10 Ideas to replenish yourself while your baby naps on you

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First nap: trying to escape for a much needed break

Your baby is finally dozing off for his much awaited nap. He is peacefully snuggled in your arms. You observe his sweet breath coming in and out of his miraculous little body. As he releases your breast from his mouth and lets his body heavily sinks into yours, you start planning your escape, also known as the much needed break you’ve been waiting for since you woke up at 5 am.

You’re not asking for much really – 30 mn… maybe 45? Just the time for you to put some fresh clothes on, have a small bite (using your TWO hands!) and pick up the dishes or start laundry. That’s all you’re hoping for, a tiny little uninterrupted break so you can feel human again.  You take one more look at your peaceful sleepy baby and attempt to transfer his warm relaxed body from your arms to his cot. You do this with the utmost care in the world, hoping with all your heart that he will stay asleep.

As you are tiptoeing away from your baby, your body tightens. You know you heard it… the small squirm… you hope it’s just a sleepy squirm. You turn around and you know the escape you plotted so carefully is already over. Your baby is looking at you with his eyes wide open asking: “Where are you going mommy? Did you really think I wouldn’t notice the difference between being curled up against your soft delicious body and this cold flat surface?” He might smile or cry, but the result is the same: no break for you dear mama. Your heart sinks a little.

Second nap: letting the baby sleep on you and wondering “am I the only one?”

When the next nap comes, you decide to approach things differently. It took a while to get your little one to fall asleep and you don’t want to ruin your efforts. So you let him sleep on you this time. Because he looks so relaxed and comfortable there. Because you’re exhausted. And because it’s actually kind of comfortable for you too… even though you REALLY need to pee right now. But you won’t. Because what matters is that your baby sleeps.

As you look at your little angel snuggled against you, you wonder: “Am I doing something wrong? Shouldn’t he sleep on his own? Is this normal? Am I the only one? How do other moms get their baby to sleep 2-3 hours, or even 30 mn NOT on them? Am I failing at something? Am I creating a bad habit by letting my baby nap on me? A feeling of guilt and shame bubbles up to the surface…What about all the things I need to do around the house? What will my partner think when s/he gets home? That I did nothing all day? That I’m a “bad” mom who can’t get her baby to sleep alone, like others seem to do?”

How do other moms get their baby to sleep 2-3 hours, or even 30 mn NOT on them? Am I creating a bad habit by letting my baby nap on me?

If you are experiencing any of this, I want to say that my heart goes to you dear mama. And I want you to know that 1) you are not alone 2) you are not doing anything wrong. Quite the opposite… You are actually tuning to your baby’s need to be close to you, which is wonderful!

How to embrace and transform the situation

As the mom of a little guy who ONLY napped on me for many many months (and still occasionally does!), I first thought something was wrong with me or my baby. I felt I was failing as a mother because my baby was not sleeping in a pram or a cot like I thought all babies did (that’s what they do in movies, right??) I read about gentle sleep training but I knew I couldn’t and didn’t want to do it. So I had to find a way to embrace the situation.

First I had to understand a few facts about baby sleep. You see, I’m a first time mom with 0 experience with babies. So I was relieved to learn that babies have sleep cycles of 45 mn (often less) and  that it’s very normal for them to want to sleep in someone’s arms. I think knowing that single basic piece of information would have saved me from many weeks of heartache and self-doubt. Of course some babies sleep alone from day one, but many don’t, and that’s ok!

Babies have different temperaments, just like adults do! And when you think about it, from a survival perspective, it makes sense that a baby wouldn’t want to sleep alone. Sleep is our most vulnerable state, so I believe babies who want to be close to their mommies have a strong survival instinct!

I was relieved to learn that babies have sleep cycles of 45 mn (often less) and  that it’s very normal for them to want to sleep in someone’s arms.

Ten ideas to replenish yourself while your baby naps on you

If you are ready to embrace the situation instead of trying to “fix” it, I can help you! With these few simple ideas, you can actually transform the situation into an opportunity to nurture and replenish yourself! Yes, there are other options than being glued to Facebook on your phone while your baby is napping on you! Here are 10 ideas that helped me make the most of having a baby who would only nap on me:

  1. Enjoy the snuggle and give up momentarily the pressure of getting things done

Yes, I know, it’s so easy to say, but this will not last forever. It can seem like your days are very long right now, but sooner than you know it, your little one will be claiming his or her independence! I know you feel very unproductive, but remember that you are getting plenty done: you are keeping a small helpless human being alive!

