When Does It Get Easier? 6 Week Old Baby and 4 Year Old and Little to No Sleep

Updated on March 27, 2011
A.K. asks from Minneapolis, MN
24 answers

I have a 6 week old baby and a 4 year old. The baby hasn't ever slept for more than a 3 hour stretch at a time (I breastfeed), and the last few nights has been sleeping for 3 hours, then is wide awake for the next 3 hours, which means I get maybe one more hour of sleep after that before my 4 year old wakes up. Baby does sleep on and off most of the day, but never long and doesnt matter cause I am taking care of my 4 year old anyways and can't 'sleep when baby sleeps' (stupid advice. whoever said that had an only child).

My mom has been helping out and will even take my 4 year old for the day sometimes. I find it hard to nap during the day even when I am SO tired, and feel like I have to pick up the MESSY house and if I dont i feel guilty. My mom has been so great, but I feel like I have been using her so much and it STILL isnt't helping, I am still so tired.

My hubby comes home from a full day at work and makes dinner and plays games with our 4 year old and holds the baby and sometimes I can nap then, but then I feel guilty for that even, and it's never more than an hour or 2. My hubby cooks and does everything, but it STILL isn't helping, I am so tired.

My 4 year old is so grabby with the baby. I always have to gaurd the baby from being hurt, she just moves so fast and is too rough and she keeps doing the same things over and over (like grabbing the babys hands and pulling them backwards while she is talking to her, or kissing her on the head, which would be fine BUT she is usually moving so fast that its ROUGH the way she does it. once when she GALLOPED onto the bed she hit the baby in the head with her foot. how many times do I have to tell her to be careful, to move slower? and then of course I feel guilty for constantly harping on her.

I only have 12 weeks of maternity leave (only 6 left!) before I have to go back to my sucky job (I carry the insurance). This is my only time to be an at home mom and am doing a crappy job. I am so tired I just don't have the energy to entertain my 4 year old or even keep myself from snapping at her when she doesn't listen to me (which has become SO often.)

If my husband was talking like this, I would tell him to suck it up. But I cant seem to just suck it up, I get irritated so easily and I know its because I am sleep deprived.

Does it get easier?

What can I do next?

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answers from Dover on

Yes, it does get easier. I hate to tell you this, but you need to suck your guilt up. Sleep when the baby sleeps is NOT stupid advice, it's tried & true advice which is why it's been given by so many mothers for so many years. If your Mom is wonderful enough to take the 4 year old for a day, drop the guilt like a hot potato & take a freaking nap already! If your husband comes home from work & holds the baby and makes dinner, drop the guilt & take another nap if you need it. Before you know it, you'll start to feel like a human being again & not the walking dead & you'll be a much better Mama all around. If you're sleep deprived for an extended period of time & horrible to yourself the rest of the time, well, what else can you expect but to be miserable, right? Take care of you, then you'll find that getting up in the night with the baby won't be that big of a deal & dealing with a 4 year old who's rougher than she should be will be easier to handle as well.
I forgot to mention when I first posted that my kids are only 17 months apart, so I have personal experience with this, too. My oldest was still in diapers & sippy cups when I brought a newborn home after having a c-section & couldn't even pick him up to change his diaper. When the baby was 6 months old we had a total of 40 hours to prepare for my husband to deploy for 4 months while we were in the middle of apartment hunting. If I could get through that at the age of 24, you can get through this, I promise, promise, promise!!!

4 moms found this helpful


answers from San Antonio on

It does get easier.

1) Talk to the pediatrician and find out how you can get the baby to sleep longer. Big help.

2) Take your mom up on all help! Don't feel guilty for getting help. Think about this: if your son or daughter just had a new baby and you were close by, wouldn't YOU do everything you could to help---without feeling taking advantage of. You would, right? Well, the same for you mom and her help.

3) Talk to your doctor about post partum depression. Get checked out. I was on a light anti-depressant for about 6 months when my oldest 2 were 15 months apart! And husband got sent out of the country to work for 4 weeks. Yikes! I was a mess. The meds really helped me control my frustration, get more sleep....

