I met a mom at support group last week whose 3.5 month old baby has recently gone from sleeping through the night to being up every 2-3 hours. (Regular Ask Moxie readers are probably familiar with the four month sleep regression and are nodding their heads knowingly right about now.) I told her that a lot of babies have this problem, and that it is just a phase and will pass. She said "but I'm going back to work next month", with a slightly panicked look on her face. "How will I handle working if the baby isn't sleeping through the night?"
Well, Pumpkin has yet to sleep through the night (and I mean that phrase in the everyday, "she sleeps the entire time I sleep" sense, not the silly "she slept five hours in a row" sense). And I am doing just fine at work. I won't lie and claim that there haven't been some very difficult weeks (these usually involve some sort of illness for Pumpkin and/or other members of the household), but on the whole, we do OK. Here are the things I think make this possible:
1. Hubby and I split the night. Each of us gets to sleep relatively uninterrupted for half of the night. I find that as long as I get 3-4 hours of uninterrupted sleep and an hour or two of additional sleep, I actually feel fine. We did this even before we started nightweaning. My advice to mothers planning to go back to work: introduce a bottle once breastfeeding is well established, so that Hubby can help out (and so that you have one less thing to worry about when transitioning into day care). The lactation counselors at my hospital recommended
introducing the bottle at ~3 weeks if breastfeeding was going well.
2. We take advantage of all offers for sleep help. My Mom is here now, because Pumpkin had an eye infection and couldn't go to day care. She offered to take a night shift so that Hubby could get some more sleep (he's been losing more sleep than me lately, due to the nightweaning efforts). We gladly accepted. Earlier, when Pumpkin's sleep was worse than it is now, I would accept offers from anyone who wanted to take her for a walk while I napped.
3. We catch up on sleep whenever we can. We take turns sleeping in a bit on the weekends. When sleep times were particularly bad, I would send Pumpkin to day care on one of my Fridays off and sleep for a couple of hours in the morning. I'd go pick her up at lunch time and we'd have a fun afternoon together.
4. We have seriously relaxed our housekeeping standards. Pre-Pumpkin, we did a fairly thorough cleaning every other weekend. This doesn't happen much anymore. Now we ar emore likely to do spot cleaning. Of course, a certain amount of housework is necessary for our sanity (I hate grungy bathrooms) and for Pumpkin's safety- I caught her about to eat a dust bunny the other day, and decided that perhaps our standards have gotten too lax. We're probably going to get a maid service to help out (the reason we don't have one yet is a topic for a future post on the differences between New Zealanders and Americans). Most other working moms I know swear by their maid service.
5. I go to bed really, really early. When Pumpkin's sleep was at its worst, I'd go to be before she did- I'd finish her last nursing, then hand her to Hubby and head off to bed. Now I go to bed at 9 most nights, and am almost never awake at 10.
Speaking of which... it is almost bedtime now! I'd be interested in reading any other tips for working moms with babies who don't sleep particularly well. I'm always looking to improve our routine.