As a new parent, the mental load you carry about your newborn can be overwhelming. All you want them to do is sleep and when they do, you begin to worry about their safety and their schedule.
If this sounds like you, don’t worry. You’re not alone. Newborn sleep can feel overwhelming and exhausting (in many ways). Keep reading for more realistic expectations, how to release control, and when to reach out for support.
Constantly worried about your newborn? This might be why
The invisible mental load
As a new parent, you are thinking about things you need to accomplish and planning for upcoming tasks in the future.
You are wondering if your baby is sleeping and eating enough. You plan the next doctor’s appointment and worry if that bowel movement looks normal. You count how many wet diapers your baby has had today and try to order more diapers.
And don’t forget, you have to worry about yourself, too.
Have you had a bowel movement yet? How much blood is too much? Am I drinking enough and eating enough? The list goes on and on forever.
Our minds never shut off; we even dream about our babies. The worrying never stops, and it can feel even more intense when it comes to your baby’s sleep.
Watch Now: Navigating the Mental Load of Motherhood
Adjust your expectations
Sometimes, the most challenging expectation to manage is our own.
We constantly strive to be the “perfect” mother, always doing the right things, effortlessly calming our babies, getting up with them every night, being the unconditionally loving mother we’ve imagined.
But, the truth is, the perfect mother doesn’t exist, and you’ll never achieve it. It’s time to give yourself a break.
Worrying: what’s normal and what’s not
While you can expect some degree of worrying with your newborn, let’s take a closer look at what’s normal and what’s a cry for help.
Note: the below examples are generalizations for a developed newborn. Every baby is different and has different needs.
Normal: monitoring your baby’s sleeping habits
Not normal: controlling your baby’s schedule to the point it interferes with your mental health
Normal: tracking your baby’s feeds and charting their weight gain
Not normal: obsessing over your baby’s weight gain to the point it’s disrupting your daily functioning
Normal: having occasional intrusive and unpleasant thoughts
Not normal: acting upon the thoughts or feeling overwhelmed by them constantly
Normal: having to ask for help to make it through the day
Not normal: putting the pressure on yourself to “do it all” at your own expense
How to release the control (and the worry)
1. Seek help
The first step in releasing some worry is to ask for help. Like I mentioned above, it is normal to ask for help. Every parent needs it.
For example, we can be especially controlling when it comes to sleep.
We know our baby’s routine, the exact moment they are ready to be laid down; we’ve held them for many naps, many nights, and they are used to us.
Part of releasing control is allowing sleep to happen naturally. We can help our babies, but they develop their sleep patterns and rhythms.
2. Give yourself grace
“But what if a bad habit starts?” I hear it all the time. Parents worry that bad habits will form if another caregiver enters the sleep routine.
Know this: you can help the caregiver and show them what to do. You can offer advice along the way.
Babies also know the difference between caregivers and routines. Even at an early age, babies know, for example, Mom will hold me for this nap, Dad won’t; he is just going to lay me down.
3. Focus on bonding
Focusing on bonding providing full feeds and routines is essential, and you can focus on those things when your baby is in your hands.
When another caregiver you trust is with your baby, you need to allow them to provide for your baby in those ways. Remember, you can give directions and help along the way.
4. Get out of the house
When it comes to sleep, getting out of the house is important and it is okay for your baby to sleep on the go. Let’s face it, if we only planned things around naps and feedings, we would never go anywhere.
Instead, plan for your baby to nap in the car on your way somewhere, in the stroller on your walk, or in the carrier at your older kid’s soccer game.
5. Try the 80/20 method
Keep the 80/20 method in your mind. If you haven’t heard of this it means 80% of the time you stick to your schedule and 20% of the time you allow for flexibility.
Release control of keeping to the perfect schedule. Shoot for 80% and know the 20% will happen and that’s okay! It does not have to be perfect every day and it definitely won’t be.
With this practice comes more security and less fear, too.
When to reach out for support
Remember it is okay to ask for help. The people around you expect it and you should expect to get help as well. So how do you know when it’s time to ask for help?
When to ask for help:
- If you’re unable to focus on anything for yourself
- If you worry something will go wrong if you’re not there
- If you’re trying to do it all by yourself
- If you’re not getting proper sleep or nourishment
- Whenever you feel you need it
How to ask for the help you need:
- Call/text a trusted family member or friend
- Explain and express your concerns if you have any
- When people ask how they can help, tell them specifically what you need
- If it doesn’t go well the first time, that doesn’t mean no one can help you
Final thoughts on newborn sleep
Know that you are not alone. I know the mental load can be heavy, it can be tiresome and it can be overwhelming. Whether you are a new parent or a seasoned one, we all need help, especially when it comes to navigating newborn sleep worries.
Know that you are doing a really great job and make sure to ask for help when (or before) you anticipate needing it. The below articles might help, too.