It’s impossible to predict exactly what your first few nights at home with your newborn will be like—but here are a few things that other new moms wish they would have known before bringing baby home.
You Really Might Not Get Much Nighttime Sleep
Newborn babies simply don’t know that nighttime is meant for sleeping. While your baby may have been calm and sleepy soon after entering the world, after a few days they begin to ‘wake up’—and will want your attention. In fact, your days and nights might just blend together into one blurry chunk of feeding, rocking, snuggling, napping and wardrobe changes during each 24-hour stretch.
Speaking of feeding, you might also start to notice that your breasts feel really full and uncomfortable in the stretches between overnight feedings. This can make it tricky to get comfortable in bed. This is due to your breastmilk coming in. Mothers can expect their mature milk to arrive about 2-5 days after delivery, with accompanying symptoms of: engorgement, feelings of firmness, breast leakage (make sure to wear breast pads overnight!) and firmness or skin tightening around the areolas. But don’t worry, your body will adjust to your feeding routine soon enough, and your breasts won’t feel as uncomfortable.
You will get some sleep overnight, but it comes in small stretches at first. The fact that you suddenly have a tiny human to take care of and respond to during the night can make it hard for you to fall asleep quickly—even when you’re downright exhausted. But as you get more comfortable with your new responsibilities, sleep will come easier and you’ll be a champion at quickly handling baby’s needs and hopping right back into your bed. In the meantime, ensure that your partner or support person is also listening for (and helping with) baby—or ask them to trade shifts with you the first few nights to make sure you’re both getting enough shut-eye.
Babies Are Noisy Sleepers
You might be shocked when your sweet sleepy baby sounds like a grunty, snorty, gurgly, squeaky animal in the middle of the night. This can keep you on edge thinking you need to respond to every little peep.
However it’s important to know that noisy baby sounds are totally normal. Even sounds like whistling or grunting can be perfectly OK due to your baby’s tiny airways and nostrils (they breathe primarily through their nose).
Babies also have short sleep cycles and more REM sleep, which is the stage of sleep that’s associated with dreaming. Or your baby might simply be more chatty and grunty during this stage of sleep.
However, there are certainly things that aren’t normal when it comes to newborn sleep. If your baby is experiencing any of these things, seek medical help immediately:
- Faster than average breathing that lasts for more than a few seconds
- Grunting noises after every single breath
- Long pauses where baby stops breathing (more than 10 seconds)
- Bluish tint to the skin
Baby (and You!) Need Frequent Diaper Changes
Newborns pee and poop—a lot. So while it’s probably tempting to feed or rock your baby and go right back to sleep, you’ll probably need to do a diaper change (or two!) while you’re up. Don’t be surprised if you change baby, feed baby, and then experience yet another big blowout before you even put them back down.
Oh and did we mention your own situation “down there?” You’ll want to make sure that you’re changing your pad frequently to prevent infection. And don’t forget to use your peri bottle (a small squirt bottle filled with warm water) to help keep things clean, and a fresh ice pack to help with any pain or swelling. Creating a small basket with all of your postpartum items that’s easy to reach in your bathroom can help you speed things along during a nighttime bathroom break.
You Might Experience Night Sweats
You may wake up with wet pajamas one night and think you either a) peed your pants or b) leaked breastmilk everywhere. While these situations are possible, it’s more than likely due to postpartum night sweats. Your body’s quickly decreasing levels of estrogen and progesterone hormones can cause you to sweat uncontrollably for several weeks after birth. While they’ll usually stop on their own once your hormones have leveled out, you can do the following to help you keep cool and sleep better overnight:
- Use lightweight or moisture-wicking sheets
- Sleep on a towel to absorb sweat
- Cool your body down with a cold washcloth
- Sip on cold water before bed
You Might Dread Nighttime
For as exhausted as you are, and the amount of fluctuating hormones in your body, it’s totally normal to feel a little bit of dread (rather than excitement) as nighttime approaches. You’re used to regarding nighttime as sleep time—and knowing that your hours of sleep are likely few and far between can cause you to feel a little anxious and worried about what’s to come.
Share your worries with your partner or support person, and make a game-plan about who’s “on duty” during certain hours. Even if you’re breastfeeding, you can ask your support person to handle diaper changes and non-feeding related wake-ups to help you rest and recharge a bit. Knowing that you have another able set of hands can do wonders to calm your nerves.
While there are likely a number of other things you’ll experience during your first few nights at home with baby, we hope knowing about these five things will help you know what to anticipate a bit more. Give yourself, your baby, and your partner time to adjust to this new way of life—and soon enough nighttime won’t feel quite as challenging (we promise!).