Like a rite of passage, you can’t experience newborn sleep deprivation until you’re a parent. When you don’t have kids, you could make up the lack of sleep the next night. Parenthood, meanwhile, is a series of all-nighters for the next several months.
With its inevitability, what can we do to cope with sleep deprivation? Let’s discuss two issues here. First, functioning during the day on little sleep. And second, squeezing in any sleep into your days and nights.
How to cope with newborn sleep deprivation during the day
#1: Conserve your energy
Keep life simple. Now is not the time to run a zillion errands or resume your exercise regimen. Spend the day watching shows and movies. I still associate How I Met Your Mother with my eldest, and The Avengers with my twins. Read a novel or bond with your baby. Save the strenuous activities for later months.
#2: Take notes or use an app
Your brain will feel foggy from lack of sleep. Use notes or apps to keep your life organized. I used good old paper and pen to track his feedings, sleep and poop patterns.
#3: Eat good food and drink plenty of water
You are what you eat. You may not have time to cook your meals, but eat healthy food or even healthier options from the take-out menu. You’ll feel energized with good food that doesn’t take its toll on your body.
Drink tons of water as well, using a large sports bottle if need be. You’re still healing, and water does wonders for our bodies as well as helping us stay energized.
#4: Take a walk
When you’re ready or feel like air and sunshine could do your body good, take a walk. Bring the baby in a stroller and start small. Light exercise can invigorate your body with much needed endorphins.
I was at my worst during middle of the night feedings. Just as I was falling asleep, the baby’s cry would tear me from that comfortable space. I’d fumble for a nursing pillow, a pacifier, or anything the baby needed.
Prepare as much as you can so you don’t have to fumble as I did. During nursing, keep your pillow, phone or notebook handy. If bottle-feeding, assemble the bottles before falling asleep to remove one less step. Leave your sports bottle by your bedside table so you don’t have to leave your room.
#6: Laugh about it
You know how you’re so delirious you end up laughing about who knows what? You might find yourself in that predicament a few times. Laughing about another failed nap attempt feels better than grumbling under your breath.
Another way to use laughter to get through the day is to watch comedies, whether movies or TV shows. They remind us that life exists outside the baby madness, a life we’ll return to soon enough. Speaking of which…
#7: Understand that sleep deprivation ends
You’ll go back to sleeping eight hours a night at some point in your child’s life. As a first-time mom, I never believed people when they said it would get better, but it does. You won’t be sleep-deprived forever.
How to get some sleep despite newborn sleep deprivation
#8: Create an inviting sleep environment
At this point, use sleeping aids to achieve the optimal sleep environment. Install darkening curtains. Wear an eye mask. Listen to music (or white noise as I prefer) and any other method to help you fall and stay asleep.
#9: Have someone else care for your baby
Even if for an hour or two, invite friends and family to care for the baby so you can take a nap. If you have family willing to spend the night, ask them to help. They can sooth fussy babies or handle night time feedings. Hire a night nurse to help with the more challenging evening hours.
#10: Sleep early
Okay, not 6pm early (although I tried that one night with our first born—didn’t do anything). Try to sleep when you put the baby down or not too long after. For us, that usually meant our bedtime began at 8pm-9pm. Since you won’t be able to sleep through the night, you’ll want to sleep early to get as much of it as you can.
#11: No caffeine close to sleep
I don’t drink coffee, but even caffeinated tea prevents me from falling asleep. My threshold dictates I don’t drink caffeinated tea past noon. Depending on your caffeine intake, you may have to forgo coffee or limit it before nap and sleep times.
#12: Nap when you can
I know, I know… They keep saying “Nap when the baby sleeps,” as if magic hours will pop up somehow so you can do everything else.
Seriously though… nap when the baby sleeps. Or at least nap for one of her naps so you can still reserve the other times for tasks and to-dos. They’re not full eight-hours of sleep, but clock in as much as you can (better some than none, right?).
#13: Treat yourself to a hotel night
One of the best decisions my husband and I made was to book a night at a nearby hotel. We left all three kids in the hands of willing sitters. Baby duties, baby crying and all that baby stuff didn’t interrupt our sleep for one full night.
I was still nursing and had to set my alarm to pump (so no straight eight hours for me). But I allowed myself to skip a pump without becoming too engorged or depleting my supply.
If you’re pumping, bring milk storage bags. (These Medela storage bags worked pretty well for me.) And make sure the hotel room has a refrigerator. Then enjoy a night of blissful sleep!
You won’t be sleep deprived forever. I know it’s hard to see it, especially if you’re trying to survive the newborn stage as a first-time mom. Before then, follow the tips above to get you through these challenging days and nights.
Here are more useful tips:
- “Help! My Newborn Only Sleeps when Held.”
- Smart Ways to Cope When You’re Tired All the Time
- How to Stay Calm when Your Baby Won’t Nap
- When Does a Newborn Baby Get Easier?
- How to Survive the Newborn Stage
What is the most difficult part about sleep deprivation? How did you cope with having little to no sleep? Share your stories in the comments below!
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