Newborn Sleep: How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love Contact Napping
Rebecca H. McCormick, Fairfax City, Virginia
With my first child, I obsessed about naps.
More accurately, I was obsessed with getting my baby to nap a) at predictable times, b) for predictable lengths, and c) not in my arms.
And I was consistently failing. Or at least I thought that I was. I wasn’t getting anything done around the house. My housekeeping had slipped from its immaculate pre-baby levels. My complicated home cooking was verging on nonexistent.
Looking back on it now, I really can’t remember what was so important for me to do. Did it really matter that I put all the laundry away? Wouldn’t it have been fine to just take the clean laundry out of the basket for a while? Or I could have left it in the totally unused playpen. Wouldn’t it have been okay to use the store bought chicken broth rather than stressing about having to make my own from scratch?
But this time has been different. I’ve surrendered to the need for contact sleeping. I understand and accept that this tiny human needs not just my milk but the warmth of my body and the comfort of my heartbeat.
No longer do I worry “Was my baby sleeping often enough? Deeply enough? For long enough? Do cat naps count? Does the time spent sleep nursing count? Is this nap too close to bedtime? Will he have enough time for a ‘real nap’ before school pickup?”
I wake baby up if I need to get food or use the restroom. I wear him in a carrier if I need to cook dinner or start the laundry. But I don’t worry about if I’m following a nap schedule or if I’m missing his “sleep cues” because I know that babies will sleep if they’re tired and that I’m not ruining him if he gets less sleep on Monday than he does on Tuesday.
Instead, I do the hardest thing of all; I quiet my brain to the outside voices. I look at my baby and hug him and nurse him and suck up his baby-ness in all its amazing intensity.
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