4) Let the house go. So it's a mess. Big Whoop.
My 3 are now teens and my house is a mess. Someday when they are gone, I will have lots of time to clean and I will miss them and our time together.

Good luck.

2 moms found this helpful


answers from Spokane on

I don't know how you expect to take care of your children, husband and home when you're taking such crappy care of yourself! :o)

Your mom and husband offer help? TAKE IT! It's so important for you to be as rested as possible. Wait to do the cleaning til the weekend....the mess isn't going anywhere. Try and get outside a little every day. Pop the babe in the stroller and take your 4 year old to the park, or just let her run around in the yard. The fresh air will do ALL of you good and help everyone sleep better.

My 4 month old did what your baby is doing. When the baby wakes to feed at night, keep it brief, quiet and dark. One thing I found that helped was not changing her diaper at night unless she pooped or was *really* wet. Swaddled babies tend to sleep better too because they're not thrashing about and feel snug and safe. A white noise machine or fan will help too. And it's never too early to start a bedtime routine. For my baby, I make sure she's up for the last 2-3 hours before bed, usually cluster-feeding (to help curb night-time feedings). Then a bath, lotion/massage, clean sleeper, swaddle and then I nurse her to sleep. Some nights I can get up to 8 hours for that first stretch!

Try and be patient with your 4 year old. It's probably just as tough (if not moreso) on her. I mean, one minute she's the centre of the world and now she has to share her mommy with a crying, wiggly little creature that she can't even play with! And to top it off, her mama is now always tired and grouchy.

I've been there. Hell, I AM there! Just this morning my 4 month old woke me up at 4am. And even though I'm exhausted, I still have 2 older girls that need and *deserve* a patient mama....and some days they even get her! LOL

1 mom found this helpful


answers from Dallas on

where is your 4 yr old when you work? When my second baby was born, my first still went to daycare when i was on maternity leave. It was what kept me sane. So I really could get some sleep while the baby slept. And I know some people might think its wrong to send the first one to daycare when you are at home, but for me I would have lost his spot had I taken him out 12 weeks. So i'm just curious, can your 4 yr old go to where she was going when you were working? just to give you a break?

1 mom found this helpful


answers from Honolulu on

1) DO NOT FEEL GUILTY about people helping you.

2) Are you producing enough milk? Is baby latching on properly? If not... then baby will not be getting enough intake. Hence, baby will always be hungry... and can't sleep.
So that is something to think about.
That happened to a lot of my friends. Once their milk increased and baby latched on properly, THEN, their baby was getting 'full' and was more satisfied and slept better.

3) Babies often feed often. They even do 'cluster feeding' which means they need to feed every single hour.
Infants hit growth-spurts every 3 weeks. Thus, their intake/hunger increases and their feeding frequency.

4) your Eldest is 4 years old. My daughter was almost 4, when I had my 2nd child. To help in the adjustment, I explained to my daughter... about what a baby is. That it wakes/cries/needs to feed/I breastfeed him etc.
I explained to my Eldest, about how the baby is a baby, not a toy, and how a baby develops. That a baby cannot do what she does, nor understand like she does etc. EACH month, I explained to her about how baby is changing and the 'phases' they go through etc. So, this helped HER a ton. I explained, that baby has to be treated GENTLY. I explained how to treat a baby etc. A child does not automatically know those things. So you have to explain it to them.

I also, made naps for my eldest, at the same time as baby in the afternoon. It was a routine. And then we ALL napped. I synchronized it that way. I explained that to my eldest.

I explained that Mommy has to take care of herself too.... I had had a c-section.

5) Are you still taking Pre-natal vitamins? If not, then do so. Even when breastfeeding, you need that. For you and baby.

