We have a 6 year old and a newborn at home and we are not sleep-deprived. We own and run our own business, we work and play and cook all of our own meals at home. We aren't some kind of superheroes, just 2 parents who are kids at heart and doing the best we can to heal ourselves and raise our conscious family.
So what's our secret? Well it's really no "secret", but I will share with you what has been working for us. Of course, there are many different factors and variables to consider with your family and your newborn baby, so as always, take what resonates and leave what doesn't. Here are a couple of tips to consider:
Co Sleep with your baby. Sleeping next to your newborn not only helps you get more sleep, but also helps them regulate and get the best sleep. Of course, your newborn baby is fresh out of your womb where they lived for many months physically attuning to your heart rate, breathing rhythms and your general energy field. Therefore, this is where they are the most comfortable and can get the best sleep: nestled up next to you, their source of safety, survival and comfort. Another reason co-sleeping with your baby helps you both get better sleep is that breastfeeding in the night is a lot easier and less disruptive. Once you are able to master side-lying breastfeeding, you will easily be able to nurse your baby in bed with minimal disturbance to your or your baby's sleep patterns. Keeping lights low, voices low and movement slow can all help in creating a gentle transition from a sleep cycle to a feeding and back into another sleep cycle for both you and your newborn baby.
Stick to the same routines that you had pre-baby. People think that their whole lives are uprooted once having a baby, and obviously there are a lot of changes, however we have generally kept the same lifestyle and routine as before. With that being said, we always prioritize taking care of our physical, emotional, and spiritual well-being with practices such as regular sleep and waking times, eating whole food meals at generally the same times throughout the day, and making plenty of time for connection with nature and each other.
Release expectations. There is so much info out there on sleep training, sleep cycles, how to care for a newborn, how much sleep a newborn needs, how to properly heal your postpartum body, etc. And while the recommendations probably come from a place of good intention, they don't always apply to your situation. You know your body best and you know your baby best. Finding what works best for you, your family and your precise situation is an individual journey only you can take. Additionally, when you aren't putting unnecessary pressure on yourself or your newborn to stick to a cookie-cutter sleep schedule, you are allowing for the flow of life to unfold. Sometimes things go differently than planned, and having the ability to adapt is a life skill that will lead to greater enjoyment and less stress for both you and your baby. One of the most important aspects of not having a set expectation for your newborn baby's sleep schedule is that you are empowering your baby to listen to their own body and intuition; you are also strengthening your bond to your baby by tuning into their natural cues. We want children that are securely attached, independent and make healthy decisions for themselves, right? We can encourage this healthy development rather than trying to control it by allowing for sleep cyles and wake windows to occur when they do, not by our force.
Trust yourself and your innate parenting instincts. I am not a co-sleeping safety expert, nor am I giving you concrete advice that you are required to follow, I am simply a new parent of a newborn baby sharing my experience and opinion, you are welcome to take it or leave it. That being said, we do not strictly or specifically follow or adhere to any specific "rules"; rather we practice mindfulness and intention in our daily lives and actions. We truly trust our own inherent instincts and that of our child; this is where sovereignty comes in: we rely on our own intuition more than what an outside authority tells us. We have never rolled on top of or squished our baby even when we slept on a smaller, softer mattress. We don't have any special setup for our bed, we don't have special blankets or sleeping clothes. As connected parents, we are acutely aware of our newborn baby's position, needs and his safety, and you will/can be too. It is true that both parents and baby have lighter periods of sleep which help all to attune to needs should any occur during sleep. I watch my newborn baby lift his face out of and off of my breast if he cannot breathe, he did this from his first nursing session directly after birth and on. Babies are born with the instinct to survive, and when given a safe environment, they can be trusted to not only survive but thrive. Of course, there will be many variables that affect this including how the pregnancy and birth transpired as well as any medical interference that may hinder a baby’s natural instincts, more on that in another post.
Be strict about your boundaries, especially surrounding visitors.
The amount of time is arbitrary, but I strongly recommend having a period of time for just yourself, your newborn baby and your immediate family (that lives with you, your partner, other kids etc) to bond together, rest, heal and find what works for you all. Again, this will look different for everyone but I will share how it looked for us. We did not invite visitors or allow anyone to spend time with us or the baby for the first several weeks after birth. This time was full of plenty of homemade, nutritious and delicious meals, rest and snuggles. We did not worry a lot about the house being clean, about our business tasks, about our homeowner tasks, because we prioritized resting, relaxing and bonding. Not having outside people in our energetic space allowed us to really hear our own intuition about what we needed and what our baby needed.
From the very beginning, our newborn baby slept in 2 hour periods at night, waking every 2 hours to nurse. As I write this, baby boy is a little over 2 months old and his "sleep schedule" is roughly the same. This is not by any force, expectation or any doing of my own, other than just following my baby's cues and providing a safe, reliable and calm support for his needs. *Edited to add, baby boy is now 7 months old and I can say this is all still accurate!*
I truly believe every family can have the experience we are having, it IS possible. I also believe the way we experience pregnancy and birth have a huge impact on how we experience postpartum and parenthood in general. Whether we released control and surrendered to the process(es) or we tried to calculate, measure, define and label every step of the way can say a lot about our relationship to ourselves, our partners and our babies.
Tune into nature, tune into your own intuition and tune into your baby, because there is a plethora of wisdom there.