came next. I was sort of overwhelmed. I didn’t nap when the baby napped. I ran around trying to clean the house and do laundry. The result– one exhausted mom. “Why didn’t anyone tell me about this?!” I think I actually said to people. My OB’s response went something like this, “It’s the mommy conspiracy. No one wants to admit how tired they are or how hard parenting is. No one wants to look unhappy.”
I’m making light of this now, but I truly think that my lack of understanding made my transition to parenthood tougher than it needed to be. Yes, it was my own fault that I didn’t do more due diligence. But I do wish friends and family had beat me over the head with warnings about sleep, and instructions to take advantage of every free moment I could find to close my eyes.
Because of my own experience, I now try to gently warn new moms about the eating and sleeping habits of little babes. In part, I want them to know that no matter how tired you get, you will find a way to get through it all. There will come a day when you won’t have to wake to feed your baby at 3 a.m. There will come a day when your baby might event sleep from 7 p.m. to 7 a.m. There is light at the end of the tunnel.
And yet, now that the boys are both toddlers, we have new sleep issues. Sometimes they can’t fall asleep. Sometimes they wake up too early. I still don’t force myself to go to bed early enough. And I obsess about sleep all the time. Sleep governs the decisions I make. For example…here’s the question of the week…”Am I too tired to drive from New York to Boston on Friday? Will I need to drink coffee to stay awake? And if I do, will I have to go to the bathroom every hour? And if I do that, how will I get the kids out of the car, into the restaurant and keep them from crawling on the bathroom floor?” You get the idea.
Now, a little wiser, I recognize that things will only evolve as they get older. Someday I’ll be awake at night worrying, and listening for them to come home. In the meantime, I’m trying to take my own advice. The boys may not need me for a midnight feeding, but they are going to need me at the crack of dawn. The Bortski will patter his way into our room asking for “Delicious milk and Thomas The Tank Engine.” The Bear will wake crying shortly after that. And so, I bid you good night. And you should go to bed too! Or take a nap if your kids are napping.
If, however, you dare to stay up, you might want to see what these other bloggers have to say about breastfeeding and sleep.
The Motherwear Blog
The Lactivist
Mama’s Magic
Hathor the Cowgoddess
Leche, Baby!
Veggie Way
Crunchy Domestic Goddess
Life with Twins

5 Responses to “Breastfeeding and Sleep”

i enjoyed your post. LOL at …asking for “Delicious milk and Thomas The Tank Engine.” too cute.
and yes, i should take your advice and get to bed early myself as well. it’s just so hard when this is the only time i have to myself. ;)

Thanks for this wise, warm, and witty post! I too spent the last month or so of my first pregnancy convinced that I’d be sleeping soooo much better after the baby was born. Yeek!!! You’re right–I think the transition to would have been easier (less hellacious) if I’d known a bit more about what I was getting into.

It’s so true, every word of it!

I enjoyed reading your post.
Actually they had told me to sleep when I was pregnant,silly me, I didn’t care too much.

as a mother of 1 week old twins about to throw in the bf’ing towel, this post struck a cord. i’m glad i’m not alone, i have been feeling so guility about feeling miserable and tired.

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