6) Once a child becomes an "Eldest" child... it does not mean that they suddenly grow up and act like an older child. They are still a child themselves. And THEY had a baby too. So, if you try to remember that... maybe it will help in your reaction to your Eldest. They are trying to figure things out too. So explain it to your Eldest... about baby.
And make time for her too. When you can. Even if it means that your eldest just sits on your lap and you cuddle.

7) Try to have a ROUTINE every darn day. That way, the Eldest is not just a Satellite floating around everything. A child needs to know, what is going on/what is going to happen etc. Not just floating around. When a child is aimless.... then get more into trouble. So you have to 'aim' your child.

If the Eldest is "bored"... then they get into more trouble too.

IF you can, maybe enroll your Eldest in Preschool. That is what we did with my Daughter, when I had my son. She LOVED it. It was just HER thing and she to enjoy her day too... not just being stuck at home with me and baby. And she got socialization too. And fun.

8) Gauge your "Expectations" upon your eldest child. If expectations are TOO ahead of their age development/understanding... then frustrations will occur, because a child cannot act older than they are.

1 mom found this helpful


answers from Minneapolis on

Sleep deprivation is a form of torture. They used it at Guantanamo!

Lose the guilt. Remember, you're more than a mom. You're a wife, daughter, employee, etc. You're also human. SLEEP whenever you can. Take full advantage of your husband's and mom's services and lower your standards as far as having a clean house.

It will get better when you're able to sleep again, but in reality, that may not be for a couple more years.

Sleep is the key. If mama ain't happy, ain't no one happy.

Editorial: Our country is so behind other developed nations when it comes to maternity leave and health insurance. I was once in the same boat. 12 weeks is nowhere near enough time, and yet when your insurance hinges on your job, ya do what ya gotta do.

1 mom found this helpful


answers from Raleigh on

Yes. It gets easier. I am a full time working mom to a 6 mo old and a 4 1/2 year old. My advice? If you had a daycare provider before the baby was born, then send your 4 year old to daycare during the day. It gives you time to rest and have bonding with your baby. And don't feel guilty about it. Having another baby in the house should seem easy when you have already had one, but it's even more draining. I always say that the second baby actually quadruples the work and energy required! Take care!

1 mom found this helpful


answers from Los Angeles on

I did't read your whole post, but for both my babies, 6 weeks represented the pinnacle of sleep deprivation. Soon your baby (even breast fed) will sleep 5-6 hours in the night in one stretch and you will feel like a human again. Hang in there.

1 mom found this helpful


answers from Sheboygan on

First of all...stop feeling guilty about trying to take care of yourself!! You are not doing a good job of taking care of yourself and it shows! How can you be a good mother if your body is not getting it's most basic needs? You are lucky to have a mother and husband willing to help you! Why do you feel guilty when they help? You need to accept their help and take care of yourself...that's why they are helping. By not taking care of yourself your making what they are doing useless. How do you think that makes them feel? They are trying to help you, yet when they do it doesn't make a difference.
It sounds like your baby has his/her nights and days mixed up. My second was the same way. A lactation specialist gave me really good advice. She said not to let the baby sleep for more than a one hour stretch during the day. If she had been sleeping for an hour I would go in and get her up. (Sometimes she would be ready to go back to sleep a half hour later). I did that for a couple days and then she started to sleep better during the night.
My kids were born 18 months apart and we were living in a new city with no friends or relatives. If I got through it, so can you!! Remember it is only temporary!
Good luck!

1 mom found this helpful


answers from Chicago on

My first piece of advice is don't worry about the house. Really, who cares? Right now you need your rest!! If you can't be fully rested, the whole family will suffer. It sounds like you have a great husband who is helpful. It will get better, but you have to recognize that some things need to be let go, and it's okay if you have a messy house.

1 mom found this helpful


answers from Tampa on

Don't worry about the house... it's not going to fall apart for the short time you concentrate on your brand new family addition. I didn't notice you mentioning co-sleeping... I would greatly advocate for that. That helps both you and baby get A LOT more sleep - seriously!! I was a single Mom, working full time with part time college and I didn't clean my house much the first 3 months and co-slept. I didn't feel much sleep deprivation, just fatigue from having to do everything and working all alone.

