Chances are if you are reading this, you are a sleep-deprived mamma. Maybe you are a friend or a family member supporting a new mom who is majorly sleep deprived. We hear you! Parenting is hard, perhaps the hardest job in the world. Sleep deprivation is grueling, and in the early days, it feels as if you will never sleep again. Even when you rationally know there is an end to this challenging time, that knowledge doesn’t help in the here and now.
There are really no magic bullets that will give you back uninterrupted sleep. At least not until your newborn is old enough. When that happens, however, is genuinely down to the child and each child is different. You will notice an improvement over time, as the baby is less dependent and your own body adapts.
All is not lost, however. Read our tried and tested tips on how to improve your situation starting now. We also provide some ideas at the end on what to do if none of the following suggestions work for you.
The benefits of co-sleeping are heavily debated. But if currently your child is in a nursery and you find yourself walking from your room to theirs several times a night, then this has a good chance of helping matters. Nursing mothers will often find co-sleeping to be most comfortable because they can feed while resting deeply with minimum disturbance. If your baby isn’t hungry but just wants you to hold them, then co-sleeping again can help because they will feel
secure next to you and as a result cry less. If you are uncomfortable sharing your bed with the baby, then consider getting a crib that attaches to your bed. This way the baby will not be in your space but still experience all the benefits of co-sleeping. If on the other hand, co-sleeping is what is making sure no one gets any rest, then these cribs could be ideal for you and will provide a gentle transition from co-sleeping to independent sleeping.
2. Preparing bottles in the evening
If your baby is bottle-fed, then consider getting formula ready in the evening and have it prepared for Dads or partners to use. You can get bottle warmers which are either electric or heavily insulated. This makes bottle feeding at night a lot easier. Delegating some feeds to your partner will ensure you get some uninterrupted hours of sleep. Even if your partner or whoever is helping you can take over one feed, you could get somewhere between two or three extra hours.
3. Limiting screens and lights
Melatonin is a natural hormone produced by your pineal gland. It is in higher concentration in your bloodstream when it is dark, usually from 9pm to about 9am. Even when your body clock knows its night, melatonin doesn’t get released unless the lights are dim. Light emitted from devices such as phones, TVs or computers contain the blue spectrum, a natural indicator of daylight. This goes on to inhibit melatonin production. You can really help yours, and your baby’s natural sleep functions perform better by turning down bright lights and putting down any
screens at about 9pm. Consider switching your bedside lamp to a night light. This will allow you to carry out tasks like changing and feeding, without signaling sunrise to your brain.
Drink plenty of water. A glass of water drunk in the morning while looking at daylight will help reset your body clock but most importantly rehydrate you. We lose a substantial amount of water through breathing during the 8 -10 hours we stay in bed every night. Dehydration will exacerbate the fatigue you already feel from sleep deprivation. Making sure you always have a glass of water to hand through the day will stand you in good stead for the demanding task of being a parent. Avoid overusing caffeinated drinks – they only serve to dehydrate you further. Try avoiding more than a cup of coffee or tea in the morning and certainly do not indulge after 6pm. Peppermint tea will give you a boost if you need, without unpleasant side effects. Strong herbal teas should also be avoided at night-time – chamomile tea is a welcome exception as it helps you relax and may aid in falling asleep.
5. Sleeping during the Day
This can be hard for new mammas. Our culture doesn’t look kindly on daytime naps, but many countries rely on siestas during the day! Moreover, you may have a house full of chores and be tempted to catch up on laundry, dishes or paperwork during the precious hours that your baby is asleep for. The trick to remember is that if you are well rested, you will accomplish all your tasks with comparative ease. Your well being has to come before housework. If you don’t sleep in the small windows you have, you risk running yourself aground. You may have been a hard and organized worker before the baby came along, and you may find it particularly challenging to adjust to a new life that is full of interrupted tasks but be kind to yourself. All new moms are in the same boat! If you just cannot fall asleep, try running yourself a warm bath. It will still help you relax.
6. Fresh air and exercise
When you are exhausted, going out may be the last thing you want to do. You may also be swamped with housework and find yourself all day indoors catching up. But fresh air is beneficial for you and baby both! Try going outside when the sun is out. You will instantly feel better. If you can pair up with someone else, then you may be more motivated to make it a routine. The fresh air and sunshine will help settle your baby into a daytime routine. While they are still little, they may fall asleep during these outings. Enjoy your peaceful walk! If they are awake and interested, this is good too. As they will be more likely to sleep later.
7. Ask for help
We have saved our best tip for the last. Raising babies is very demanding. New mammas will find it harder than seasoned ones, but everyone struggles with sleepless nights. This is where all your friends and family come in. If you are a nursing mother, there is only so much help they can give at nights, but during the daytime you can lean on them! There will be a time, in a not so distant future, that you will have your energy back so don’t feel bad about asking for help. Your community can help you with cooking, cleaning or taking your baby for a walk – while you catch up on precious winks. If you are lucky enough to have friend and family who have offered to help – call on those favors! One day, you will be able to pass this on to other mammas in need!
When nothing works
Remember, if your baby is sick, all bets are off! You may have great sleeping routines in place, but illness can derail your progress. Be patient, and one the baby is feeling better,
things will go back to normal.
If the above tips haven’t worked for you and your baby refuses to settle at night time and cries for long periods especially after feeding, there may be a deeper issue at hand. Sleep consultants often find celiac intolerance as the underlying culprit for example. Once such problems are dealt with, afflicted babies almost instantly start sleeping better. It is definitely worth consulting your doctor or a sleep consultant if you have any concerns. They can check for any dietary intolerances or allergies that could be causing problems.