Being a new parent is a wonderful experience. However the first stages can come as a bit of a shock, especially when it comes to your sleep (and in particular the lack of it!). Follow our steps on coping with tiredness to help keep you rested.
1) Understand your baby's sleeping patterns
New born babies do not understand the concept of sleeping at night and being awake in the day, so their sleeping patterns are usually unsettled. However from about 12 weeks, they begin to understand this concept. Babies alternated between deep sleep and light sleep about every 50-60 minutes (source: ntc.org.uk) - which is more frequently than adults. This can cause them to wake easily.
The best way to deal with this is to get to understand your baby's sleeping patterns. Eventually you will get to understand why the baby has woken up. For example if the baby has woken up and this is not on schedule, is the baby uncomfortable? Are they too warm / cold? Do they need a diaper change? Is the baby ill? and so on.
2) Stick to a routine
Keep yours and your baby's nap schedules in sync and do not stray from this routine. That means keeping to set times for going to sleep and getting up. A baby who's slept too much in the day will be sure to keep you and the family up at night!
If you find it difficult to rest when the baby is resting, see your healthcare visit or GP as this may be a sign of postnatal depression (source: ntc.org.uk).
3) Eat and Drink Well
Maintain your energy levels but eating slow releasing energy foods such as porridge. The golden food combination of proteins and complex carbohydrates will help maintain energy levels throughout the day so you don't hit a "slump". If you can, avoid coffee as this causes spikes and slumps in your energy levels which can distort your sleeping patterns.
It's also important to keep hydrated. Keep drinking lots of water as dehydration can cause you to feel sluggish and not quite yourself.
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4) Keep You and Baby Active
There's nothing much more that guarantees a good sleep than being active. Keep you and your baby active by going swimming, going to the park for some fresh air, a walk or arrange a play-date. An active baby will help them fall into a good quality sleep (which is less likely to be disturbed due to sheer exhaustion) which leaves you free to get uninterrupted rest. Better yet, if you get involved with the activities too, this will also tire you out and help you get better quality sleep too!
5) Ask For Help
There are times when you can't do it all on your own - and you shouldn't feel you have too. You deserve some down time too. Here are a few suggestions on how you can work with your partner and family members for help.
a) If you and your partner have chosen to go on shared parental leave and you are taking this at the same time, you could choose to alternate on the night shift so every other night, one of you is getting uninterrupted sleep. This shares the burden and the whole family will be well rested - happy days!
b) If it is the case that you as the mother is on maternity leave and your partner is at work full time, you could ask that one day on the weekend they do the night shift so once a week you can have uninterrupted sleep and this will at least keep you going. That way your partner also gets one night of rest too!
c) Ask family or friends if they can pitch in once a week as explained in b) above. Even if you get just one night off a week, this could go a long way.
You may be breast feeding and feel you can't "detach" yourself from your baby. However, there are ways around this, such as expressing your milk.
6) Switch Off Means Switch Off!
To help you keep to the sleeping patterns, limit the amount of disturbances as much as you can. This will reduce unnecessary stress and help you to focus on you and the baby.
Some examples are to limit the number of visitors that come to see you and the baby. This will reduce the amount of disruptions and help you keep on your routine. It may be a good idea to switch off the phones when feeding and sleeping. This helps you and baby keep on routine.
Being exhausted and sleep deprived can take its toll on you physically and mentally. Therefore it is important to manage this as much as possible with the helpful tips above. But it's always important to note, even though it's an exhausting experience and it can take the life out of you - remember it won't last forever.
Click here to also read our blog 15 Practical Tips For After Birth for the first few steps in looking after a newborn.