“Enjoy your last nights of sleep!” I recall someone saying to me at my baby shower. I laughed to myself. It wasn’t as if I was getting a good night’s rest at 36 weeks pregnant.
However, they weren’t wrong. As disturbed as my sleep was then, it in no way prepared me what I was about to face.
Losing sleep is an inevitable reality for new parents. That doesn’t mean, though, that you need to spend the next six months – or years – feeling like a zombie!
As with any battle, you have to go in prepared. There are many great strategies to improve your sleep, but if you follow these 10 Rules of Sleep Survival, you will make it out in one piece!
1. Sleep when baby sleeps
You did it! Baby is finally down for a nap and you have some time -- however brief -- to yourself.
It may be tempting to use this time to get the (mounting) housework done. However, there’s really only one thing you should be doing when baby naps – sleep. Do it if you want to avoid succumbing to the effects of sleep deprivation.
The same rule rings true for after you’ve put baby down for the night. You’re not doing yourself any favours by staying up an extra hour to catch up on your favourite TV series.
Relish every moment you can spend sleeping.
2. Keep baby close at night
Babies may be less likely to fuss if you sleep with them. However, if you’re concerned about bringing baby to bed with you for safety reasons, you can opt for a cot that attaches to the side of your bed instead. This creative solution allows you to keep baby close, while ensuring you both have your own designated space.
Keeping baby at arms reach has added benefits if you’re breastfeeding. You can easily nestle closer to the bedside cot and doze while baby feeds.
3. Be prepared
If you’re bottle-feeding, it’s important to prepare ahead for nighttime feedings. Who wants to wake up at 3 o’clock a.m. and scramble around a dimly lit? Yeah, me neither.
By making sure everything is organised, you’ll cut down on the time you need to be awake for the feeding. It will lessen the amount of stress on your fatigued body as well.
4. Don’t rely on caffeine
Downing a cup of joe may seem like a great way to perk yourself up -- and it certainly will. A problem arises when you finally get a chance to sleep but the effect of the caffeine is just starting!
Caffeine has a very long half life -- approximately five hours. That means 10 hours after you’ve enjoyed your cappuccino, 25% is still active in your body. All that caffeine, especially if consumed after noon, makes it near impossible to catch up on your sleep.
5. Power snack
If you’re feeling sluggish and need a pick-me-up, try a power snack. Much like a power nap, a power snack can give you a boost of energy to carry you through.
However, when it comes to quality energy boosts, not all snacks are created equal. Processed carbs will give you a short spike in energy, but that will be followed by a sharp drop that leaves you feeling worse than before.
Instead, opt for a snack that incorporates both complex carbohydrates and protein to provide your body with quality fuel. A whole grain cracker with peanut butter is a personal favourite of mine.
6. Limit visits
New parents are no strangers to house calls. Everyone and their cousin wants to stop in to meet your bundle of joy. But if a constant revolving door is affecting your sleep time, you might want to reconsider your role as hostess.
While some visitors can be helpful -- like your mother-in-law coming over to help -- others are simply draining.
Choose your guest list wisely, and always keep your priorities in mind. Rest for both baby and you is the most important
7. Don’t be super mum
The house is strewn with baby paraphernalia, dinner’s burning on the stove, and there’s a diaper emergency. You just have to wonder, “Why am I so bad at this?”
You’re not. You can’t do everything, and you can’t be everywhere. You’re not super mom.
Never bite more than you can chew, and always accept a helping hand. No one is going to judge you, or think less of you as a parent if your house is messy.
8. Take turns
Many parents find the best way to reduce sleep deprivation is to take turns waking up with baby at night. This can be divided by alternating nights, or splitting each night into two shifts.
While you can’t share feeding duty if you’re breastfeeding exclusively, there are still times you can hand the reigns over to someone else so you can sneak in a power nap.
If baby is having a particularly fussy night -- and you have already covered the bases of feeding, changing -- don’t feel guilty about leaving dad to have a turn at soothing and comforting.
9. Don’t forget to take care of mummy too
With all the focus and time devoted to the new bundle of joy, many new mums quickly find self-care at the bottom of their to-do list. But if mum’s not well, how is she going to take care of baby?
Your diet, exercise and overall mood all have an impact on the quality of your sleep. When it’s a fact of life that you’re not going to be getting much of it, the quality of the sleep you do get becomes even more important.
Eat healthy meals and snacks and take baby out for a walk in the stroller to get some fresh air. Reserve thirty minutes each day to do something nice for yourself. Including a hot bath in your bedroom routine is a great way to relax, forget the day’s stresses, and prepare your body and mind for sleep.
10. Remember: It’s all temporary
No matter how hard it gets and how tired you are, this is just one stage of your baby’s life.
Just think of it. Soon they’ll be going off to college and you’ll miss those sleepless nights you spent rocking them for hours. You’ll miss the house filled with tiny screams. No? You’ll see.
Frequently reminding yourself that there is light -- er, sleep -- at the end of the tunnel will help you maintain a positive outlook during this tiresome period.
Parenting is not easy, but ensuring you get the most sleep possible will help you keep your head above water as you navigate this new experience.
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