A soft whimper rises from the cradle nearby. Rustling sounds as blankets are kicked off.
You peer through sleepy eyes at the clock.
Rolling out of bed in a half-woken daze, you shuffle over to get baby for a nighttime feed.
You do this again at 2:30am.
Ready to the start the day by 7:00am.
Possibly even more frequently than that.
If you’re on the night shift with a newborn, you’ll be all too familiar with this kind of nighttime pattern.
Maybe you dread nights in anticipation of this.
I know I did, at first.
Days were fine because I was up and about anyway, and I often had my husband there for company. But nights were not a time I looked forward to. I’d be desperately hoping that baby would fall back asleep after a feed, and that he might sleep for at least 2 or please please please 3 hours straight before waking again… It was a challenge dragging myself up to get him once I heard his midnight cries. It wasn’t easy.
But eventually, I learnt to love this night shift. When you do things with love, it becomes a fulfilling and purposeful experience.
Don’t resent this nightly routine. Here are 4 things that can help you learn to love and embrace these moments instead.
1. Take advantage of your heightened senses
Fumbling around in the blackened room or maybe a night light dimly glows nearby. As you cuddle or nurse your little one, use your senses to get to know them better. Gently feel the soft fuzz of their hair, the curve of their body against yours, the smoothness of their delicate skin. Let their tiny fingers wrap around yours, stroke their little hands as they hold on to you. Listen to the soft gulping as they drink, or the sound of their tiny breath as they breathe. Match your breathing with theirs. In and out. And notice their individual scent. The smell of baby powder, a hint of baby shampoo and lotion, and the subtle fragrance of their skin.
2. No distractions
Appreciate that there are no other responsibilities or chores that you could be doing, whether it be the clothes washing, dishes, cooking, attending to the needs of older kids… Just you and your baby. Don’t worry about what’s going to happen the following day, or any list of todos that’s building up in your mind. Tackle those once morning comes. Instead, let it be just you and your little one, and let your focus rest on that.
It’s also alone time that you probably don’t get much of if you have other older kids. So in the peace and quiet of the night, pay particular attention to their gurgles and motions, and take the time to bond with your baby.
3. Your feelings will reflect onto your baby
If you’re stressed, anxious or grumpy every time you wake to attend to your baby’s needs throughout the night, they’ll pick up on it. Research has shown how in-tune babies are to their mother’s emotional state and that they can even end up showing signs of physical stress themselves. So if you’re calm, peaceful and loving through the night wakings, this can pass onto your little one and helps them be content as well. You want these moments to be positive experiences for both of you.
4. This won’t last forever
Even once you learn to love the nightly routines, yes you’ll still look forward to the night that you’ll be able to sleep through without interruptions. And believe me, that day will surely come. Right now, appreciate that it’s you who they need. Cherish the nighttime moments with your little one because before you know it, they’ll become more independent and won’t be calling for your comfort and care in the middle of the night any longer.
And you never know, you might even miss those little midnight cuddles.