Jessica Biel Shares What She Would Have Done Differently as a New Mom
At a celebration of Dr. Harvey Karp's SNOO in West Hollywood,The Sinner star got real about sleep and self-care struggles she faced when her son Silas was a newborn.
Jessica Biel has no problem being honest about the innate challenges of motherhood, especially related to sleep! For instance, last June, Biel took to Instagram to share a funny, all-too-real selfie in which she's snoozing, captioned, "SPOTTED! In her natural state, notice the slack jaw, deep sleep and palpable fatigue of this creature. Yes, it is a working mom."
Although Silas, her son with husband Justin Timberlake, just turned 3, The Sinners star can still recall what those earliest, rest-deprived days felt like. Biel spoke exclusively to Parents.com alongside Dr. Harvey Karp, author of Happiest Baby on the Block and inventor of the SNOO smart sleeper, during a celebration of the SNOO at Au Fudge in West Hollywood, California on Wednesday, May 16, and the actress opened up about the bumpy—not to mention sleepy!—road that is new motherhood.
Biel shared that from right off the bat, when Silas' birth didn't exactly go according to plan, she struggled to practice self-care. "I have to say, I don't think I was very good at [self-care] in the beginning," Biel admitted. "I felt such a huge burden about the way that he was born, which was by C-section. It wasn't what I planned, and my mind was in a different place. I was expecting something else, so when that happened, I felt like, now I have to do so many other things to create a different experience in his young, little life. That was a mistake. I should have been kind to myself and said, 'You know what, I have a healthy baby here, we're doing okay, he's doing okay, and go have a massage and don't feel bad about it, and go out to dinner, and don't feel bad about it.'"
She also recalled that she was caught off-guard by those challenging nights spent trying to get her baby boy to bed. When asked what surprised her the most about Silas' sleep, Biel quickly replied, "The lack of it! The, like, not doing it. And how hard it was to get him down. I mean, the times I stood in a dark closet, him on a weird pillow, me doing a weird thing for so long, and it just not working. I was so tired, and he was so tired, and whew, it was a lot."
Trying to pinpoint a trick that worked to get him calm and down—as the SNOO had yet to be released, of course—Biel joked she'd have to go back to her "mommy brain, delusional-state" and recalled, "He loved this pillow that I had, and I would put it on my lap, and I would like move him back and forth. It was like an organic, latex pillow, an amazing cushy-mushy thing, and to this day, that dude is like, all wrapped around that thing."
Biel also found relief by learning Dr. Karp's famous "5 S" method—swaddling, side/stomach positioning, shushing, swinging, and sucking—for soothing newborns. "I was given The Happiest Baby as a gift, which is just one of those things as a mom or dad that you have to have in your arsenal of books, that you can just go back to and be reminded, 'What are those 5 Ss?'" she shared. "It's just, honestly, such a great tool when you're home alone and you just don't know what to do and the baby is just unsettled and unhappy. I think it was one of my amazing girlfriends who hooked me up with that."
When it comes to sharing information related to parenting and new motherhood in general, Biel's clearly a strong believer in being real. "I try to be really honest with people, you know?" she says. "When people are nervous about the lack of sleep, I feel like you have to tell it like it is. It is going to be a change, it's going to be a transition, don't get it twisted. It's different. I think you have to be honest. I feel like a lot of things are not really shared openly, like maybe how hard and how challenging breastfeeding can be, and then trying to get your baby to sleep, so I think you just have to be super-honest, and then say, 'Be flexible, and have a tool kit, so that you're not alone and isolated.'"
Dr. Karp agrees that asking for help and embracing the philosophy that it does take a village is so important. "You do need help," he said. "No one ever did [raising a baby] on their own. You have to have people to help take some of the burden off your shoulders. One of the jokes we have about SNOO is that [it's] the other new member of your family, because it really is a caregiver for people who can't afford that or don't have the extended family. If you're working on your own, you've gotta go back to work, you need a helper. For months, you're going to need a helper."
Props to Jessica Biel and Dr. Karp for encouraging parents to be honest and unashamed to seek the support they need. After all, especially in those early, sleep-deprived days, there's nothing more important—for both mom and baby.