Another sleepless night? You're not alone! Becoming a new parent means you’re an automatic member of the sleep deprived club.
For most of us, sleep deprivation is what it says it is. Your new bundle of joy wakes you up throughout the night, leaving you with between 1-3 hours of interrupted sleep.
Sleepless nights and mind boggling exhaustion are part of becoming a new mother. However, the reality of this hits most of us with a huge shock, and days and nights can become an endless blur of fatigue.
Practicing self-care in all its different forms, particularly in asking for support, is the best antidote to sleep deprivation panic.
1. Take help when it’s offered
Especially from your partner, and visitors. This is a little trickier in a pandemic, when visitors are limited. That doesn’t mean you can’t ask for help via WhatsApp or a phone call.
Did you know on a physiological level that doing something for someone else actually releases dopamine, a feel good chemical in the brain? By asking for help you’re helping others to feel useful, and good.
Whether it’s offered or not, trust that your network wants to support you. This isn’t a one way street, or selfish. People love to help those they love!
2. Accept what you’re going through
This might sound fluffy, but research shows that people who acknowledge their suffering and the challenges they face actually struggle less. In short, resistance to what is happening increases our anxiety and distress.
This is closely linked to self-compassion, an effective therapy shown to reduce depression and anxiety.
Whatever you think about this, give it a go! Place your hand on your heart and tell yourself being extremely tired is understandable. You might not feel like your best self, but you’re doing your best, and that’s something to be proud of.
3. Rest when your baby naps
We’ve deliberately avoided the well-worn advice which can enrage tired moms: “sleep when your baby sleeps”. While this might not be possible, resting is a different state of being.
This means lying down, sitting down, and relaxing. It means leaving the dirty dishes, and the house or laundry in a mess, and looking after you! Far too few mothers do this and it perpetuates the exhaustion cycle.
Don't worry about having the house perfectly clean if you’re concerned about visitors judging you. People understand. Take a break or a bath. And avoid Instagram scrolling - seeing other mums living their best lives is definitely not rest and relaxation!
4. Go to bed early
This cannot be stressed enough. Go to bed early, even if sleeping is difficult. When your body signals it’s time to rest, rest. Better yet, figure out a way to share feeding responsibilities with your partner.
Pump breast milk before bedtime or make sure she/he knows how to mix formula and feed confidently. This will give you a window of unbroken sleep before the second night feed.
And if you need extra support, our EasyPeasy parenting app has lots of content to help new mums.
5. Go to bed in a bedroom you want to sleep in
Your bedroom should be your sanctuary - even when it looks like a baby nursery which has been decimated by a tornado! When you’re shattered, your personal needs and care is often the first to go. And that’s totally normal!
What is important to keep an eye on is the room you sleep in. Even if it looks like a new mom disaster everyday, try and put little things in place to bring you comfort and pleasure.
Order new bedding. Put a scent next to your bed (unlit candle or flowers). Buy new pajamas. You are just as important as your baby, so include yourself on your newborn shopping list!
6. Have a daily comforting routine
For many mums this is a bath at the same time every day. Alone! Or a 15 minute shower followed by a slathering of body cream while your partner looks after your baby. No one around to help?
Try to find a little window, at the same time each day, where you can focus on you. You might feel it’s too much effort or not worth it at the time, but do it anyway. The more self-care you have, the more you have for others - including your baby.
No time or energy to do this? Buy yourself a lavender room mist and light an ‘end of day’ candle at the same time. Just something to signify the day is coming to a close, and you made it through.
7. Take time away from your baby
This is going to be hard. And maybe impossible during a pandemic. But if it’s not, and you’re not shielding, get someone in to watch your baby and leave the house, or close yourself into a room where you have privacy.
The first few times, it’s going to be tough. Trust us, it gets easier - and the benefits of remembering who you are when you’re not mothering a tiny baby are endless. It helps you feel human again!
8. Go outside everyday
Try to get outside for a walk with your baby every day. Just a fifteen minute walk round the park can give you an energy boost, and spending time in nature is evidenced to help improve your mood.
It might be hard to leave the house, particularly if the weather is bad and you’re feeling a little overwhelmed. But when you’re able, throw on a raincoat, put your baby on you or in a pram, and set mini goals, like walking up the road.
If leaving the house feels overwhelming, do it in small, manageable steps and make plans to meet a mother or friend at a park for a socially distanced walk. And if that’s too tough, set a goal to get showered and dressed, even if your plan for the day is to go no further than putting the rubbish outside.
9. Drink enough water
Keep drinking water throughout the day to avoid dehydration (which is an energy sapper). Drinking enough water is important to support with the bodily changes new mothers face during this time, particularly during breastfeeding, as breastmilk is 90% water.
You’re probably going to be too tired to even notice water, so ask your partner or friend to buy you a one litre personal bottle, and fill it twice a day. The color of your urine will tell you if you’re dehydrated - which is common in tired new mothers.
If your urine is dark, it isn't being diluted enough by what you drink. Look for a pale yellow or almost clear color, which indicates you're getting enough fluids.
10. Remember this too will pass
Sleep deprivation means different things for different mums. You might have a new born who sleeps for hours on end, but that’s unlikely to last.
However, your baby is not going to wake you every night forever! In fact, things do get better due to changing physiology as babies get older.
For the first six months, babies spend about 50% of their time in active sleep (REM sleep), during which they are much more likely to wake easily. Typically sleep for babies gets better and longer from around four months and improves significantly by around six months. Remember: every baby is different and if yours won't sleep whatever you try, it's probably not your fault!
11. Watch out for extended baby blues
Sleep deprivation affects people in different ways. For some of us, baby blues (which should improve after two weeks) can stretch into months, masked by sleepless nights and general exhaustion.
Signs you might watch out for are: feeling down and teary; an inability to concentrate; feeling worthless; sleep problems; anger or rage outbursts; suicidal thoughts or struggling to bond with your baby.
Postpartum depression is more severe than baby blues, and is a very treatable illness. In case you are worried, there are organisations and support networks which can help you. Don’t keep quiet because there is a pandemic. Your mental health is of utmost importance - don’t think you are weak because you struggle. Every single mother does - the only difference is that each of us battles in different ways.
Get Parenting Support With EasyPeasy!
Looking for more tips, expert advice or calming games to help you with your baby? We've got you covered with the EasyPeasy parenting app!
Created to support the parents of 0 to 5 year olds, EasyPeasy is full of tips and ideas to keep your little one busy. You can expect practical advice, playful games and more to help you connect with your child.
Plus, there’s extra content from partners Scouts, LEGO and NCT, and you can share your own tips through the new parent community sharing feature!
Click below to head to to the app store!