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Sleep when the baby sleeps

Binge on as many boxsets as you can. Since announcing the birth of my son last week, this has been common advice.

Sure. Except the remote is on the carpet beside a cup of tea that's long gone cold. "Eat whatever you like, you'll need the calories for breastfeeding". Another offering. Solid gold.

If only that Mint Aero could grow legs, walk out of the fridge and into my mouth. But above all, amid messages calling me a "rock star", I have been told again and again to "sleep when the baby sleeps".

Sat beneath a canopy of pale blue and silver cards, I wince and wonder if it's acceptable to use the nipple shields I ordered from Amazon at 4am yesterday.

I've been a mama for 15 days. One website advises not to use nipple shields until the baby is three weeks old. Another advises not to use at all. My sister advised to ignore all the advice and to use them immediately.

"Come here, little bear," I whisper, forgetting the midwife's advice to slip my pinky finger into baby's mouth to unlatch. "Agh! Ouch!" His cherry lips dance in an array of "O" shapes, a tiny cry escaping. The gentle giraffe on his vest twitches, his bird legs kick.

With my hand behind his floppy, warm head, I switch him from my left to right, remembering to kiss his crown, God, he's delicious. Inhaling his tufty hair is my new hobby.

I brace myself. I don't want to dread it, but I do: the latch. The nipple shields are on the armchair, out of reach from the sofa I'm sank into, cross-legged. They're also still in the packaging. Even if I could reach them, they'd need sterilising. This thought hurts my head. The tips of my fingernails ache for sleep. Pin and needles tickle my feet. Moving is not on my agenda. What agenda? What was I just thinking about?

My phone rings. Mum.

To pick up, I need to stretch to my right, but I freeze, look down...My baby is asleep! Nuzzled against my bare skin, he's not in a frenzy for milk. His chest is moving up and down to a satisfying beat. And he's snoring. Pop the champagne! Never did I imagine a day that snoring should be celebrated.

Keeping movement to a minimum, I tap my phone to answer and put Mum on speakerphone. I sing-song a quiet, hello. "How's my little grandson?" Mum belts out. "Sssh, he's sleeping."

"In his Mosses basket?"

"On me."

"No, no. Put him in his Moses basket."

"It might wake him."

"You should sleep when the baby sleeps."

I rest my head back into the sofa. "I plan to." I say.

"Janet from next door's knitted a blanket. I'll bring it over this weekend."

"Thanks mum."

"It's Janet you need to thank. Have you ordered cards yet?"

"what do you mean, what cards?"

"Announcing the new arrival! You can get them online. You just need to put his date of birth, his weight, and choose a nice pic, preferably one with his eyes open. Ooh, has he smiled yet?"

I don't' know. Oh, God. I honestly don't know. Have I missed it?

"Love? You still there?" Mum asks. I hadn't realised I hadn't spoken. "What time is it, mum?"

"One forty three."

"One forty.....?" I'm still in my PJ's. It's impossible to believe that I use to wash and blow dry my hair, make coffee, drink coffee, dress, apply a full face of make-up, use the bathroom twice, check my phone much more than twice, catch a bit of Pier's and Susanna, insert earphones, choose a podcast, walk to the Tube Station, take three different lines into Soho and get to m desk before nine. Since giving birth, I've managed perhaps two things off this list within 24-hour period. And yet, I've been home most of the time with nowhere in particular to be. "I'll let you go," Mum says. "You need to sleep..."

"...when the baby sleeps. Got it."

"Oh by the way, that photo you sent to the family WhatsApp was fantastic."

No clue what photo she's referring to.

"Dad and lad. Peas in a pod." Ah, that one.

He'd just got home from work. Sleepless nights plus the end of paternity leave had resulted in him conking out on the sofa. Our baby lay on his chest, also conked out from a long day of bad wind.

I'd taken this opportunity to shower and reply to a few messages. Then popping my head into the living room, I witnessed the two loves of my life in adorable slumber together and it made my heart swell and my head woozy. There's no other way to describe it. I had to capture the moment. Smelling of the shea butter and feeling a freshness resembling that first shower after Glastonbury, I couldn't resist cuddling into them both - just for a minute - and...well.

"You'll have to frame it." Mum tells me. "Shall I get it printed for you?"


"Look, I'll let you go. Let you sleep."


Taken from Hayley Doyle's new novel Love, Almost (Avon £7.99) out now!

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