Everyone warns you about the little sleep after baby is born, but until it hits you, nothing can prepare you. You go on autopilot, you don't know if you're coming or going. You need apps to remind you of everything.
The lack of sleep can lead to an imbalance of serotonin, a chemical your brain produces that helps you to cope and feel good. With low levels of serotonin, you can become emotional, anxious and even depressed – yes, this happens to dads too.
But wait! There's help. As every parent will tell you, there are ways to catch up on sleep and before you know it, you'll get used to the new normal. And just when you do, your tot will start to sleep through again... It will get better.
Hang in there, and catch some tips from those who have been there.
1. Get someone to take over a night feed
You may see yourself as the sole source of your baby’s food, but this doesn’t mean someone else can’t pitch in! Express some milk if you’re breastfeeding or let dad or a loved one make up a bottle and take over the 2am feed so that you get to sleep for a longer period during the night and wake up feeling a bit refreshed.
2. Rest when baby sleeps
Everybody tells you to sleep when baby sleeps and, while it’s good advice, it’s not always possible. In fact, you may find yourself lying wide awake under huge pressure to fall asleep on demand. Which, no matter how tired you are, is a skill not many of us have.
Know that even if you just rest, lie down on the bed, close your eyes and meditate or read a book and drink a cup of tea, all of these can be as refreshing as a power nap. Take the pressure off yourself, leave the chores and rest when baby sleeps.
- Also read: Sleep struggles? Here's help.
3. Accept offers of help
If you find you still can’t get your mind off that pile of clothes that needs to be washed or the sink full of dishes long enough to have a nap, get someone else to do it. There are usually many offers of help from friends and family who won’t mind pitching in where you need them to.
Alternatively, hire a housekeeper for a day or two a week until things settle down. Letting go of the household though is probably one of the biggest gifts you can give yourself during this time of your life.
- Also read: 10 new-mom surprises
4. Go to bed earlier
If you find yourself unable to nap during the day then consider putting your life on hold for a while and hitting the sack at 8pm. We know you just want to feel adult for a bit and communicate with your hubby but if you are really exhausted take a few nights off to go to bed early.
When the baby starts dropping their 10pm feed, you may find yourself having a good stretch of sleep before the 2am wake-up, which makes the world of difference.
Also read: How to set a routine for your newborn
5. Chat to your doctor
If you really are struggling with lack of sleep, or aren’t able to sleep, and you’re starting to feel the effects (sleep deprivation can be a major cause of postnatal depression), talk to your doctor about medication that you can use while breastfeeding. Remember this is a phase, and it will eventually pass.
What worked for you after you gave birth and found you were struggling to sleep? Tell us by commenting below or emailing firstname.lastname@example.org and we may publish your comments.
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