Having a newborn baby means that sleepless nights will be a common thing, whether that’s being up for multiple feeds a night or nappy changes the saying goes that “the days are long and the nights are longer”. It can all make you feel like you're running on fumes and there’s a reason the CIA use sleep deprivation as a form of torture!
I am all for an easy life, this for me meant co-sleeping, it’s definitely had a rise in popularity in recent years. With all the safe sleeping advice from the Lullaby trust people understand how to do this safely which gives parents more confidence. Having the baby next to you means its easier to respond to them quickly an get back to sleep, I also found that the warmth and smell of being so close to me made them go back to sleep much faster. I had the next-2-me attached to the bed so I could wriggle them back into their space once they went down.
Think about your sleep environment
Regardless of where you choose to settle them having a good sleep environment for your baby can go a long way. Setting them up so they feel safe and warm in their bed can make them settle down quicker for an easier night's sleep even if it’s for them an extra couple of hours. Baby’s especially in those early days do not know the difference between day and night. They have spent the last 9 months being rocked to sleep by you walking and moving all day then come night time for them they wake (hence the restless nights whilst pregnant too!). Ensure that the room has adequate black out blinds especially for the summer months to ensure it’s a dark space for sleep.
If you have a partner to share this experience with you get them to help, make a plan and see where you can share the load! There’s no point you both being drained and burnt out, no situation is ever the same so work out what you can do. For us, I was breastfeeding so David was not much help through the night feeds so he would take the baby (we did this with both Harper and Ethan) after the first morning feed and he would have Daddy time whilst I went back to sleep until they needed another feed mid-morning.
If you are doing this alone, firstly you're amazing!, but do you have any friends or family around that could come for 2hours and let you sleep whilst they look after the baby?
When you feel the time is right, introduce a sleep routine, for example - start putting your baby down at a certain time each night. Think about your own routine and those days when you don’t set an alarm you still wake up at that time as its habit for your body. You can adjust this and sometimes it wont go to plan and remember you can never cuddle your baby too much, you’re not spoiling them and you’re not making a rod for your own back. I’ve never met a 3yr old that still needs to be rocked to sleep or a teenager who co-sleeps. This is such a small window in time, whilst it is extremely challenging its short term so make sure you are ready before you tackle a sleep routine.
Once you’ve put your baby down - you should also try and get some sleep. You never know when your newborn might wake up and kick up a fuss so getting in the hours in when you can is a good idea. I am not suggesting you sleep when the baby sleeps as I understand first hand you’re not going to clean when the baby cleans or cook when the baby cooks but those night time sleeps try to maximise your rest time.
Keeping yourself in focus when you get those small slithers of time will help with you more than you realise.
Exercise may be the last thing you’d want to do when you're already so tired but getting back into your routine and easing that back in can put your mind at rest. It doesn’t have to be insane, intense workouts but can be more to slow breathing like a slow yoga session or a nice walk. Make sure you feel good doing it too, your body has changed, and your clothes are meant to fit you, you’re not meant to fit them. If you find those old leggings aren’t doing it for you or your breastfeeding baby always wants a feed in the middle of your workout or walk then treat yourself to some new leggings or stock up on our breastfeeding sports bra, as I said before – I am all for an easy life and these certainly contribute to that!
Keep yourself well fed
Its easy to rely on the 3 new mum food groups of sugar, caffeine and chocolate. Keeping well nourished and well hydrated can give you an energy boost to get through the day but also its conducive to a good nights sleep. Try not to skip on meals because you don’t feel like you’ve got the time, you are working so hard adjusting to this new world and your mind and body need those vitamins and minerals to keep going.
This is a stressful time in your life
I know it’s a hard thing to do but keep on top of your stress. Trying to cope with stress and a new born baby may seem impossible but talk to your partner about your feelings or a friend and keep on top of yourself mentally. Some people find journaling or a mood diary a great tool too.
The baby blues are normal but this hormone surge induced process ends but your emotions and feelings may continue so have a look at the perinatal mental health issues you may experience and know if you are struggling there is plenty of help you may find with that.
So there are some tips and tricks to help get more sleep but remember its normal, it’s a phase that will end and whilst in those early days it’s the hardest thing to work through but you can do it and one day this will be a distant memory that you laugh at and tell your partner “remember when we hadn’t slept in 3 days and…”