Chronic sleep deprivation can make you feel moody, emotional and foggy – and even leave you wondering if there is something wrong with you or your baby. Sleepless nights with a young baby are completely normal, but that doesn’t make them any easier to manage.
“Your baby really has no care for how tired you are,” says postnatal and early parenting specialist, Karina Lane. “They have needs that are completely biologically driven and they’re not there to be reasoned with. You really have no choice but to figure out how to cope with it.”
It’s important to remember that babies are designed to wake often for food and comfort, so try not to see night waking as problematic behaviour. Be kind to yourself while you’re feeling exhausted. Remember: this part of parenthood is temporary.
In the meantime, here are some simple ways to help you cope with lack of sleep:
1. Let go of the to do list
It’s become a bit of a cliché, and new mums everywhere might throw their hands up in despair, but do try to let go of tasks that aren’t absolutely necessary.
“Try not to prioritise other things over sleep,” says Karina. “Things like your to do list, or ‘shoulds’ that you feel you should be doing instead of sleeping.
“Getting sleep should be your number two priority – caring for baby is number one, getting sleep is number two.”
2. Sleep during the day
Allowing yourself to sleep when your baby sleeps, or even letting them fall asleep on your lap, can be one way to get more sleep.
Karina says, “Contact napping – or letting your baby drift off on your lap or in a carrier or sling – is fine, as is safe co-sleeping.”
If you’d like to sleep as close to your baby as possible without actually co-sleeping, using a bassinet that can stand alone or be adjusted to fit the side of your bed like the Childcare Alora Bedside Sleeper, can work wonders for you and your baby.
3. If possible, get support from your partner
Your partner can truly help by taking on more day-to-day house responsibilities so you can spend your time caring for the baby. The cooking, cleaning, washing and errand-running can all be shouldered by your partner for a while.
Try sharing the overnight baby duties if you can. Even having your partner get up to bring the baby into bed for a night feed can help you feel more rested.
Your baby will eventually start to sleep for longer stretches overnight, which means you’ll be able to get more sleep yourself.
4. Eat well
Do your best to eat a variety of wholesome, nourishing foods and drink plenty of water to stay hydrated. Remember, too, that you may need more food when you’re postpartum or breastfeeding. Lots of good fats, protein and carbohydrates will help you feel cared-for and energised, even when you’re struggling with tiredness.
Gentle exercise can also give you a boost. A brisk walk with your baby in the pram is perfect, as is fitting in your pelvic floor and core exercises.
5. Get out of the house
Even if you can only manage a few minutes each day, getting fresh air is another way to boost your energy levels. Being in nature is proven food for the soul, plus getting out and about with your baby helps curb feelings of isolation and being stuck in a routine.
6. Keep life simple
“Break it down to the absolute essentials to keep you and baby alive and well,” says Karina. “It’s more than enough, everything else can wait.”
Delegate whatever tasks you can (say yes to all offers of food!), take things slow, and lower your expectations. This is your ‘new normal’ for a while and learning to let go will help you find your peace.
7. Do whatever works to get through the night
“I’m a big believer in doing what works,” says Karina. “I don’t believe you can spoil a baby, I’m never going to tell you that you need to avoid ‘bad habits’. It’s all about staying safe and surviving, because that way you can actually enjoy your baby more.”
She suggests techniques like rocking your baby to sleep or letting them sleep in the pram after a walk.
“All of these options are perfectly fine,” Karina believes. “There are no rules. As much as you might hear that your baby needs to sleep independently and develop particular sleep skills, I don’t believe it for a minute. Not if it’s causing you both stress.
“If you’re stressed, your baby will be stressed, and you just feed off each other. So do what works.”
This is a sponsored post for BIG W, where you can find everything you need for pregnancy, baby and beyond.