The Working Mom and Newborn Sleep

The combination of being a working mom and newborn sleep isn't always pretty. How do you manage wakeup calls by night and staying productive at work by day?

About a month and a half before I went back to work, I started fretting about being a working mom and newborn sleep (or lack thereof).

I need my sleep. I can turn into a real crankster without it.

At the time, I wasn’t getting much. Owen was still waking up a few times a night to nurse. No big deal while I was off of work, because I could nap when he napped, and go to bed when he went to bed at night. But I knew once work started, I wouldn’t be able to nap when he napped or go to bed when he went to bed.

About two weeks before I was to go back to work, Owen had cut down his night feedings to just one a night, and sometimes he slept the whole night through. I was elated! Maybe going back to work wouldn’t be so hard after all. I wouldn’t have to be a sleepy-eyed zombie bumbling about my day, unable to come up with brilliant ideas and snapping at coworkers and friends.

For about the first week or two I was back at work, Owen kept the delightful schedule of either sleeping through the night or awakening once to eat. The question most often asked by other moms when I came back to work was, “Is he sleeping through the night?”

Working moms know we need our sleep. When I told them he was waking up once or sleeping through the night, they were impressed—some maybe even jealous.

Then all hell broke loose.

He cut a tooth right around his three-month birthday. Another came soon after. Then he got an ear infection. Then he got a cold. Then he got a double ear infection. There might have been a growth spurt thrown in there. Now I think he’s teething again.

Some nights he woke up so many times I couldn’t even keep track.

I’ve spent many a nights in my glider, with my feet propped up on an overturned laundry basket, since I broke the glider’s matching ottoman. I started drinking caffeine again—a noontime can of Diet Coke—since I couldn’t get through the day without it, and it didn’t seem to bother O. There were some days I tried to see if I could take a quick nap while pumping. It didn’t work. If I started to doze, my arms would relax and I’d lose suction. Not good.

Now Owen is back to waking up just about twice a night. Sometimes he goes back to bed right after being nursed, sometimes it isn’t so easy.

I’m working through it. I try to tell myself that I’m getting used to the lack of sleep, and I really think I am. I usually put O to bed around 7 or so, eat dinner (which my loving partner usually makes. Yay male cooks!), prepare his bottles for daycare the next day, watch a little TV, and then head to bed.

This puts my bedtime around 9 p.m. or so. If there is a particular show I want to watch, sometimes I’ll push myself to stay up later, but usually I end up falling asleep in front of the TV.

I’m OK with my new schedule.

Sometimes, because I go to bed so early, a load of laundry doesn’t get finished or the dinner dishes hang out in the sink. I don’t feel guilty.

Because a pile of dirty dishes or a half-finished load of laundry is a much better alternative to a Tela without a decent night’s sleep.

10 thoughts on “The Working Mom and Newborn Sleep

  1. Owen’s sleeping schedule will improve. You could always try putting him down to sleep a little later to see if that helps?

    I thought I was in the clear. But now my 4-year old keeps waking up with bad dreams.

  2. My first child slept through the night from almost day one, my youngest, now 18 months, is another story. He wakes up once a night about 5 days a week. Most of the time when he does I just fold and bring him to our bed. I know I shouldn’t but he loves it (I do too).

  3. I’m so convinced there is no such thing as sleep and working when you’re a mom. Sleep comes last for me for sure.

  4. Before I became a mom, I was a serious sleeper. I needed at LEAST 9 hours a night to feel truly rested the next day. Naps? Icing on the cake.

    And people said, “Oh, you’ll get used to operating on less sleep when you have kids.” That’s a crock! I almost never get my requisite 9 hours now, and I almost always feel tired. It sucks!

    Now, my ideal vacation (in my dreams) is to sleep and sleep and sleep …

  5. My son was also great at sleeping through the night at an early age (now naps were a different story!). But still there were periods where he’d wake up several times through the night. Could be lots of things — teething, growth spurts, ear infections — you just have to get through it and it will pass.

    As for the TV shows, get TiVo so you can watch your shows while you’re nursing Owen in the middle of the night.

  6. Oh, man is this timely! I almost fell asleep driving to work yesterday morning (not good). I’ve been exhausted lately; I’ve been trying to go to bed earlier, (since Levi insists on getting up at 5:30 am) but it just isn’t working. I need to be more like you, Tela, and let the dishes, laundry, etc. go sometimes and just get to bed sooner. Thanks for reminding me of how important good sleep is!

  7. Count yourself lucky. My one year old daughter still wants to nurse 5-6 times a night. Sleeping through the night? What is that? My three year old still doesn’t have the hang of it.

  8. It will get better…and I totally feel your pain. My almost one year old did the EXACT same thing your son did. And finally, it’s getting better. As long as she doesn’t have an ear infection…

  9. just4ofus says:

    I think that once you have kids you will NEVER sleep like you once did! Even at 4 1/2 and 2 1/2 we still get up with one at least once a week. Someone has a nightmare, falls out of bed, is sick or decides they want to come and stalk you at the bedside for whatever reason at 4 am. I am assuming I might sleep good again when they are both 30.

  10. Anonymous says:

    I love this string! Sleep and food are more “priority” to me than I ever thought they were to “normal” people! (I second Tela’s comment about not being a nice person when I don’t get enough sleep, and don’t even THINK about making me late for dinner!!!) My DH and I (dual-military) always knew that we only wanted to have one child, but now I know FOR SURE that we CAN only have one! I just don’t think I could go through that sleep-deprivation period that was my son’s first six months! Now, at 29 months) he’s mommy’s angel when it comes to sleep (he’s napping now, in fact)… if only I can make him come ’round with eating, too…. :o)

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