Sleep When the Baby Sleeps

That sentence makes me stabby. Every time I see it on a Facebook comment or hear someone spew it at a baby shower, my eyes immediately roll. While I know it is harmless advice and, to some, completely true and sound, it is a classic “easier said than done”.

I think some of it comes from momnesia. Seasoned moms are comparing to their kid who is awake for 12+ hours straight. They long for the quiet.  They remember cat napping with a baby on their chest and sniffing their heads and not the skipped naps that snowball on themselves. “Newborns sleep all the time!” While somewhat true, we aren’t talking large chunks of time. ESPECIALLY really early on. They eat every 3 hours or less. They take at least 30 minutes to eat. If you have a particulary stubborn one, they take 30 minutes or more to rock, jiggle, hum to sleep. So in an ideal scenario, we are talking 2 hours of them sleeping. “So you go take a nap!”. Ok, oh wise one, when do you eat, pump for freezer stash, use the bathroom, wash your hands, or just sit still with no one touching you? Then you do find one interval of the day and you go lie down. 4 out of 5 times Murphy’s Law comes knocking and the baby wakes the second you shut your eyes. It can make even Little Miss Sunshine crabby.

Then, if the age old statement isn’t enough, some feel the need to point out what you SHOULDN’T be doing. “Don’t worry about the house and dishes. You need rest”. Now I agree with this statement 100% but ya know what is sometimes nice? TO ACCOMPLISH A MOTHER FUCKING TASK. Yeah the world still spins if the dishes stay in the dishwasher but if I unload it, I feel like I actually did something that day. Sometimes a nice clean counter makes ME feel better. Taking a shower can make a HUGE difference to a person. Someone on Twitter said it perfectly “Am I supposed to clean when the baby cleans?”. And while other people can come help you with some tasks, I know I don’t want my friends washing my underwear or scrubbing my tub.

Such a piece of advice also has kind of a backhanded feel. Like you HAVE been doing those things. And what if you haven’t? What if you have been barely keeping your abode slightly above “livable” and still getting no sleep? I think it sometimes puts a seed of doubt in the new mom’s mind. That false picture of what motherhood SHOULD be like. Sure mom A can care for her newborn who just sleeps all the time, gets plenty of naps and cooks casseroles on the reg but what about poor mom B? The one with the baby with colic that forgot to eat for 2 meals because she was never free of him for more than 20 minutes? She is exhausted, pissy as hell with low blood sugar, covered in spit up and just wants to stop rocking or jiggling for a few minutes. She logs onto Facebook to just vent about her shitstorm of a day and then comes “you should be taking a nap!”.

And to that mom, I say, cmon on over to Twitter where we complain and vent all day long. You’ll never look at Facebook the same again.


  1. The bit about Facebook vs. Twitter just hit me like a ton of bricks. After Archer was born, I was trying to find an outlet on Facebook. A place where I could vent about how hard it was to be a working mom. A place to find support when it was 4am and I might as well just get ready for work because why the fuck not? The alarm is going to go off in an hour, anyway.

    Most of the time, the only kind of support I could find was, “Oh, is there a way for you to quit your job?”

    It wasn’t until much later, when I found my voice on Twitter, that I found moms (like you, Brandy) who made me feel empowered to do what needed to be done for my family. For me. For my son.

    So. Yeah. Someday, when I have another baby, you know what I’m going to do when he/she sleeps? Probably tweet.

  2. Loved this. I’ve never been a good napper. It’s only now when he’s 3 that I find myself able and willing to nap during quiet/nap time. I like it and usually need it, but I also like having the house quiet and being able to do what I want without anyone bothering me: tweet, surf, read, whatever.

  3. here’s my thing–if i don’t ask for advice, don’t give it. the only exception is if you actually know me. like you’ve been to my house, i’ve been to yours, etc. otherwise, just b/c it worked for you doesn’t mean it’ll work for me.

    i also hate pithy little statements that ignore complexity. blech.

    ok, rant over 🙂

    (& i love your line about fb & twitter. truth.)

  4. And I love how whoever says it always acts like you’ve never heard it before! Get ready, it’s gonna be a doozy, I just made this up! Sleep when the baby sleeps! And, don’t forget to enjoy every moment because before you know it he’ll be in college.

    And don’t go to bed angry.

    I will say, however, the only time in my life I personally napped effectively is when Margo was a newborn. I think it’s a “best practice” meant to encourage new moms to get rest when they can, and even the purveyors of this inane advice can’t pretend they did it every time their baby slept. I was lucky to grab a nap maybe every other day during a baby nap. You do what you can, and try not to worry about it. That’s my advice. 🙂

  5. So very true! As the mom of two newborns who did not sleep, this statement makes me want to throat punch the person who says it after A has been up for six hours straight. And sometimes it is my husband. Yesterday, I showered, only having to put my pjs back on because A finally laid down in our room. And did the dishes.

    I read an article that at five weeks, they should sleep between 12 and 20 hours a day. I calculated – A sleeps closer to 12. Awesome.

    I know maternity leave is supposed to be all about snuggles and recuperating, but sometimes I want to accomplish more than a shower!


    When my son was a newborn, I figured out after a couple of weeks that I needed to come up with a strategy to keep me sane. Granted, he was a great sleeper and I could reliably count on him being awake for 1 hour and then napping for 2 hours, but for the first couple of weeks I rarely showered or got out of my jammies and generally felt like a slug.

