New mother sleep deprivation is real. I didn’t really understand the lack of sleep until my first child came along.
During my pregnancy, becoming a new parent seemed exciting. Then my son was born, and I realized my sleep was pretty non-existent. Of course, I was still pretty elated that I was a new parent.
His father was involved, but he also had to go to work the next day. I let him sleep as it was unfair of me to expect him to stay up and then get up at 6 am to go work.
Most nights, when my son would cry, I would cry as well!
But I learned later (much later on) that all he wanted to do was snuggle with me during his sleep. At that time co-sleeping bassinets were not around. He had to put himself to sleep rather than nestle with me, which would provide him the security he needed.
What Was I Doing Wrong?
In hindsight, I realize now; I was trying to be supermom. It was beyond my thinking to depend upon anyone for help, and that included my own mother.
“Hey, if was I brave enough to birth a baby, I should also be more than enough to care for it.” These were the crazy thoughts that were floating around in my head; they also caused me much undue anxiety.
During the day, I would carry him around, not even pay attention to what my needs were. On top of that, I would try to be the perfect wife as well. The new mother’s sleep deprivation was hitting me hard.
There were times where I would be angry, but never did I take it out on my child. I would lay him in his crib and just walk away to calm down before caring for him again.
New Mother Sleep Deprivation Causes Hours Of Lost Sleep
When I became a new mother, I felt like I was sleeping, maybe 4-7 hours. But then one day, my husband noticed how tired I was, he commented that I was sleeping even fewer hours than what I originally thought.
This is not a good thing. Sure, most of us can manage to get by on five or six hours a night, but a mere hour of sleep is just not enough, especially when you’re caring for children all day. Fragmented sleep can be just as unhealthy as no sleep at all—so even if parents are managing to sleep for a respectable number of interrupted hours, they’re still not getting enough rest. (Source: Parents)
To tell you the truth, I was one of the lucky ones who didn’t experience depression when any of my children were born. I got pretty close the first time around, but luckily I invited outside help from my mother and a couple of friends who had had a baby, and they knew what to expect.
According to Dr. William C. Dement, a physician and sleep specialist, parents of newborns often lose about two hours of sleep per night until the baby is 5 months old. From then until their child hits 2 years old, parents usually lose an hour of sleep each night. (Source: Health Day)
Even though it was stressful, I implemented their techniques; some worked while others didn’t. But as each of my next three babies came along, my system improved.
By applying their tips, I was able to prevent overtired sleepwalking. This helped me to stop moving from one feeding to the next in a zombielike state, as well as change what worked and what didn’t. With my next two, I allowed myself to experience being a mother to a newborn and noticed it was quite a bit easier.
The demands I had placed on myself the first time were considerably less. By the time my fourth child arrived, I was better able to manage my day to get some actual sleep.
I guess you could say my second and third were my practice children; I wanted to get it right at least once, which I did when the youngest came along.
My Tips For Surviving New Mother Sleep Deprivation
1. Eat Properly
Don’t neglect your eating. If you are a breast-feeding mother like I was, then eating is even more important as your baby gets good nutrition from this. Babies that are getting good nutrition tend to be less fussy and have longer naps between feedings.
As well you need to eat to keep up your energy. Usually, when it comes to taking care of young babies, our eating suffers the most. Even though I was a personal trainer, when my first child was born, I didn’t care what I was eating, some of it was so unhealthy.
Routinely eating healthy foods throughout the day will maximize the little energy you probably have as a new mom. (Source: Web MD)
When you’re eating the proper foods, your sleep won’t suffer. But if you eat unhealthy junk food, your sleep will suffer. I know that when I eat unhealthy food, heartburn or acid reflux usually visits. That is a true sleep disturber.
2. Get A Co-Sleeping Bassinet
During my first newborn’s days, co-sleeping bassinets were not around. I mean, whoever came up with that invention, pretty genius, I would say. This an excellent way for the baby to have their own sleeping space, while mom has her own sleeping space.
Yet they are sleeping right next to each other!
Can you imagine how much anxiety this removes? Not just for the mom because she can view her baby at any time, but also the baby knows mom is close by. Both mom and baby have the security of being next to each other.
With my first one, as I indicated earlier, he slept in a crib. But that was only until I learned how close he needed to be to me. So I brought him into bed. Not the wisest choice because being sleep-deprived I could’ve rolled onto him, but I guess deep down, my mother instincts kept that from happening.
As of 2016, Safe sleep recommendations tell us to keep babies in the same room as parents for the first 6 months in order to reduce the risk of SIDS. But while your baby is supposed to be in the same room, safe sleep organizations do not recommend letting baby sleep in the same bed as parents. (Source: Very Well Family)
When my granddaughter was born, a short few years ago, co-sleeping bassinet was one of my gifts to my son and his wife. They both commented that their baby because she was so close by, was getting 4-6 hours of straight sleep at night. Of course, they woke her up for feedings.
Being a personal trainer, I should have been able to slip back into my routine of exercise. Right? Nope, that didn’t happen. Truth be told, exercise was the last thing on my mind.
It wasn’t until my second child was born that I realized how important exercising was. With my first one, being a first-time mom who was a personal trainer, getting back into my pre-pregnancy clothes was simple. So there was no undue stress or anxiety about having gained weight.
But with the second one, I was unable to lose weight as quickly as I was with the first one. Imagine my shock when I wasn’t able to slip back into old clothes.
