New parent sleep – doesn’t that sound like a dream? This week I’m going to help you as a new parent with the coping strategies that you can use to help you with your sleep when you are dealing with the disturbed nights that you get with a new baby. I have some great tips for you to help you through this phase.
Now, the first thing that I want you to take on board is that rest is better than nothing. I know people say, “I’ll sleep when the baby sleeps.” And they do sleep a lot. You know they’re going to sleep quite regularly. They’re awake for 45 minutes. They’re off to sleep again. You would think that means you can get 14 to 17 hours a day like them, right? No, of course not. Because first of all, we can’t just switch off and fall asleep instantly the second they do. And second of all, we do have other things to do. We have bottles to clean. We have nappies to organize. We have grocery shopping, probably online, to do. There are so many things that we still need to do. It’s just not as simple as going to sleep when the baby sleeps.
Now, if you can, great. If you can take a nap, do it, but don’t put that pressure on yourself if you’re feeling like, “Oh, I just can’t.” Take a rest. And if the baby’s asleep and you can just sit back and put your feet up, literally put your feet up and relax. Close your eyes, if you can. Listen to a podcast. Just relax. If you can relax, you are going to be doing yourself a lot more good than you realize. But if you’re running around putting laundry on and cleaning the house and doing things that probably could wait, then you’re not getting that rest. So rest is better than nothing if you can’t get those naps and sleep, when the baby sleeps.
My second tip for you for coping, if you can, obviously, this is very difficult if you are a single parent, but if you have a partner, a spouse, or even a good friend that can come and help you out for a few days, or a family member, see if there is a way of taking turns in the night. I really like the idea of the two nights on two nights off night shift, which is great if there are two parents in the family, because you basically have two full nights to rest and know that I’m not getting up to baby tonight or the next night. You’ve got two full nights and it’s so powerful in how it helps your body to replenish, gives you the rest you need, and then gives you the energy to do your two nights on.
You could do one night on one night off, but it’s not quite the same effect. It’s easier to keep going for two nights and then have two full nights off. So two nights on two nights off, if you can. Breastfeeding mums might be saying, “But I have to do all the night wakings, because I’m breastfeeding.” Not necessarily. If you express and get your baby used to having breast milk from a bottle some of the time, it will open up huge amounts of flexibility for your family. Now I know there can be challenges with that and it’s not for everyone, but if it’s an option, why not take it? Especially if you are two working parents or you can share the load in that way.
Another challenge people come up with is, “Well, yes, but I’m breastfeeding and I’m on maternity leave and my husband has to work. So I have to do all the nights because he’s working.” Well, is that entirely true? And is that really fair? Because I understand if your partner’s working, and there are certain jobs where perhaps that is the case and that’s essential and they absolutely have got to get all that sleep. But you are working too during the day. Looking after a newborn baby is as demanding as a desk job, easily, if not more.
Come on, let’s see if we can weigh this up here. You’re both working. You’re just doing different things. Some might say that going to work is a rest from the busy-ness of looking after a new baby. So I still think that there’s room for sharing the load. It’s unique to every family dynamic. Have that conversation and see what you can work out.
The next tip I have for you is to accept help. Accept help, because especially as a first-time mom, I felt like this. I’m sure we all do. You almost feel like, oh no, my baby, my baby, I’m doing it, I’m doing everything. The family members might come along, “Ah, let me do this, let me do this.” And you think, no, I’m precious about it. Or maybe you just feel too proud to accept the help. Just get over it and accept the help.
If you can accept the help, you can choose to channel it to the things that you really need the help with. So instead of, “Oh, let me take the baby off your hands.” You might go, “No, no, actually I’m okay with the baby, but you could definitely cook us a meal, or I’d be really grateful if you’d sort that pile of laundry out and fold the things.” So perhaps if somebody is really, truly willing to help, they could help with the less attractive jobs and not take all the glory of the new baby, perhaps. So have a think about what it is you would really like help with and accept help if it’s offered.
My other massive tip for you as a new parent, especially as a first-time parent, is not to plan too much.
It’s really easy to get swept away by the idea of all these lovely baby groups and moms groups and going along to all these things. It’s really good for you to do that. Definitely. It’s good to get out. It’s good to be sociable. It’s good to talk to other moms that are in your situation. It is healthy to do that for sure. But don’t overload your diary so that you feel like you’re back-to-back with this class and then this group, and then this thing. Sometimes you just won’t feel like it and you don’t need that pressure. Maybe just have one thing a day. Each day, there’s one thing you do. It might be just going for a walk with a friend or it might be a group, but if you pile too many things in, you create an unnecessary pressure on yourself.
I used to have this thing, because I had my two quite close in age, so I had two little ones to juggle for a few years. It was where people would ask me to come to something and I’d go, “I’ll do my best,” or, “Please don’t count on me to be there. If I can, if the stars align, I would love to.” If it was a thing where they needed to know for definite, then I would just politely decline because I didn’t want the pressure of having to be at that place at that time. Because when you’re juggling two little ones, you’ve got a older baby, almost toddler, just about to go out the door and then the baby, and then you get to the door and you’ve got all the stuff, and then there’s a nappy explosion, and you’re like, “Wow, that’s another half an hour.” Shut the door, take all the coats off, and start again.
So I didn’t like that stress or pressure of, “I must be there at that time”. So I didn’t put that on myself too much. I learned that the hard way. But once I learned that, it was a really valuable thing. So I pass it onto you. Don’t plan too much and don’t put too much pressure on yourself to be everywhere.
Finally, I wanted to say to you that this time will soon pass. And so where, as a new parent, and you’re not getting enough sleep and everything feels like a bit of a blur, and sometimes you’ll have days where you just think, I don’t know how I’m going to manage this, or you just think, how can I operate on no sleep? You feel for a moment like this is my life now and you’re not sure if you’re okay with it. Let me just reassure you that this will pass. When you are in it, it feels like this is your life. It’s weeks, it’s literally weeks and you can be on the other side.
Our next blog will be all about how to help your new baby to very gently and gradually practice little strategies that will help them to be capable of the best sleep they can. Not trying to get them to sleep through the night before they’re ready, but get the best possible sleep for them and get them sleeping at their best. I’m going to share strategies on how you can do that. If you follow these things, your little one will be sleeping to a better level sooner than if you just leave things to chance.
Take care and make sure you come back next week, let’s get your healthy sleep back as soon as possible. Well, let’s get your baby’s healthy sleep set up really well, right from the start.
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