Give your older daughter some time to adjust and I'm sure you can groom her into a great Mommy's Helper. My daughter will be turning 6 a month after the baby is born - and we've already discussed how she'll have to help us and how wonderful it will be to be a Big Sister. She's SOOOOO excited, she's been asking for a sibling since she was 2 y/o.

1 mom found this helpful


answers from Des Moines on

Wow you sound just like I did all those years ago :) If there is one thing I learned from raising my two kids who were the same years apart that yours are was to try NOT to feel guilty about the house or chores (just let them go) and to NEVER feel guilty about needing sleep..... Your body is still recovering from giving birth.... there isnt a mom out there that is perfect and gets everything done.... Just be gentle with yourself :) It does get better and It goes by SO fast (mine are now 20 and 17yrs old)
Hang in there!!

1 mom found this helpful


answers from Minneapolis on

I'm also here to tell you it will get better. I have a 3 year old and 4 month old and every week gets a little better. I felt the same way as you, only I also had the holidays to deal with. My 4 month is only getting up once a night now. And as he has become a little more interactive, my 3 year old seems more engaged and not just jealous or frustrated. Be thankful you have the helpful husband and your mom to help and take advantage of it! While you may feel bad, most people I find like to help...plus it is their grandmother. I wish I had relatives nearby to help everyday! Stop putting so much pressure on yourself. All your kids care about is spending time with you and they don't care if the house isn't perfect. That will come later when things do get easier...and they will!



answers from Columbus on

You are NOT doing a crappy job! You are a great mom!

Take a deep breath and stop feeling guilty about leaning on DH & your mom---that's what they are there for, and they WANT to help (okay, maybe DH would like a break too... but he's not up for half the night feeding the baby! LOL, and I bet he wouldn't trade you that in place of playing w/ the 4yo in a million years, even if he could! :)

Anyone who said in the last year "when the baby comes, let me know what I can do"----call them, text them, email them and say "You remember when you offered to help? Well, I could really use the help. So many times I wished my friends would step up & offer (we have no family near us), and no one did, and I struggled so much.... because I was afraid to impose or to ask. Ask them to bring over some food (and visit for half an hour or hour), or if they would mind coming over on the weekend to help you clean a bit or watch the kids while you clean. Or take the 4yo to the park or over to their house for a playdate or whatever. See if you can take the baby & 4yo to grandma's, right after a good feeding, and see if you can catch a nap there, while she watches the kids or something.

I had the hardest time napping because the baby would wake & cry and my brain was on "red alert" for the crying and I could not relax. I would put a pillow over my head to block out light & noise and crash... I remember having a mantra "even 15 minutes of napping is good!" and just repeating that until I believe it.



answers from Boston on

Yes, it does get easier with each month, I remember feeling exactly like you. It's great that your husband and mom help out so much, I was lucky like that to. It's so hard to feel like yourself when you are so overtired. I would sometimes leave the house and just go for a walk in the fresh air by myself, it made me feel better and relax a little bit about all the chaos. Soon enough the baby will be sleeping longer and you'll be getting more rest, hang in there!



answers from Los Angeles on

First of all...WOW!!! You get 3 hours solid sleep? I would love that. LOL!!

Yeah, it gets easier. We just tend to forget how it was with our first child when they were that young. As the baby gets older they will start to sleep through the night, then you'll get your full night of snoozing. Just hang in there! My baby's 2 months and doing a little better each night. I just have to remind myself that one day she's be in the next room with her sister and I'll get my bed back. Keep your eye on the prize!!!


answers from Detroit on

I am sad for you. This is a TOUGH time and as you point out, it's quickly coming to an end. Been there. Consider yourself lucky because you do get more maternity time off than the average employer allows. I work for a big company and had to figure it all out in 6 weeks :( My kids are 2.5 years apart and baby number 2 was the worst! Never slept, cried a ton, it was so, so, so hard. I had no sleep, had to return to work and try to be a good mom and wife to my oldest and husband. It seems like it will never get better, but it does!!

