Last weekend we were away and Josie has a hard time sleeping in a new place on the first night. So I wasn’t surprised when she wanted to start her day at 4am. We shuffled into the living room where she had room to play and I anxiously waited for the dark to turn to day. That moment I was reminded of our first night home with her…
I have seen a few beautiful sunrises in my life. They are rare because I am usually sleeping. Early morning airport trips, our honeymoon in Kauai…those are rare moments where you actually see the sunrise.
But there was no sunrise I will cherish more than the morning after our first night home with our baby. I didn’t actually see the Sun. Just the night turning to day. The relief of knowing our first night was done was a feeling I wish I could bottle up forever. I was practically giddy. It meant I could start the coffee. It meant other people were also up. It meant we had survived and the challenges she brought us that day were happening when we were supposed to be awake. That first night home was one of the hardest of my life. It was nothing like I expected. She wouldn’t let me put her down, she was nursing like crazy, and I was full of self-doubt.
Thinking back on how hard that night was there were some things I would definitely do differently. There were also some things I did that were helpful. I wanted to share some things that will help you make it through that first night.
- Take the Help.
This was a piece of advice I didn’t follow. Because I was nursing I felt like I was the one who should always be up. When my husband offered to take her I kept saying no…I wanted to handle it…. looking back there was no reason why we couldn’t take turns. The second she was done nursing I could have passed her off and closed my eyes. We had family near by who offered to help, but again I didn’t take them up on the offer. TAKE THE HELP! There is nothing wrong with asking for help in the first few days. You will be exhausted. Exhaustion like you’ve never known. Just little amounts of sleep could be a lifesaver. We only spent one night alone. The next night family came to help us. And I slept! The best sleep I had in over a week.
- Find a Mom to Text.
For me it was my mom. She was up all night with me. It helped to have someone answer my questions. Choose a friend to be “on call” that you can text or call when questions arise and you are confused. It is also helpful to have someone keep you busy. The Internet can have great information but can also lead you down a rabbit hole. Having an “on-call” mom can be really helpful when you have a question (or a million questions).
3. Make Coffee
Or order pizza, or make mac and cheese. Just because it is 2am doesn’t mean you cant do those things. The first days, and weeks to follow, day and night won’t matter because it won’t matter to the baby. Sleep training will take time and 2am and 2pm aren’t very different as far as a newborn is concerned. I was so hesitant to do anything but try to sleep. Looking back I could have had that cup of coffee whenever it made sense and waiting until day didn’t matter. You may be eating breakfast at 3am and sleeping at 1pm. Throw the rules away until it makes sense to start training some night sleeping.
4. Trust Your Instincts
You are a mom now and although you may be filled with confusion and exhaustion, as soon as you became pregnant you also gained some pretty awesome instincts. So many people will give suggestions and you will rely on advice from those that are close to you. But at the end of the day you get to make the choices that work for you. If breastfeeding isn’t working, if you want to give a pacifier on the first night, if the baby just needs to sleep in the swing…you get to make the choices that work for you. Trust those instincts that have come with thousands of years of evolution. You know what you are doing even when it feels like you have no clue.
- Nest For You.
I had everything folded perfectly. I had bottles sterilized. I had a changing table ready to go. I nested like crazy and prepped everything for the baby. But I had nothing prepped for me. When we came home from the hospital I wish had nested for myself. Set up pillows and blankets on the couch, in your rocker, and anywhere else you may find yourself “relaxing.” Have plenty of comfy clothes ready. Have easy to eat food that wont waste (PB &J). Have a few water bottles with straws in a few locations. Have things set up for you that make it easy to eat and sleep when you do get a chance to put the baby down.
- Be Easy On Yourself.
That first night home will be so hard no matter how prepared you think you are. Nothing can actually prepare for what it is like bringing a baby home. It is hard, emotional, confusing, joyful, sad, scary, and unpredictable. You will probably make choices that you think aren’t right. You may obsess about those choices later. But be easy on yourself. Parenting is making choices that we aren’t always sure are the right ones. We can be full of doubt and exhaustion but everything you are doing and every choice you make is the best for the baby in the moment. So forgive yourself quickly and remember that you are doing a great job.