Every pregnancy is different. Every delivery is different. And every baby is different. But there is certainly one thing that is uniform throughout everybody’s first few weeks at home with a new babe: lack of sleep. We thought we knew tired during the first few exhausting weeks of pregnancy, and then we thought we knew tired when the end of the third trimester hit and sleepless nights settled in due to largeness and bathroom runs and sweaty hot flashes and worry and hip discomfort and, and, and…But then the baby gets home and we realize we never really knew tired at all.
You're so tired that you dread nighttime because being woken from bits and pieces of sleep is often worse than no sleep at all. So tired that sometimes all you can do is cry right along with your baby. So tired that in the time it takes to walk from your soft, cozy, warm, and inviting bed to the nursery where baby lies crying, you go through all five stages of grief: denial, anger, bargaining, depression, and acceptance. So tired that the memory is forever etched into your brain and hearing someone else’s new-baby-cry immediately makes you want to go take a nap. Now that is tired! Here are a few ideas on how to deal with this crazy lack of sleep:
1. Take Turns
When our first baby arrived, my husband and I made the deal that I would get up with the baby during the night because being a stay-at-home mom was my job. This way he could get a (mostly) full night of sleep so he could get up and go to work--his job. But as soon as the weekends came around, I got to sleep in while he cared for the baby in the mornings. That is our way of taking turns and it has worked rather well. Every family will have a different version of this: trading who sleeps in every other morning, taking turns during middle-of-the-night feedings, Mom feeds then Dad changes and rocks baby back to sleep, or a hand-off at a certain age if multiple children are involved. These are just a few of many options! Taking turns allows both parents a chance to rest as well as both having the opportunity to become acquainted, and comfortable, with the new little one.
2. Sleep when
Baby Sleeps Possible
Everyone says to sleep when baby sleeps, but we all know it just isn’t that easy. Instead, let's switch it to sleep when possible. It’s amazing what sleep does for us--emotions and hormones are skyrocketing and one of the simplest ways to calm them is to rest.
3. Good Nutrition
A nutritious diet is crucial to helping with lack of sleep. Your body just went through quite the ordeal and has a long way to go before being completely healed. Good food and plenty of water will give energy and boost liveliness while your body tries to compensate for less sleep. This is especially important if you are breastfeeding. I couldn’t believe how hungry and thirsty I was ALL THE TIME during my little guy’s first few months of life. I tried my best to keep healthy snacks around and a water bottle near me at all times.
4. Mom Routine
You may not be sleeping, but there’s still a few things you can do to help stay relaxed and make you feel like you. For the first few weeks, I suggest doing your best to get the things done you ABSOLUTELY NEED to do while the baby is awake (I promise I realize this is much easier said than done), but if the have-to’s are tackled while baby isn’t sleeping, that means there’s still a nap or two for you to relax a bit more instead of rushing to get things done. Give yourself a break and cut down your to-do list as much as possible for the first little bit and ease back into things slowly to give yourself peace of mind.