I was too tired to exercise. But we had an old treadmill at home which I started using when my daughter went down for a nap; I would walk for about 10 minutes. Those 10 minutes were enough to motivate me to get back into working out again.
They also provided the necessary tiredness, which was enough for me to start getting some proper sleep. As a personal trainer, being in shape is one of your go-to cards when attracting clients — being out of shape brought on a lot of undue stress.
Not that I jumped back into working out right away. Just putting my body through some exercise was enough to make me feel good about myself, which then left me de-stressed before going to sleep.
4. Take Some Me Time
You must pay attention to yourself. Being a new mom at one time myself, I know how hard it is to put ourselves first. One day my mom came over and indicated that I should have a hot bath.
My first question was, ‘what if my son cries?” My mom answered, “that’s what I’m here for.” It was a little hard for me to accept that my mom was probably more efficient at handling babies than I was, yet I was adamant that I was the only one who could handle my baby.
Experts suggest finding whatever mix of activities that leaves you feeling balanced, happy, and fulfilled. And don’t forget your social life—that counts as self-care, too. (Source: Parents)
The first time she suggested I take a hot bath, I didn’t take her up on her suggestion. But a few months down the road, getting advice from other new moms who probably knew what their moms were talking about. I took my mom up on her suggestion, I was sitting in the bathtub for 30 to 40 minutes at a time.
Let me tell you it was probably one of the best things I had ever done for me. Guess what? When I came out of the bath, my son was just fine being in his grandmother’s arms.
5. Know That This Is Temporary
Believe me, at the time when my firstborn came along; I thought mother sleep deprivation was going to last forever. Remember, at that time; I was only thinking in increments of a single day. My thought process did not spread out over three months to a year, and so on…
By his third month, my son was sleeping from 11 PM to 6 AM. That’s usually common with newborns. They need to develop a routine, which only you can help them with.
Most babies don’t start sleeping through the night (6 to 8 hours) without waking until they are about 3 months old, or until they weigh 12 to 13 pounds. About two-thirds of babies are able to sleep through the night on a regular basis by age 6 months. (Source: Stanford Children’s Health)
Don’t pull out your hair, thinking, “oh my gosh, is this going to last forever?” It isn’t going to last longer than three months. As the three-month mark hits, yours and the baby’s schedule will start to mesh.
In the beginning, your baby will need to feed every few hours, gradually that tapers off because the baby is introduced to other food. This means that they stay full longer, when a baby is satiated, they tend to be less fussy and sleep better.
6. Skip The Resentment And Let Your Partner Participate
Remember what I said about not letting my husband participate in handling diaper changes and such because he had to work?
The resentment that built up because he wasn’t participating in baby chores was enough to make me want to explode. Yes, he got to snuggle with baby, and play games or coo the baby.
But everything else I felt was my priority. I didn’t even ask him, yet the anger was building up in my mind. Insomnia and sleepless nights were creating a huge barrier between us. The new mother sleep deprivation was making me angry.
With our second baby, I didn’t let him do that. As soon as he came home from work, he had to help me out with her. It was important, he was her father after all, and it was good for them to bond like that.
It takes work. Talking. Holding each other accountable. Adjusting. And keeping in mind the kind of life we really want together. But that low-level radioactive waste of resentment is gone. (Source: Washington Post)
My firstborn clung to me; our daughter learned that she could hang out with either of us, and she wouldn’t be fussy. When he was taking care of her for a couple of hours every evening, I was able to have a hot bath and lie down for an hour nap.
7. Rest When Your Baby Is Resting
This is a huge issue for new mothers. We all think that we need to be superwoman when our child is born. We don’t want anyone else caring for them, but ourselves.
When I became a new mom, I thought I knew everything, turns out I didn’t. One of the main things I didn’t realize was that when my son was sleeping, I should also be sleeping.
Getting sleep during the first few months of your baby’s birth is a necessity, not only for you but for your baby as well. This is the time when frustration can kick in. Sometimes tired moms make not the greatest decisions, especially when it comes to taking care of their baby needs.
And if your baby is awake, so are you. That means that you’re getting a lot of fragmented sleep, making you feel tired, causing you to forget things, raising your risk of depression, and creating an unsafe situation if you get behind the wheel. (Source: Sleep.org)
When you get your proper sleep, you will give your best to your baby. Of course, I understand that we all can’t fall asleep at the snap of a finger. But there are things you can do to increase getting some shut-eye.
- Lie down – let your feet take a break, relax, most important, don’t use any gadgets.
- Use a white noise machine – let one of the gentle meditating sounds put you to sleep
- Limit your caffeine – 1 cup should be more than enough to get going in the morning
Another thing I want to remind you is don’t stress about not being able to sleep, that’ll make it worse. Even just lying down for 30 minutes can be pretty restorative.
Some Final Words About New Mother Sleep Deprivation
As a new mother and being a wife, it was hard for me to delegate chores to people who are willing to help out. Don’t let that become your issue when trying to get sleep as a new mother.
Another great thing to do is pump your breast milk so that someone else can feed the baby while you sleep. Most times, that will be your partner.
You don’t need to be a perfect hostess when others are visiting to meet your newborn. As well it’s okay to let the house go, no one’s going to expect a perfect house when they are visiting you. All they want to do is see your new baby.
It wasn’t until I had the second baby that I learned I could avoid new mother sleep deprivation by implementing the seven tips I have outlined for you up top.
Share in the comments below how you were able to avoid new mother sleep deprivation.