In my experience, having a baby and getting enough sleep are oxymorons. While your baby sleeps, you won't be able to. When you sleep at night, the baby is up asking for food. And then there are the moments when the baby won't sleep unless you're holding them, forcing you to stay awake for an untold number of hours. In fact, it can start to feel like your baby doesn’t want you to sleep. Eventually, though, your baby will sleep, and they'll try to tell you to get some sleep, too.
At first, you might not mind that they sleep best in your arms, but after a few days of them having to touch you to be able to sleep you will try anything to transfer them to their crib or bassinet without waking them up. When you succeed you will feel like a rock star, and that's when you should immediately head to bed yourself. But when they fall asleep on your chest, and before you're able to send them to bed in their own sleep space, the weight of their warm little body and sound of their slow breathing is enough to lull you to sleep. Clearly, they’re trying to say something.
If you ever actually get an opportunity to sleep as a new mom, you should definitely take it. Unfortunately, you might just be too tired to see signs that your baby thinks it's time for mama to get some rest, like the following:
When They Let Someone Else Hold Them
When I brought my first baby home from the hospital, I didn't want to let anyone else hold her. Instead, I pretty much held her constantly for months. With my second, however, I had learned my lesson and wanted to let other people have a turn. The problem? He wouldn't let me hand him off to anyone without screaming. It was equally exhausting.
Fortunately, he eventually learned to like other people, or at least let them hold him once in a while. I took it as a sign to get some damn sleep.
When They Finally Fall Asleep
The first few weeks home with a newborn are an exhausting blur. Sometimes it feels like they are incapable of sleeping for more than a few minutes, without needing something from you. As a result, and eventually, sleep deprivation sets in and it changes you. You will beg your baby to please fall asleep and stay asleep, at least long enough for you to pee or eat something. When they do actually fall asleep, though, consider it a sign that you should follow suit... if you can. Trust me.
When They Don’t Wake Up After You Put Them Down
In my experience, parenting involves a certain set of skills. Like moving a sleeping baby from their car seat, your arms, or their swing to their crib. That ability is more delicate than diffusing a bomb, landing a planet, or performing surgery. And when you actually set them down, without waking them up, you will want to cheer (but shouldn't, because that might wake them up again). Instead, you should try to get some rest, yourself.
When They Let Someone Else Feed Them
One of the most overwhelming parts of new motherhood is feeling like you are solely responsible for meeting your baby’s every need. So, when they let your partner or mom give them a bottle, you should totally try to get some sleep. It's a sign.
When They Sleep In Their Own Room
While my baby's doctor recommended that they sleep in our room for their first year, it was horrible for my anxiety. I would lie awake staring at him, wake with his every peep, and panic every time he rolled over. I thought it would be horrible to move him into his own room, but it ended up being a great set up for all of us.
When They Let Your Partner Put Them To Bed
I’m not ashamed to admit that my husband is totally better at sleep training than I am. I couldn't do it. I can’t stand hearing my baby cry, even if it means that everyone will get more sleep as a result. So, when I finally let my husband take over, and my baby finally learned to fall sleep, I slept, too. It was heaven.
When They Fall Asleep On Your Chest
There’s no stronger force in the universe than gravity, except maybe baby gravity, or the urge to fall asleep when you have a baby sleeping on you. Don’t try to resist.
When They Put Themselves Back To Sleep Without You
Yeah, self-soothing babies exist, but it’s hard for a baby to learn to fall back to sleep when their anxious mom keeps poking them to make sure they are OK. So, when you hear a peep on the monitor, you might not want to run. Give it a second to see if your baby can relax on their own.
When They Sleep Through The Night
The holy grail of parenthood is your baby finally sleeping through the night. The first time this happens, though, it is surreal, and you'll probably panic a tad. But it will eventually happen. I promise. When it does, you should totally see it as a sign that you should sleep, too.