I think it was the 3 month marker where things started to better click. But, my youngest was REALLY difficult until she was about 2-2.5. She is 3 1/2 now and the best thing ever. So, it may be a long road, but do your best to try and stay positive and get rest when ever you can. It's different for all of us, but remember, most of us have been there and can at lease sympathize with you!!

And when all the stars are finally aligned, you will be so happy you have those children and will forget (or at least try to block out) these rough couple of month!

Good luck!!



answers from Detroit on

You've gotten lots of good answers already - just want to tell you not to beat yourself up over things like a messy house or needing sleep or needing help. Years from now people will not care about how messy the house is now. Some things that might help:

1. To give your mom a break, have a trusted baby sitter come over to spend time with your 4 year old, or take care of the both of them so you can catch up on sleep or housework. Or even a younger girl (10 - 13) to be a "Mommy's Helper" to keep the 4 yo entertained or help out with small tasks.

2. Hire a cleaning service to handle the housecleaning every 1 to 2 weeks.

3. Start expecting your DD to be more gentle with the baby by modeling how she should behave, but having her go in time-out (or other consequence) if she persists or decides not to listen. Find small jobs for her to do to help keep her busy and make her feel useful.

4. Let Dad take care of the kids for a couple of hours so you can get out of the house alone for a bit. Don't feel bad for needing time just for yourself - you'll be happier as a result and that will help you be a better mom.

Good luck, hang in there...



answers from Miami on

Yes, it does. I have a 6 month old (tomorrow!) and a 4.5 year old. I was totally exhausted also. Maternity leave is just that - not to get extra projects done and not to clean house. Let the house go and try to enjoy the newborn period. Yes, it is exhausting, I am also breastfeeding and my son didn't sleep more than 3 hours at a stretch until he was 4 months old.

Is your 4 year old in any kind of daycare/preschool? Where is she when you are at work? I kept my four year old in preschool from 9-12, 5 days a week while I was on my leave. Baby would go back down, #1 would go off to school with Daddy and I would go back to sleep. I would get up in time to shower (or shower before laying back down) before the next feed was anticipated.

Try to find things your 4 year old can do to help (get the diapers, sort laundry, sort the clothing sizes for the baby) so that she feels needed. I taught my 4 year old to find clothing sizes and we sorted all the baby clothes into bins for each size. That has made my life much easier as we moved up in size range.

Don't feel guilty for napping - you are trying to take care of two children and breastfeeding and recovering from childbirth. You need the extra sleep - you are only 6 weeks postpartum and you are nursing. Make sure you get plenty of fluids since dehydration will make you tired also. Go to sleep when your 4 year old goes to bed and let your husband handle the "first shift".

In terms of happy news, my baby just started sleeping 2 weeks ago. He is now going down at 7:30, sleeping until 3, gets up to nurse and goes back down until 7ish. The unhappy part, he is in daycare and I'm back to work. I think that daycare exhausts him. I feel 100xs better though.

Take lots of pictures, this time is gone way to quickly! C.



answers from Milwaukee on

I just wanted to tell you that I feel your pain. My oldest is 3 and 1/2 and my youngest, 14mos. We hit week 8 with both my girls and they were sleeping through the night. However, then with both girls we slowly, then quickly backtracked to waking up 2-4x's per night. With my 14mo old, she just got all 4 of her 1st yr molars in within a 4 week period, all of which my husband has been gone with his deployment for the military, fun! So I have also not gotten, until yesterday, more than 3 hrs of sleep myself. All I can tell you is what I tell myself every morning I get up, it's a new day, I will only get this day to live once, make the best of every minute, our kids will be grown before we know it, sleep or no sleep. But if I were you, I wouldn't worry so much about a messy house! Good luck.



