In the first couple of years of your baby’s life, you’ll find a lot of your time and energy is taken up by your child. Between your baby needing around-the-clock care, feeling run down, and not having any time to put into yourself, parenting can take a toll on you mentally and physically. It can be even worse when you throw sleepless nights in the mix as your baby struggles to settle or sleep through the night.
Being a new parent is challenging, especially when experiencing sleep deprivation. Although it feels like it may never end, rest assured this won’t last forever, and your baby will sleep better at some point. Whilst you’re trying to understand how you can adapt to your baby’s changing sleeping pattern, here are some tips for surviving these changes.
Talk to other parents
Knowing you’re not alone and not the only person struggling with sleepless nights can be reassuring. By talking to other people who are going through the same thing, you can take comfort in knowing that there’s someone who understands what you’re experiencing.
Other parents may also be able to clue you in with a few tips and tricks that have worked for them. However, things that have worked for them won’t necessarily work for you, so don’t feel disheartened or that there’s something wrong with you if they don’t work - every baby is different.
Sleep when your baby sleeps
When your baby’s a newborn, the reality is that you’re not going to be able to get a full 8 hours of sleep, especially if you’re breastfeeding. You should change your approach to sleeping and become a little more flexible.
When your baby sleeps throughout the day, take this time to sleep, even though it may be tempting to stay awake to catch up on housework and other chores. Although you may still want to try and hit 8 hours, this doesn’t have to happen in one go. It’s okay to spread out your own sleeping hours between the night and day.
Ask for help from your partner
If you have a partner and they’re still working whilst you look after your newborn, they need to understand that the responsibility of the baby sleeping doesn’t just fall to one person. Keep in mind that they may not be able to get up as often during the night, especially if they have work in the morning.
However, this doesn’t mean there aren’t things they can do to help out and share the load. When they’re around at the weekend or during evenings, try and work out a schedule together where they look after the baby so that you can catch up on some undisturbed sleep.
Eat well and drink lots of fluids
When you’re tired, thinking about what to eat isn’t going to be at the top of your priority list. However, falling into a habit of eating unhealthy foods won’t help your energy levels.
Make an effort to eat a balanced diet and food that will give you energy, as this can help you feel a little better when trying to survive on minimum sleep.
Try to avoid sugary foods, as these will give you a temporary boost but leave you feeling even more tired once the sugar wears off. It would help if you also try not to rely heavily on caffeinated drinks as they can disturb your sleep pattern - whilst they may help keep you awake temporarily, they aren’t good for you in the long run. It’s generally recommended that you should be drinking at least 6 to 8 glasses of water a day to stay hydrated.
Don’t demand too much from yourself
Despite being at home more, you won’t necessarily have more time to do housework and stay on top of things. Looking after yourself and your baby will take up a good portion of your time. Juggling life and a baby can be challenging - slow down and don’t expect too much of yourself. Don’t be afraid to lean on the people around you if you’re struggling to stay on top of things.
Refresh yourself in other ways
It might not always be easy or possible to get 8 hours of sleep. If this is the case, you can do other things to make you feel a little better. Being awake doesn’t mean you always have to be on the go.
Try and organise some time to do things that you enjoy to break up the day and keep you feeling refreshed. Whether it’s reading, cooking, or listening to music, prioritising an activity you enjoy can help reduce stress, even if you only do it for a few minutes of the day.
Although everything may feel a little hectic, taking 5 minutes of your day to plan ahead can make a huge difference. If there’s anything you can do the night before to prepare for the next day , this can help you stay a step ahead and give you a little more time in bed.
With feelings of tiredness can come forgetfulness. To help with this, grab yourself a diary or a calendar so that you can make lists and notes of things to do. You'll have one less thing to worry about when you’re sleep deprived by keeping track of everything.
Have a routine and streamline it
Having a routine where your body understands it’s time to settle down to sleep can help you get some extra hours when your body isn't used to sleeping. Here are a few things to try out to help you establish a regular body clock:
- Go to bed at a consistent time
- Have a warm bath or shower in the evening
- Switch off from technology at least an hour before sleeping
- Give your room a quick tidy so that you can sleep in a clean environment
- Read a book in bed to help wind down
Final thoughts from Kami
As a new parent, it’s okay to feel like you’re always on the back foot. Reduce the demands you place on yourself and create an environment and routine that allow you the best possible chance of sleep. It’s also worth getting rid of the idea that you have to sleep at a particular time - when you have a newborn, getting sleep at any opportunity is key. Know that you’re not alone, and don’t be afraid to lean on the people around you to share the load.