How to deal with sleep deprivation!
Sleep deprivation is all a part of beign a parent and having children, unless you are rich and can afford a night nanny until your children start high school, you will very likely encounter some form of sleep deprivation as part of your parenting journey. Most parents will experience this most during the newborn phase for a number of reasons. There are a number of ways of dealing with it and these are just a few, like with anything baby and child related it is all about hearing everyone out and giving it a go. Continue with what works and ditch what doesn’t, doesn’t mean it wasn’t great advice it simply means it doesn’t work with that baby/child, at this time, for your current family situation.
1. Sleep when the baby sleeps!
Yeh I know we hear this one ALLLLLLL the time, but if you can sleep or even rest while your baby is sleeping it is an awesome time to recoup and restart. I know, there is 4 loads of washing, dinner to sort, groceries to buy and the house hasn’t been vacuumed in weeks (but it looks like months). That is fine! Trust me, I have been there, I have kids, I understand the overwhelming urge to clean and sort the house and be magic. I have learnt something in having more children and that is that your house will not be perfect for the next couple of years, there will always be a little mess there will always be at least 1 night a week that is leftovers/freezer meals or toasted sandwiches. So what is going to help your sanity more? An hours rest? Or a slightly more organised house (which will last…?)
I know, this is not for everyone ‘s situation, but it is important to realise that for many families this is in fact a viable and when done correctly safer option than sleeping baby in their cot. SIDs obviously have their own recommendations for safe sleeping but they also have a fantastic article that explains when co-sleeping is unsafe and outlines the benefits of sharing a sleep surface with baby. (link to https://rednose.com.au/article/sharing-a-sleep-surface-with-a-baby). This is obviously a very multi-faceted issue and something you as a mother and a family need to be ok with to go ahead with. It is also important to remember co-sleeping does NOT have to be every night, it can be when baby is having a growth spurt, when baby is unwell or when either of you have had a very big day and need some extra rest. For families looking to catch up on a little sleep this can be a life changer that can involves benefits for bub, mum and partners.
3. Accept Help
Whether it is friends and families helping with housework, your partner taking the baby for a walk to give you an hour to sleep or someone cooking and bringing dinner over for your and the family. Accept it! People LOVE helping new mums, but we have a real problem in today’s society with accepting this help and if we continue to NOT accept this the offers to assist will disappear. In many cultures women are cared for int he first 6 weeks by family and friends for everything, older children, housework, cooking and shopping. This is something that is not part of our western culture, but should be to help women to bond, and rest.
4. Get creative with Catch Ups
If you have friends that want to catch up after you have kids, use them! Most friends will be happy to come to you, and bring lunch or snacks, which takes the pressure off you. While they are there use them, they will want cuddles so do some folding while bub is happy. Often if you pick up a job that needs doing, your friends will get in and help, getting those little jobs out of the way for you. If not ask them to help, for friends that don’t have kids they often simply don’t know how to help or how to ask. Involve them, they will be thrilled to be involved!
It seems like a really simple thing, however, getting some sunlight every day is known to increase your energy and mood by improving your vitamin D levels. It is easy to start to go stir crazy and make problems bigger than they need to be if you haven’t been outside or out of the house in a while. Make a point to go outside every day with your baby, lie on a blanket and enjoy the fresh air and the sunlight, it will make you feel better, problems feel smaller and baby will love the change in scenery. Often some fresh air and sunlight can also help baby sleep a little better!
6. Get Educated!
Babies are meant to wake during the night for a number of reasons, hunger, comfort, emotional reassurance, teething, sickness, bad dreams, loud noises, hot/cold. It is important to understand a babies brain, their sleep cycles and what can affect their sleep cycles so that you can learn, be aware and watch your baby. It enables you to better understand and appreciate your own sleep deprivation. Is your baby waking because they are unwell or are they having a developmental leap and need reassurance and comfort at this time? Are they hungry because they are having a growth spurt? Do they have pain associated with this growth spurt? Knowing what is likely going on at certain stages of your babies growth and development is not only important for your interest but also for your understanding and appreciation of your baby. Tune into your baby, listen to your baby and respond to them. The more you look, listen and feel the more you will pick up on their signals and what they are telling you. The more you know about why your baby is awake, the more justified your sleep deprivation will feel and while still tiring, it will mean something and perhaps not feel quite so hard.
For more information on sleeping postnatally especially in the early days , check out my online Postnatal Classes, including a whole video on understanding and assisting newborn normal sleep.