How a New Mama Can Get Some Sleep
It might feel like you’ll never sleep again when baby doesn’t sleep through the night yet. But there are a few things you can do to help make your sleepless nights a little less sleepless.
Babies are adorable and they smell yummy. There are so many wonderful things about new babies. Their sleep habits don’t tend to make that list, though. Many new parents, moms in particular, find that their satisfaction with and duration of sleep reaches it’s lowest point around three months after baby arrives — and six years later, it still hasn’t recovered.
While we may not be able to get you back to pre-baby sleep levels, what we can do is take every step possible to ensure you get as much sleep as possible. But just what are those steps?
Sleep when baby sleeps
It’s said so much that it seems like a cliché at this point, but it’s the straight up truth. Your best bet for getting enough (or at least more) sleep is to sleep when your baby is sleeping.
Naptimes, night times, even brief little dozing after a feeding, it doesn’t matter. If your baby closes her eyes for more than about two minutes, you need to close your eyes too.
As a mom myself, I get it. You have a house to clean, maybe other kids to take care of, a spouse who’s expecting dinner on the table after work. But all of that can wait. You can sit the older kids down with the occasional cartoon, tell your spouse to pick up a pizza for all of you, and take a quick nap.
You might also argue that you should use that time to read a book or exercise or do other things you enjoy. As a huge proponent of self-care, I’d usually agree. But when you’re feeling sleep deprived, catching some shuteye is the best form of self-care you could possibly give yourself.
Pregnancy, labor, delivery and taking care of a new baby are all exhausting. Some days you just don’t feel like you have the energy to even get out of bed, much less engage in any actual physical activity that even remotely resembles exercise.
But exercise has been shown to improve sleep. And you don’t have to drive to the gym and do a hardcore workout to get better sleep, either. There are plenty of options for easy exercise that you can do with baby in tow.
For example, you can wear baby while you go for a walk around the block. You can put baby on the floor nearby while you do some gentle stretching and yoga. You can also put baby in a playpen while you bounce on an indoor trampoline.
30 minutes a day of light aerobic activity can be enough to see the sleep benefits.
Get rid of distractions
Many moms find that they sleep more lightly than they did before kids. You’re on alert, listening for the little squeaks, squawks, squeals and cries that indicate that your baby is awake, needs you, or is in danger. This lighter sleep to listen for your baby means that you’re also more susceptible to other distractions from sleep.
Turn off the TV and leave your phone in the other room. If you must have your phone in your room, turn it screen down and leave it as far away from the bed as you can.
Make sure the room is cool and dark. Add room darkening shades if needed, or buy a sleep mask to block out any light that may intrude on your sleep. You won’t want to wear earplugs because you want to hear the baby cry, but you can try making sure that as many other sounds as possible are silenced. You can also try a white noise machine to help block out any other sounds that aren’t the baby.
Ask for relief
Stay at home moms are especially guilty of thinking they need to do it all themselves, but lots of moms feel bad about asking someone to watch the baby while they sleep. Let me assure you now — it is absolutely okay to ask!
Ask Grandma or Auntie Sue to take the baby for an hour so you can catch a quick nap. If you can afford it, hire a babysitter or mother’s helper to come over for a couple of hours to allow you to nap and perhaps even do a little light cleaning for you.
And don’t forget asking your spouse to get up during the night. You’re in this together. If you both work, equally splitting the nights is definitely fair. If you don’t work and your partner does, and you feel guilty asking them to get up when you know they have to work the next day, then don’t ask them to do it on work nights. Instead, ask them to relieve you on weekends. This allows you to get a couple of nights each week of full, (mostly) uninterrupted sleep while also allowing your partner to feel rested and ready to work each day.
Put your sleep first
This may be the most important part of getting more sleep. If you don’t prioritize your sleep as important, you will never get enough. If you consistently put cleaning, cooking, work, and everything else ahead of sleep, you will always find yourself exhausted and wishing you weren’t so tired.
Put your sleep first. Make getting sleep a priority. This goes beyond sleeping when baby sleeps. Making your sleep a priority means letting dirty dishes sit in the sink overnight or clean clothes sit unfolded on the sofa. It means turning down an invitation to go for dinner with friends or have coffee with your old boss early in the morning.
Putting your sleep first means setting a bedtime and sticking to it. Putting down the book, turning off Netflix, and stopping whatever else you’re doing to go to bed when that time comes.
Most of all, putting your sleep first means deciding that sleep is the most important thing (other than keeping your baby alive). By deciding that sleep is the most important thing, and keeping that decision at the forefront of your mind when making all other decisions, you’ll ensure that you choose sleep over other things whenever that’s a choice.
Sleep affects your overall health
Sleep, or the lack thereof, affects every aspect of your health. Physically, mentally, emotionally, and even spiritually, a lack of sleep can cause your health to decline rapidly. Even a single one of those health aspects declining will significantly impact your parenting, but if all of them are affected at once, you will not be the parent you want to be.
Putting your sleep first doesn’t mean you don’t love your baby or that you aren’t meeting his needs. Putting your sleep first actually means you love your baby enough to make sure you are well-rested so you can be the parent he deserves. It means you know that meeting your own needs first is the best way to make sure you meet your baby’s needs.
Do what’s best for both you and your baby right now: close out this article and take a nap.