When you’re expecting a baby there is one thing you can pretty much guarantee upon its arrival–your sleep is going to be significantly affected, and for a while at least, the days of long lie ins and 8 hour stretches of undisturbed sleep are pretty much gone. While we may have this dreamy vision of two proud parents snuggling in bed with a baby sleeping calmly in a crib by our side–the reality is often very different!
If you are used to having a long and restful night’s sleep, it can come as a bit of a shock to the system when a newborn arrives on the scene, with long nights of rocking, winding (burping the baby) and diaper changes, regular night feeds, and comforting through the early hours.
From someone who has lived on far less than my fair share of sleep over the last few years, here are my hints and tips to help you cope with sleep deprivation.
Sleep when baby sleeps– As much as this is a huge cliché and not always possible due to older siblings and normal life taking over, as a new mom you should try and at least rest or get your head down occasionally during your baby’s naptime, particularly when your body is also recovering from pregnancy and labor.
During the early newborn days, babies sleep a lot; however, inconveniently not always at the times when you may normally do so. Racking up a few hours of shut eye during the day can really help get you through the day without feeling like an extra from the Walking Dead.
Ask for help
Looking after a new baby is exhausting and if you are breastfeeding in particular, it can at times feel like all the responsibility falls on you. Don’t be afraid to ask for help–can someone watch the baby between feeds so you can get some rest? If your Mom, partner, or close family friend offers to take over while you get some much needed shut eye, grab the opportunity with both hands!
In those early postpartum days, it’s important that you eat well and keep an eye on your iron levels. Many women experience low iron after pregnancy, which can leave you feeling even more lethargic and drained than you may already do. Ensure you have lots of greens and iron rich foods in your diet to boost those energy levels and consider taking a supplement to give you a helping hand.
Water, water, water–do not underestimate its importance! Sometimes you are so busy looking after your baby that you can forget to drink enough yourself which again can leave you feeling sluggish. Keep a bottle of water by your bed, a full jug in the fridge, and try and have a drink every time baby does–it serves as a good reminder!
Get out the house
Try and leave the house every day and go for a short walk. Exercise may feel like the last thing you feel like doing when your energy levels are low, but getting some fresh air and incorporating a bit of gentle exercise into your day–even a slow to moderate paced walk, can actually have a really positive effect, releasing endorphins and leaving you feeling refreshed.
Don’t expect too much
Don’t be too hard on yourself. Don’t expect to achieve the same amount you did each day before your baby arrived. Some days just having a shower and getting dressed before midday can feel like an achievement, and that’s ok! Housework may need to take a bit of a back seat for a while until your baby gets into a bit of a routine. In the meantime, why not see if family can help with mealtimes or washing up?
Energy Boosting Snacks
Try and consume energy boosting foods such as nuts, baked beans, and bananas. Avoid sugar or caffeine–while they may provide a temporary fix when you’re feeling tired, they can often leave you feeling worse in the energy slump that follows when the effects wear off.
Try and take some me time
This one is often easier said than done, but if your home life allows, or if your partner can take over for awhile, head off to the bathroom and have a few moments of peace. Relax, unwind, and take a moment to just be you for awhile. Your role as “you” is just as important as your role as Mom.
Remember, these newborn days won’t last forever, and one day soon your baby WILL sleep through the night, at which point you will probably miss all those night time snuggles!
Avoid the tech
When you wake during the night it is easy to be tempted to check your phone and scroll aimlessly through social media to keep yourself awake, but doing so can actually make it harder to drift back off to sleep again, even once your baby has settled. If you do wish to check your phone during the night feeds, ensure your screen hue is down low, as the blue glare of a smart phone is actually proven to have a negative effect on sleep levels.
Talk about it
You may feel a bit more snappy and short fused, but don’t let it affect your relationship with your partner–there is no point arguing over who got the least sleep or who is the most tired (even if you’re confident the answer is you!). It doesn’t solve anything. Instead if you’re tired, take it in turns, tag team, and take time to talk about just how hard it is!
And if that doesn’t reassure you, remember that when they are teenagers, it will probably be getting them OUT of bed that will be the issue, and you can plot your revenge and start waking THEM up in the early hours of the morning instead!