If you have a new baby, I don’t need to explain to you what sleep deprivation does to your emotions, mental abilities and body. It takes such a toll! Possibly for the first time in your life, sleep isn’t going to just “happen.”
In my experience there are two key ways to deal with the lack of consistent nightly sleep that comes with having a baby. One is to lower your expectations for yourself during this time. Be gentle with yourself when you can’t think straight, are forgetful, and feel like your eyelids weigh 200 lbs each. You are human. You need sleep. It’s OK to have needs mama!
The second is to prioritize sleep and get creative. What do I mean by creative? I mean naps and shifts.
Take naps. If you aren’t a good napper, you can learn! Sleep when the baby is down, or allow someone else to watch baby while you try a nap. Put in earplugs, get in a dark room, set a timer if necessary, and allow your body to relax. Some women feel a great deal of pressure “trying to nap”, and the anxiety and fear of not sleeping while they have the chance disrupts their ability to sleep. If this is the case for you, try using a meditation app like “Calm”, it has wonderful sleep stories that can take your mind off of “I need to go to sleep right now! Why AM I NOT SLEEPING I AM EXHAUSTED…” Trying to nap once isn’t enough- imagine it as a new skill and keep trying.
Shift sleeping. This is where one adult sleeps for five hours, and the other is responsible for baby. (I recognize not every household has two adults, or two adults home at the same time.) If you are able to try shift sleeping, I suggest going in a different room, putting in earplugs and enjoying your five hours. If you are exclusively breast feeding, consider allowing another responsible adult to feed baby some expressed breast milk. If that isn’t an option, or your desire, then they could bring baby to you and take baby away. You might choose to sleep from 7 pm to midnight and be responsible for baby between midnight and five.
Taking walks, drinking caffeine, breathing in peppermint oil, all of these things can help after a tough night- but these are short term solutions. You are probably going to be dealing with a baby that is up and down for at least a few months. So I urge you to consider finding ways to get more sleep- because there truly is not a substitute! –
Warmly, Jenny Schermerhorn, Licensed Mental Health Counselor. Specializing in the Journey and Transition To Motherhood.
This article is not meant to take the place of a relationship with a trained mental health therapist, or a medical professional. It is not meant to provide diagnosis of a mental health disorder. If you are experiencing a physical or mental health emergency, please dial 9-1-1.