answers from Pittsfield on

Sorry, I understand that kind of tired. I've been there a few times myself. I FINALLY, after lots and lots of tears, learned to stop caring about the house so much- just remind yourself that it's temporary.(I'm a neat freak, so it was hard). I'm sure you can imagine what my house looked like when I had my 4th! Once the baby starts sleeping better, you can go back closer to the way you want it to be. Until then, DO NOT feel guilty about napping when someone gives you the opportunity!! You'll be able to cope with all of this better with more sleep, and won't be so snappy (you're not alone, trust me). You are a good Mom, just really overtired- wasn't sleep deprivation used as torture in war? You're human, and a human can only function to a minimal degree without sleep, so don't be so hard on yourself. In the grand scheme of things, a Mom's well-being is more important than a clean house (I know, that's easy for me to say now that my youngest is 3)

Try to keep the baby up a little more in the day time if at all possible. Also space the daytime feedings a little closer- hopefully she'll be satisfied for longer stretches at night. Once she starts putting some weight on, she'll sleep better. I know some Moms will disagree with me on this one, but I'll throw it out there anyway. If it were me, I'd give the baby a bottle of formula before bed. She'll feel full longer and gain weight faster. Up to you, of course.

When I had my 2nd baby, I remember thinking, wow I had it pretty easy when I only had one (I hadn't thought so at the time). When I had my 3rd, I realized 2 wasn't so bad. My husband and I were suddenly outnumbered! After 3, what's one more? It's only really hard like this when you have an infant. The bigger she gets, the easier it'll get. Even another month and a half from now you should see some improvement.

Hang in there Mama, it won't be like this forever- I promise :)



answers from Cleveland on

Is it an issue of you "can't" nap or don't because you feel guilty? I literally couldn't nap easily with my first bc I was so nervous my mind was always racing etc. I finally learned of something called lorazepram/antivan which relaxes your mind (I wasnt breast feeding) after my second. If you can't nap, maybe try that or benedryl. Then pump and dump. You know you're lucky to have this help from your mom and husband. Take advantage. If it's guilt that keeps you from napping, give yourself a timeframe that you will let things go. Tell yourself for the next 2 weeks you will let go of the guilt. Catching up a bit on sleep will help a lot! Then go from there. Maybe you'll see that letting the house go isn't the end of the world.


answers from Dallas on

It gets easier as the baby is able to do more for herself and the 4 yr old is able to help. As babies can feed, dress, bathe themselves, no more diapers and no more bottles, each milestone things get a little easier. Until then, try melatonin to get good restful sleep. Maybe just 2 nights a week hubby can volunteer to get up with baby so you can sleep through the night. You are not doing a bad job. You're the best mommy those 2 ever had! It's overwhelming and you need some good sleep to be at your best.



answers from Sacramento on

A few thoughts as the mom of an eight-year-old and four-year-old who's been through this:

1. Use that time your mom gives you to sleep. If your mind is too wired to sleep, try a small dose of over-the-counter melatonin to naturally fall asleep. Your body needs to catch up on sleep, so make sure this happens when you get the chance. You'll be a better mom for it.

2. I agree with the comment about sleeping when the baby sleeps. I wanted to slap that person, too! Our oldest napped in five-minute increments when he was a baby. I thought that "tip" was a cruel joke because there was no way I could sleep in such a short stretch. And forget it when you are caring for two kids, unless you want to make the news in a bad mom report.

3. Take advantage of daycare or preschool for your oldest. You don't have to wait until you return to work. We were paying for daycare anyway, so I took advantage of it. Frankly, our son was pretty happy to get away from his baby sister.

4. If you can afford it, hire a cleaning service. Money well spent.

5. Don't worry about how the house looks. Deal with basic pick up at the end of the day and leave the non-essential (not in the way on the floor, etc.) for when you're inspired. :)

6. Remember that your baby will eventually sleep better. This won't be a forever thing. I promise. I remember how hard it is during the beginning months. Anytime people talk about loving the newborn time, I think they're nuts because I remember the pain of lack of sleep and way too much to do during the day.

Best of luck to you!

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