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!”