Your child’s first months are filled with sleepless nights, and for some families, those interruptions stretch past the first year. Some babies just struggle to sleep through the night and that’s developmentally normal, but that doesn’t make it any easier on parents.
Is there anything you can do to break through the fog?
On average, new parents lose 44 days of sleep during the first year, averaging just 5.1 hours of sleep per night. That’s simply unsustainable, which is why you’ll need some mitigation strategies to keep you going.
Though nothing is a real replacement for a good night’s sleep, these four tricks can go a long way.
It can be tempting to try out new diets after giving birth in an attempt to get back your “pre-baby” body, but that’s just not a good idea. First of all, the media presents us with an unrealistic idea of how our bodies recover from birth. It actually takes months for your body to really heal from birth, and longer if you’ve had a c-section – remember, you had to loosen your tendons to get that baby out!
More importantly though, taking care of a baby takes energy and that means eating a well-balanced diet and even maintaining your increased calorie intake from pregnancy if you’re breastfeeding. Your body and your life are different now, so be gentle.
If you’re breastfeeding, it’s easy to assume you’ll just take on all of the feedings yourself, but that’s a surefire way to end up exhausted. Instead, make sure you have a breast pump, milk storage, and bottles so that you can trade off feedings with your spouse or friends and family who have offered help. This is extra important for night feedings because our bodies expect to sleep at night – they’re programmed to do so – and getting up every few hours will wear you down in no time.
Curate Your Space
Do you feel like you sleep less deeply since giving birth? That’s because you actually do. Having a baby changes your brain in several ways, including making you more aware of your surroundings so that you won’t miss your baby’s cries.
If you’re going to have any chance of sleeping at night, you’re going to need to block out as much extra stimulation as you can. Install blackout curtains in your room and consider using a white noise machine to block sound from the street. At least if the only sound that interrupts you is your baby, you might be able to catch a few hours of sleep at a stretch.
Every exhausted person hates being told to exercise, but it really can help boost your energy. That’s at least in part because exercise, even just walking, can reduce your stress levels and improve your mood. Additionally, if you can get yourself to move around outside, you’ll benefit from increased vitamin D levels and better regulated circadian rhythms, making it more likely you’ll be ready to fall asleep at a reasonable time.
New parents, especially new moms, need much more sleep than they’re getting, and that sleep deprivation can physically age your body. Still, there’s only so much you can do about your baby’s biology for now, so you have to fill in the gaps as best you can.