How I Managed Sleep Deprivation with a Newbornby Emma Dowey
Sleep deprivation is awful. There, I said it. I won’t sugar coat it. It’s the one thing I underestimated the most when I became a mum for the first time. Everyone tells you to “enjoy your sleep while you can” and to “get as many hours in now before baby arrives”. It’s complete bullshit though. You can hardly store up hours of sleep. And to be honest I didn’t listen to all those scare stories. I had it all figured out. Our baby would sleep in his Moses basket, I’d swaddle him, I’d pop him down when I recognised those tired cues. White noise! I’d use white noise. I had it all sorted. Hell, I’d read all the baby books I could.
And like that, baby arrived and all that confidence went out the window.
Fuck. I had no idea what I was doing.
Suddenly there’s this little person in my life who needs me 24/7 and who only wants to sleep on ME 24/7.
One night of zero sleep is manageable. It’s nice to have baby cuddles and snuggles in the early hours. But when one night becomes two, and then a week and then a month, sleep deprivation really starts to take it’s toll. And it hasn’t been easier second time around. The only “easy” part is that I know it will end this time. It WILL get easier.
Today I’m sharing a few thoughts on what new parents can do to manage sleep deprivation. So a few things that may help you feel a bit more “normal” in those new baby days.
Sleep when your baby sleeps. This has to be the worst piece of fucking advice ever. In theory it’s great but in practice it’s a load of crap. Babies do tend to sleep a lot but after nine months snuggled in the womb getting them to settle can be tricky. Quite often my boys would only want to sleep on me. So “sleeping when baby slept” wasn’t really a practical option. If you can rest when your little one naps, great. If not, try not to worry.
Adjust your bed time. Sounds easy but try and go to bed when you put your baby down at night. Even if you can get an hour or two in before the next feed, you’ll be thankful. For a few weeks with our second, I’d take him up at 8pm and also snuggle into bed.
Get your partner to help. I know this isn’t practical if you’re breastfeeding, but if you’re bottle feeding or expressing then your partner can help. The hubby and I did “shifts” whereby he’d sleep till around 2am and then take over from then. I’d go into the spare room and try and get a few unbroken hours.
Start a consistent bedtime routine early on. We did this with both sons. Bath, bottle/breast and bed around 7pm each evening. Both quickly got used to this routine and my eldest (now six) has always slept really well. My youngest is nearly five months now and wakes once in the night for a feed. I can take getting up once!
Get some fresh air. During the day you will find you feel foggy and dizzy - aka exhausted, fucked, cream-crackered. I found going for a walk with the pram helped keep perk me up a bit, when in reality I felt like I was hanging out my ass.
Remember babies are all different. What works for one baby might not work for another. They really are all so different. Try to keep this in mind when people boast that their baby slept through the night from day one. This is complete crap. Sure, they may have gotten lucky but I’m sure they had plenty of unsettled nights too. And if they haven’t, they will!
Sleep patterns change. One thing I’ve learnt with kids is that sleep patterns and routines change ALL the bloody time. Just when you think you have it figured out, there’s teeth, injections or illness to throw a spanner in the works. Enjoy the nights when you do get more sleep but expect that you’ll have ups and downs. And this doesn’t end by the way! My almost six year old is up in the night now and again for various reasons.
Try not to stress it. Yes, it is tough. Yes, it does feel crap. But it does go quickly and before you know it you’ll be in a better sleep routine. It was around ten weeks that my second started sleeping longer stretches than 2-3 hours.
If you’re currently in a haze of tiredness brought on by tiny people, fear not, it DOES get easier. And you’re certainly not alone. If you’re lucky to have come out the other-side relatively unscathed, be sure to share your top tips in the comments or with us on social media. Oh, and don’t forget to pin this for later!