    So I made a list of things that NEEDED to be accomplished to retain my sanity (in order of importance):
    1. Shower
    2. Real clothes – I am in south TX so tank tops and khaki shorts count.
    3. Food
    4. Nap
    5. Do something around the house.

    And sure enough, the first time that I actually washed dishes or folded laundry or whatever I got cries of “NO! SLEEP!” Grrrrr……..

  7. “The one with the baby with colic that forgot to eat for 2 meals because she was never free of him for more than 20 minutes? She is exhausted, pissy as hell with low blood sugar, covered in spit up and just wants to stop rocking or jiggling for a few minutes.”

    Have you been peering in my windows the past couple months? 😛 I could cry that someone gets it enough to put into words, but I’m too tired. Thank you for putting into words how pithy parenting advice is a contradiction in terms!!

    • Oh honey I feel ya. I am just now out of the woods. Those early weeks were brutal…for both my boys. another piece of advice that makes you want to punch a kitten…but true…”it gets better”. Seems like those milestone weeks are forever in the future, I know, but they come. 🙂

  8. This idea worked for me for about 3 weeks when hubs was home from work so SOMEONE could do dished and prepare food for me while I napped. And he could also tend to her for a few mintues while I woke from the fog only a person sleeping in 4 minute intervals can understand.

    Then he left to go back to work. And I was alone with a baby who didn’t nap, period, unless she was being moved. She really didn’t nap well until 9 months when she went straight to 1 nap a day of about 2 hours.

    So to STOP THE CRYING AND SUCKING ON MY NIPS I walked her in the stroller, Ergo’d her, or drove her. Ya she’d fall asleep in the Ergo and periodically I would try to sit down….but then she’d wake. She’d sleep in the car until it stopped, and last time I checked sleep driving wasn’t a good idea. She slept in the stroller, and sometimes I could sit and have coffee while bouncing it with my foot but hey, I’m still not sleeping.

    I also got to the point that I couldn’t sleep, even if she did. Like you said, Murphy’s Law. I knew she’d wake up as soon as I laid down and then I knew I’d be even more messed up with the taste of sleep. I did do a lot of dishes and mopping with her in the Ergo which, had she slept OUT of my person even would have allowed me to rest but no. The closest I got was letting her pass out on the nursing pillow so I could watch TV and sort of doze.

    All this and my kid wasn’t colicky. She didn’t scream unless I was trying to get her to sleep on her own. And like you, spending over an hour to get a kid to sleep for 20 minutes was mind warfare.

    My friend with a 6 day old baby? My advice was that she just has to do what she can do to survive the next few months, whatever that looks like. And to ask for help. There isn’t much more to it.

  9. I still get pissed off at “sleep when the baby sleeps” and “you’ll miss these days when they’re gone.”

    NO THE HELL I WON’T! I’ll miss the days to come, the sweet moments with a baby, yes… BUT I WILL NOT MISS THIS PRECISE MOMENT I AM BITCHING ABOUT, PLEASE AND THANK YOU.

    You rock.

    • THANK YOU. I don’t regret wishing away Landon’s colic. There was little to cherish in the moment. There was very few moments of cuddling that didn’t involve moving. It wasn’t a fairy tale n

  10. Love it. Every word.

    Being a first time mom, I got all of the said advice. Then I felt guilty… yes GUILTY, when I was doing chores around the house because I felt like I wasn’t taking their advice and then later when I am exhausted and say anything, I get the same advice again. Sigh.

  11. So. True. I also think that people who say you should sleep when the baby sleeps, and that it doesn’t matter if your house is clean don’t remember that families generally like meals and clean clothes. I mean, I wasn’t vacuuming and scrubbing when I had a newborn, I was just trying to keep up. And while a series of 20 minute naps followed by 10 minute feedings may have somehow met all of my little girl’s needs? Not so much mine.

  12. I’ve been the mom who slept when the baby slept. Only we were on the couch and she was on my chest and if I did put her down she was about an inch away from me in a device of sorts and I could nap until the effing PHONE RANG!!! Damn it all to hell!! Or she’d sleep attached to my boob. Yeah, that wasn’t going to work. That’s when I caught up on television, with close captioning on.:>

    Rock on with your bad self, mama. You spill it and it’s real. Love!

  13. My baby girl is six months, gorgeous but will only sleep in my arms. Even at night I spend most of the time holding her. The second I put her down no matter how gently, she wakes up bright fresh and ready to go. People keep telling me if I don’t put her down to sleep then I’m making a rod for my own back but guess what? I try putting her down every day and every night until for a damn rest I let her sleep in my arms! Now those people who say sleep when my baby sleeps, you want me to risk dropping her? Falling asleep on her and smothering her? Stoopid people! Oh and there are a bunch of people who keep telling me to let her cry! Ohhh she’ll cry alright, she’ll cry, then she’ll scream then she vomits repeatedly until she is picked up. Soooo what, am I supposed to just leave her in a pool of her own vom? I hate it when people give advice about my kid. I do what I do because she won’t do it any other way, not because I have no imagination or clue!
    And to the person who mentioned how much worse you feel after a taster of sleep, this is so true! Two mins of shut eye makes me feel like hell!

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