It only took a few months for me to experience cosleeping burnout. My days blurred together as life revolved around the family bed: nursing to sleep, contact naps throughout the day, and nursing on demand all night long. It was only when I started pumping that I saw light at the end of the tunnel.
A breast pump is an incredible tool to fight cosleeping burnout. Breastmilk on hand will enable your partner to take over one of your baby’s feeds each day. This will allow you to prioritize your own needs, and if done consistently — it will forestall burnout.
Bedsharing, contact naps, baby-wearing, and breastfeeding on demand can quickly become all-encompassing.
It may feel counterintuitive, but prioritizing yourself will provide the physical and emotional strength necessary to be the special kind of parent who cosleeps.
Cosleeping Increases the Risk for Parental Burnout
New parents in every society, throughout all of human history, have burned out. It happens when a parent addresses her infant’s needs above her own for too long.
This emotional exhaustion can cause depression and anxiety, conflict with loved ones, disconnection with the baby, sleep deprivation, eating disorders, or suicidal thoughts.
Burnout is extremely common among mothers who bedshare. They do not get to place their baby in a crib for a few minutes when they need a breather. (In fact, most of these mothers do not own a crib.)
Sears warns there are many factors that lead to burnout, such as “a high-need baby, an unsupportive environment, mother’s or father’s personal challenges, outside pressures, or unrealistic expectations for parenting.”
“Modern mothers are expected to do it all: keep a perfect house, raise intelligent and creative children, provide their husbands with companionship and sex, and have a stimulating life of their own on the job or elsewhere. Learning how to be your baby’s mother is a more-than-full-time job. When too many other demands are placed on a mother, giving her more to do and less time to care for herself, she is in danger of mommy burnout.”Dr. William Sears
After childbirth, many women feel reborn. They relish their new role. They pride themselves on being their baby’s whole world.
They are inseparable with their baby — carrying her around in a sling, sleeping against her, stopping the world to feed her when she shows the first hunger cue. It’s beautiful, but it is not sustainable long term.
New mothers have been reborn. But they are still human.
Pumping Will Give You The Opportunity to Prioritize Yourself Each Day
Many moms who cosleep do not pump. They are fortunate enough to be able to stay home all day with their baby and feed her on demand, and they don’t see the need.
Others are concerned with their baby being EB. Exclusive breastfeeding (EB) is defined as feeding in which “the only milk consumed [is] of human origin, taken directly from the breast or bottle.”
Breastmilk is indeed the best source of nutrition for a baby, but no one ever said it has to come directly from the breast each and every time.
Whether she is a stay at home mom or an exclusive breastfeeder, every new mom should use a breast pump.
Having breastmilk available will allow her partner to take over one of the baby’s feedings each day.
This will provide a daily, non-negotiable time in which she can have emotional and physical space to address her own needs. To recharge; to fill her cup.
Each morning, pump at least two ounces of breastmilk. Nighttime hormones ensure that your milk supply is greatest in the morning, so this is the ideal time to pump.
After you have fed your baby, place her on a playmate or blanket beside you.
Pro Tip – Relaxing and making eye contact with your baby are two ways to increase your letdown.
Play peekaboo, sing, or turn on a relaxing podcast in the background. Your baby will relish your attention and find comfort in the routine.
No time to pump? Multitask. Here’s a simple nursing bra hack that will make any breast pump hands-free.
Are you a visual learner? Follow @cosleepy on Instagram for more photo tutorials.
After you pump, pour the milk into a freezer bag. Make sure you label it with the date. The Mayo Clinic asserts that breastmilk is good for twelve months in the back of your freezer.
If you know that you’re going to use it within the next five days, feel free to skip the bag and the freezer. Pour the milk into a bottle and stash it in the back of the refrigerator instead.
Something as simple as having a bottle of milk in the fridge can be life changing for a family.
Let’s imagine a husband and wife who bedshare with their five-month-old daughter. Baby is going through the dreaded four-month sleep regression and has been waking up every single hour to nurse.
Our new mom is feeling increasingly sleep-deprived, isolated, agitated, and hopeless. Depleted.
Our new mom is on the brink.
Her husband offers to take over one of their baby’s feeds each day, so she can recharge. He suggests either the early-morning feed, the feed as soon as he gets home from work, or the very last feed of the day.
The following table illustrates how this husband could help his wife avoid burnout:
|Time of Day||Dad Will …||Mom Can …|
|4 a.m. (the first feed of the day)||Bottlefeed baby, help her fall asleep on his chest, then enjoy coffee and the morning news until it’s time to get ready for work.||Sleep! (Or sleep a while longer, take a shower, then enjoy coffee and Everything is Figuroutable in bed.)|
|5 p.m. (as soon as he gets home from work)||Bottlefeed baby, help her fall asleep on his chest, then watch the Dodger game until it’s time to help make dinner.||Walk the pup to the dog park, call a friend on the way, then listen to a podcast on the way home.|
|9 p.m. (the last feed of the day)||Bottlefeed baby, help her fall asleep on his chest, then read The Alchemist on his iPad until he gets tired.||Sleep! (Or take a long bath, journal, then stream “The Crown” in bed until she falls asleep.)|
Pumping Will Strengthen Your Relationship With Your Partner
Many partners are sensitive enough to know when it is time to take the baby for a few minutes. It is usually helpful and lovely, when it happens. But unless it is happening consistently, even the most well-meaning partner will miss some cues.
Resentment goes hand in hand with burnout.
If all of Mother’s energy goes to the baby, Dad may resent being left out in the cold. He may immerse himself in work or other commitments outside the family. Mom then burns out, and the marriage gets shaky, and the baby’s relationship with both his parents is at risk.Dr. William Sears
If a mom uses pumping to create a non-negotiable appointment for herself each and every day, her partner won’t have to guess when it’s time to step in.
Communication and teamwork can get any couple through the darkest days of burnout.
And most will come through the fog stronger and more connected than before.
Pumping Will Strengthen Your Baby’s Relationship With Your Partner
Many babies do not have the chance to spend one-on-one time with Dad each day. Even young babies find comfort in routines, and they will come to love this time together.
In the case that the father is apprehensive about a fussy or high-needs baby, he will not have to worry that he’s being watched and evaluated. He may initially feel apprehensive, as he cannot nurse his baby to sooth her or to help her fall asleep, but he will figure it out.
His partner will not be available to help, and so he has no choice but to figure it out.
This will increase his confidence as a father and as a partner.
Adults are comforted by routines, as well, and so this father will likely enjoy this daily appointment with his baby. They will create a special connection together — one that he will cherish years later when his baby is all grown up.
Pumping Will Prepare Your Family For An Emergency
Emergencies happen in the early days (and late nights) of parenthood.
If a mother accidentally scratches her eye when removing a contact lens, she may need to take antibiotics to heal the infection. No problem — if she has a supply of frozen milk, she won’t have to worry that the antibiotics will reach her baby through nursing.
Frozen breastmilk can prove vital in other unexpected situations, when nursing is suddenly not possible. A mother may have to go on antibiotics for a UTI, spend the night in the hospital after a car accident, or experience debilitating postpartum depression.
Two weeks’ worth of frozen breastmilk can provide a buffer when the unexpected happens.
Any way you slice it, pumping can be a lifeline to a family in need.
Get to it.
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