Written by Gentle Sleep Coach Andrea Elovson, Sleepy Bug
If your plan is to just “white knuckle” it without sleep for a few months—think again. The harmful effects of sleep deprivation are cumulative, meaning they get more severe over time. Sleep deprivation can exacerbate, or even lead to anxiety, depression, migraine head-aches, chronic insomnia and a decrease in a nursing mother’s milk supply.
Making a few minor adjustments to your day (and your attitude) about sleep is the best way to avoid the potential pitfalls of sleep deprivation.
Tips for Tired Moms
Take Sleep Seriously
Sleep is not a luxury or a sign of weakness. Just because other new mothers are “just fine” without sleep, doesn’t mean you should be. (And, by the way, they aren’t just fine, trust me) You don’t have to be diagnosed with a clinical case of post-partum depression or anxiety to “deserve” sleep. Yes, taking care of a baby is exhausting and being tired is part and parcel of new parenthood. But if you are constantly ignoring your own sleep needs, the effects can become serious and long lasting.
Don’t Sleep When the Baby Sleeps
Unless you can. The vast majority of my clients find it impossible to “sleep when the baby sleeps” during the day. Adults and babies have very different sleep needs and patterns. This doesn’t mean giving up those much needed naps. It just means getting pro-active. Look for chunks in the day where you can sleep when someone else is home to watch the baby. In the morning before your partner leaves for work, or in the early evening once he or she returns home. Introducing a bottle and allowing your husband to take a night feed, can make the dreaded 1.5 hour stretch transform into a delicious 3 hours. Designate three continuous hours every each Saturday and Sunday to take turns napping. And my all time favorite? Go to bed early whenever possible (no later than 8 p.m.) and let your friend, partner, family member bottle feed the baby at the first feed.
Put Yourself On A Sleep Schedule, Not Your Baby
Most new parents spend countless hours worrying about their baby’s sleep while completely ignoring their own. Relax. In the first twelve weeks of your baby’s life don’t try to schedule their sleep. (At approximately sixteen weeks, baby’s become responsive to gentle, sleep schedules and techniques). In the meantime, watch your baby for sleepy signs, avoid keeping them up for more than two hours at a stretch, and shift your focus back to your own need for sleep.
Create a “Mom Cave”
Instead of a wide screen TV. and a wet bar, this space will be outfitted with room darkening shades, ear plugs and/or a white noise machine and a pillow thick enough to put your head under if need be (A copy of People magazine won’t hurt to help get your mind off the baby for a while, either). Where we sleep effects how well we sleep. If you can hear everything that is going on in the house (i.e. crying baby…befuddled dad groping around for diapers etc.) you won’t sleep. If you don’t have a spare room, compile a “sleep survival” pack to use wherever necessary: earplugs, an eye shade, a muffling pillow and a well worn People magazine. And if your husband or partner is really nice to you, you can invite them to use your mom cave, to catch up on sleep.
I don’t care if two weeks before birth you were running a Fortune 500 company by yourself or covering the six war zones simultaneously for ABC NEWS. Being a new mother is, hands down, harder in many ways. And yes, your mother raised 14 kids by herself without a hair out of place, and yes your husband has “a real job” where he can’t fall asleep at his desk. But staying home with a baby full time is a “real job”, too. A 24/7, no week-ends, holidays, sick days or breaks at the water cooler kind of real job. Hiring a babysitter or a mother’s helper to watch the baby while you nap in the afternoon is key to surviving the first six months or so. Yes, baby sitters cost money but so did that nifty stroller. Trust me, (I’ve been through it three times) paying for some sleep is one of the smartest investments you can make in the future happiness and well being of the entire family.
What do you do to ensure that you get enough sleep?
Photography by valentinapowers on Flickr