Motherhood and sleep deprivation go hand-in-hand, but that doesn’t make it any easier to manage–especially when you have a new, tiny person to care for around the clock. When a newborn joins the family, it often results in weeks, and even months, of inadequate sleep for both parents, but especially for mom. Just when you think you’ve settled into a solid routine as a family after countless sleepless nights filled with cries or fussiness, your newborn may enter a new phase of growth, which means a frustrating sleep regression may follow.
Sleep deprivation makes it hard for anyone to accomplish their day-to-day tasks, but it’s especially challenging for new mothers who are tasked with 24/7 care of another person in addition to their own needs. Fortunately, there is hope. This guide is here to help new moms, whether you have other little ones in tow or not, navigate the ins and outs of parenting a newborn while running on fumes–and help you to get more much-needed rest in the process.
Take Care of Your Needs
With a new little one on your hip, breast, arm, knee or torso at nearly all times, it is difficult to use your one free hand to do everything else that needs to be done. However, though it may feel like an impossible task to juggle the baby’s needs with your own, it’s non-negotiable that you’re cared for, too. There is no reason to push through extreme sleep deprivation at your own expense. If and when your fatigue or overwhelm becomes severe, it’s time to switch up your routine.
When you only sleep in short bursts, it’s important that all of your other needs are met to help you feel as calm, collected and soothed as possible. Make sure you keep plenty of easy-to-grab snacks around, including foods to help you sleep, and set aside time each day to perform basic self-care tasks such as showering, skin care, light stretching or exercise (as long as you’ve been cleared to do so) and time to read or listen to music to clear your head.
Don’t Add to Your Plate
Caring for a newborn is already more than a full-time job. As tempting as it may be to take on more responsibility, especially if you feel compelled to do more for your other family members out of guilt, it’s better to wait until your newborn is a little older. You may miss all the quality time and various ways you could show up for your other children, or your partner. These feelings are normal, and it’s okay to feel the pull between your newborn and the rest of your life.
Instead of stepping up to the plate yourself, try to find ways to make additional responsibilities work for you and your family. Outsource playdates, cleaning tasks and household duties to others in your circle whenever possible.
Coordinate Sleep Schedules
The advice to sleep when the baby sleeps may have you rolling your eyes when you notice all the unfinished tasks around you, but it’s the only way to catch up on missed rest. It can be really hard to step away from a sink of dirty dishes or a pile of unfolded laundry to take a nap. However, you and your baby need to come first.
Try to put all of the loose ends out of your mind and dismiss the temptation to scroll on your phone or catch up on a favorite show during a nap. The more sleep you can get, the better you’ll be able to tackle those tasks during the next available time.
Stress interferes with sleep in significant ways, from interrupted dreams to heightened senses when it’s time to go to bed, and the stress of a newborn can really compound these effects. It’s important that you do all that you can to minimize the effects of stress, especially when in a state of sleep deprivation. It may seem almost laughable to think about stress relief at a time like this, but the added pressures of a new baby with near-constant fatigue can cause changes in your mood that can have potentially serious consequences for your mental health.
The best thing to do to stave off the baby blues is to find ways to boost your mood within your existing routine. Take a walk with the baby around the block while listening to a favorite podcast, call a friend during a daytime feeding, wear something that makes you feel comfortable, watch an uplifting documentary or pick out a new body wash with a soothing scent.
Keep an eye on your mood, however, and talk to your doctor if you notice any lingering signs of depression or anxiety, as these are serious conditions that shouldn’t be ignored.
Ask for Help
While newborns need a lot of help and assistance to survive, so do new mothers. Many new moms simply don’t have the time, energy or resources to do it all on their own, and you shouldn’t have to. Ask your partner or a trusted family member to step in whenever they can. In times when they are unavailable, recall anyone and everyone who offered a helping hand before the baby came home and reach out for any help you can get.
Don’t be afraid, or embarrassed, to let a neighbor come over to do your dishes or mow your lawn, and even consider having a babysitter over to change a few diapers so you can take a quick power nap. Your main priority is the baby, and everything else can be taken care of by others in your circle. The more help you can get, the more relaxed you will feel and the easier it will be to get some shut-eye at night.
Remember This Is Temporary
Every parent dreams of the day their baby sleeps through the night, and if it hasn’t happened yet, it certainly will. Part of making it through the newborn phase is just taking it all a day at a time, all while keeping your eyes on the horizon. Do everything you can to take care of your baby and yourself, and be realistic about your ability to manage a lack of sleep. The better you’re able to handle it now, the quicker your desired outcome–a full night’s rest–will seem to arrive.