Tips for coping with sleep deprivation as a new parent
There’s no doubt that one aspect of having a newborn is dealing with and adapting to a reduced amount of sleep. It’s talked about before you even become a parent; by people advising you to enjoy your rest while you can. Still, whatever is said, I believe as a mother of two and an experienced midwife, there’s no natural way to prepare for this and you don’t truly understand the sleep deprivation until it happens.
I’ve been a midwife for over 13 years and have spent much of my time visiting new parents at home in those initial weeks, and I’ve also been there myself twice. It’s a normal process of being a new parent, you can cope, and you’ll probably be surprised by how well you adapt. Here are my top tips for ways to help you manage.
It is essential to try and accept help, particularly during the first few weeks after you deliver. For some new mothers, it can be tough to allow someone else to step up and care for your newborn, even your partner at times, but to cope with feeling sleep deprived let others step in even for short periods, taking baby for a short walk, holding the baby etc. At the same time, you can rest or be with the baby, or try and nap in a different room. Your focus will be your newborn, so try to accept help in other areas like meal prep, putting a wash on or doing a food shop etc. Discuss your expectations with your partner in advance on who will be helping, think carefully about who will offer you the best support, and stagger the help rather than having it all at once.
Rest When You Can
Although it’s not always easy with a newborn, try to rest when you can, this doesn’t mean always having full naps during the day, but just relaxing in bed or on the sofa can still be beneficial. Spend the first few days nesting with your baby, focusing solely on your post-delivery recovery; giving time for this recovery initially will benefit you in the coming weeks.
Eat And Drink Well Along With Being Organised
Eating and drinking frequently will also aid your recovery and boost your energy; drink plenty of water and have healthy snacks available throughout the day to keep you going. I advise women to prep a postnatal bag or basket with everything they’ll need postnatally, like pain relief, snacks, water bottles. If you find the evenings become quite tiring if your baby is frequently feeding, for example, try to eat earlier in the evening and get yourself ready for bed in advance so that as soon as the baby goes to sleep, you can too.
One aspect women can find difficult when it comes to sleep and being a new mum is adjusting to broken sleep. This broken sleep is, of cause to be expected, but I found keeping the night feeds well organised can help make it a quicker process, so you can return to sleep straight after the baby is fed and settled. Ensure you have dim lighting in your bedroom by keeping the lights low, avoid sitting on your phone during night feeds, and becoming overly stimulated if you find it difficult to relax and fall back to sleep. Instead, try listening to some relaxing music. Try to also prep for the night ahead, ensuring you have nappies, wipes, a spare set of baby clothes, and a change for the baby’s bedding if there are any accidents! Being prepared and organised prevents you from moving about too much and going and finding things keeping things as straightforward and stress-free as possible.
Staying active might sound like a strange way to cope with sleep deprivation, but getting out can increase your energy levels, and light exercise like walking will release endorphins. Being active during the day can also lead to better sleep during the night. Try also to avoid cabin fever, especially when your partner returns to work. You don’t need to pack your week out with many things to do, even if it’s a short walk to the corner shop. Don’t overdo it and listen to your body; if it’s telling you, you’re doing too much, slow down and follow up busy days with a rest day, particularly in the first few weeks.
Do Some Extra Reading
I advise all women to read up on the 4th Trimester along with why babies become fussier in the evenings, sometimes referred to as the ‘witching hour’, both can have an impact on your sleep, and a better understanding of these two topics can help to reassure you during this time.
This Too Shall Pass
Finally, sleep deprivation doesn’t last forever, and things get easier in time. At the moment, you can’t imagine things going back to how they were pre-baby, but in time they will so don’t lose hope!
Bridie – Midwife @bumptobeyondyour_birth