Have a newborn? Try Cumulative Sleeping

Sleeping like a baby

As anyone who has ever had a newborn will attest, sleep is a rare, precious commodity.  When nursing either on a schedule or on demand, it can feel like every time you turn around, the baby needs to be fed again.  And again.  And again.

In addition to the seemingly endless cycle of feeding, there are two other important duties:  burping and diapering.  This completes the newborn trifecta.

Once the feeding is finished, burping must be done.  Those sneaky burps are not always forthcoming, so keep patting.  The feeling of satisfaction and relief once a nice, long, deep burp is emitted is glorious (not just for the baby, also for the mommy), and the consternation over a dawdling burp is great.  You see, if that burp doesn’t come soon after the patting begins, it could emerge later, when you’re trying to capture just a few precious minutes of shut-eye.  And that’s not fun.

Diapering is a strategic task.  I prefer to diaper prior to nursing, that way if my little baby falls asleep while eating, as newborns are wont to do, I can simply burp him and lay him down, and hope for a nice stretch of sleep (provided that the elusive burp has occurred).  Of course, it does sometimes happen that a messy diaper may present itself while nursing, in which case there are two choices:  1) wait until the baby has finished eating, give him a new diaper and then burp him or 2) perform a mid-meal diaper change.  They both have their merits.  The former allows me to enjoy the relaxation of feeding just a bit longer, and the latter gives me the hope of having the benefit of post-nursing slumber.

This business of feeding the baby can be an hour-long process.  When a newborn is eating, say, every two hours, that’s half your potential nap-time.  I’ve found that it is not useful to attempt to truncate the process, as a rushed newborn does not nap well.  At least mine don’t.  And if the baby isn’t sleeping well, neither is the mommy.

So I’ve developed my newborn sleep philosophy:  Six hours cumulative sleep is what I need to be functional.  This concept came about because, on account of my active toddler, I cannot follow the well-known advice to “sleep when your baby sleeps” (don’t even get me started on that, anyways.  I found it impractical even with my first baby, what with the cooking and cleaning still to do).

This sleep philosophy can be accomplished with many quick naps.  Or several slightly longer naps.  Or a couple of those elusive stretches of three or more hours.  This goal can be met easily if there are relatives to help with watching the baby (and other children who also need parenting and attention), or if there is a husband who doesn’t work 60 to 80 hours a week (like a resident, ahem).  No matter the manner in which the 6 hours are acquired, it seems that if I’m able to get them, I’m a relatively decent human the next day.

Now, this system doesn’t work for everyone.  Some people just need more sleep.  To those mommies who are really waylaid by the deprivation, I say “Hang in there!  Your baby will eventually sleep through the night!  I promise!”

To all mommies everywhere, I say “Good luck!”


11 thoughts on “Have a newborn? Try Cumulative Sleeping

  1. Newborns should be offered both sides, so diapering and burping can be done mid-feeding.Burping is overrated–not all babies need it. As for sleep, yes, get it whenever you can.
    Lie down in bed to nurse for as many feedings as possible. Then you can at least rest, and perhaps nap.

  2. I loved this post! I don’t know if you intend to be funny, but you should write a comedic book, Rivki. Your writing is great, easy to read and so entertaining.

  3. Yeah, the whole sleeping with a newborn never worked for me either. I was in school with the first, and had a toddler (like you) with the second so I basically looked like a zombie for the first 5 months. I was cool with that. ; )

    I do think this cumulative thing does work well. Rather than dwelling on the lost sleep at night, you emphasize how much you slept during the day!! Way to be positive.

  4. I never feel rested with the whole cumulative napping thing. Even now, if I get 5 straight I’m so much more rested than with even 7 broken up. On the other hand, b”H I was able to rest when the baby rested. We lived on frozen or quickly-made dinners for about 2 months and I didn’t wash any floors until then either. I hated doing it, but I got to sleep. It was only a really hard decision when I was hungry, tired, and needed to clean/cook.

    I actually just read an article in Reader’s Digest about how in European countries, women get 8+ hours per night, and it’s considered very normal. Apparently Americans consider it “wasted time” or are too busy to get that much.

    I’m in awe of mothers of newborns with older siblings, especially siblings who can’t really take care of themselves yet (I hear it’s a completely different ball game when the oldest is, like, 14). Glad this system works for you!

    1. I think that this method only works with specific sleep-types. Even though I can function reasonably well on little sleep, I am definitely a better, nicer, happier person when I get my solid 8 hours. I don’t consider it wasted time! It’s sleep, glorious sleep! Managing Moshe’s schedule as well as the new baby’s is definitely interesting. I’m very, very, very glad that Moshe is an independent toddler!

  5. Great post! I’m experiencing much of the same newborn stuff right now, and I’m finding that saying “sleep when the baby sleeps” to be pretty laughable, too! During the day there is so much I want to accomplish while he’s napping, and during the night I’m pretty much in zombie-feeding mode. It’s all worth it, though!

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