You are feeding him, getting him dressed, keeping him safe, cuddling him, soothing him, changing him, smiling, talking, playing and paying constant attention to his cues and needs. Sounds pretty productive to me… So now that your baby is sleeping on you, enjoy the snuggle. Take the time to observe him: look at his face, feel his little body pressed against yours, listen to his breath and feel all the love you have for him.

2. Try mindfulness meditation

If your want to feel more grounded and connected to the present moment, you can use this pocket of quiet time as an opportunity to practice mindfulness meditation. Now maybe the word meditation sounds a bit scary or “woo woo” for you, but all it takes is to focus a few minutes on something happening right now: it can be your breath, paying attention to the sounds around you or feeling your body against the bed and holding your child. Inevitably you will start thinking about something else after 30 seconds or 1 minute. That’s completely normal, just bring your attention back to your object of focus.

There are many online resources you can use. I personally love this course for beginners by Tara Brach anf Jack Kornfield called “mindfulness daily” (10 mn a day, available on  the Sounds True app).   You can also find tons of free guided meditations on the app Insight Timer. Practicing mindfulness meditation just a few minutes a day can help you feel calmer and more present.

3. Try yoga nidra

How can you do yoga with a sleeping baby on your lap??? I got you covered with yoga nidra, which is a form of yoga where you don’t need to make any movement! The exercise consists in relaxing the nervous system and the brain. It is actually more restorative than real sleep and you don’t have to lie down. This form of yoga is gold for sleep-deprived mamas!

My favorite teacher is Jennifer Piercy: her soothing voice will make you relax (or make you fall asleep) within minutes and you will come back full of energy! She has several tracks on Insight Timer  that last between 20 to 30 mn.

4. Give yourself a hand massage

Did you know that the hands are one of the body parts with the most nervous terminations? Massaging your hands can be extremely relaxing. Check this easy youtube video for instructions (I skip the cream part when baby is on me!).

5. Listen to soothing music

I know this is an obvious one, but how about creating a playlist of your favorite songs that you can enjoy (with headphones ;)) while your baby is sleeping? Music can change your mood in an instant and be very restorative.

6. Listen to podcasts or audio books

Any podcast by Bridget Woods and Julie Tenner at Nourishing the Mother will make your day. If you want to take a break from motherhood talks, there are tons of audiobooks on Audible (you will need to pay a monthly fee.)

I also love to listen to free inspiring talks by Tara Brach or Pema Chödrön.  They are buddhist teachers who share their wisdom with humor and generosity and help you put things in perspective.

Here are some of my favorites for new mamas: “relaxing the over-controller” by Tara Brach (the title is speaking for itself), and “How to turn pain into compassion” by Pema Chödrön (teaching self-compassion with a lot of humor).

7. Read inspiring books and articles

If you have a Kindle, this is a great option to read while your baby is on you. Also, did you know that there is a free Kindle app you can install on your phone? This is a great alternative to being on Facebook! Here is also a blog post with a list of self-care practice mamas can do anytime, anywheres and a  list of great articles for new mothers I put together if you want to read short pieces.

8. Make a photo album from your phone

I bet you have tons of baby pictures on your phone. You can actually organize them into a beautiful album right from your phone and get it delivered straight to your home as a beautiful book.This is also a great opportunity to stop and reflect on the last few months of your life and to practice gratitude. I used Pixum but I’m sure there are many other options out there.

9. Take a good old nap

I know that the advice “nap when the baby naps” does not work for everybody. But if you are one of the lucky ones who manage to sleep during the day, take this as a golden opportunity to get some rest. Remember: in a few short years, your baby won’t take naps anymore!! Believe it or not, you may miss those early snuggly naps.

10. Get a baby carrier

If you really need to move and can’t sit still for the fourth time during the day, then get a baby wrap.  It saved my sanity during the early months as it allowed me to go for walks and do small things around the house. I was a bit discouraged by the mobywrap,  which took ages to put on. Enters the Baby K’tan: a wrap that takes literally one minute to put on (make sure you check the instruction for choosing the size). My life was literally transformed 🙂

What about you dear mama? How do you replenish yourself when your baby is sleeping on you? I look forward to hearing from you in the comments!

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