Does the excitement of a newborn have your family in a whirlwind? No matter how prepared you think you are, most parents struggle with sleep deprivation. A popular mantra for parents is often, “I’ll sleep when baby sleeps.” This isn’t always the easiest mantra to keep, especially for parents of more than one child. The average newborn will sleep on a 50-minute sleep cycle, so you can expect to be awake for at least 20 minutes every hour of the night; and things can get rough. The mantra to repeat instead should be, “My baby will sleep through the night one day.” Until that day gets here, here are some tips to help you through.
Find a routine. As with most things in life, it’s always better to have a routine. Set all of your care-dependent children on the same bedtime and go to sleep with them; resist the urge to spend this time catching up on dishes, laundry, etc. Then wake up at the same time every morning even if the night before was particularly brutal. Attempting to make up for lost sleep by oversleeping will only disrupt your sleep pattern even more and make you feel worse. Then build in a time early in the day to catch a 20-30 minute power nap. Again, resist the urge to be productive during downtime.
Rest doesn’t always mean sleep. If you find yourself lying down for your power nap and it just won’t happen, don’t give up and find something to do instead. Use the time to refocus some energy on your well-being. Relax with a book (electronic screens stimulate your brain and aren’t helpful when sleep is the goal), listen to music, take a long bath or try some mindful breathing. The important thing is keep off of your feet. You’ll be surprised how rejuvenated you’ll feel after your “ME” time, and when sleep comes, it’ll be more restful. If you have more than one child, take this time to connect quietly with your other children. Try relaxing activities like reading together or coloring.
Partner up. Babies usually have two parents. Don’t be shy about asking for help from your partner or settling on an agreement of shared responsibilities. When it’s not your turn for baby duty, remove yourself. You’re more likely to remain in caretaker mode if you can see or hear your child. Go to a separate room to sleep or go outside. Fresh air and natural daylight are beneficial to natural sleep patterns and have vitamins like D that help with stress levels. If you’re a single parent, establish a reliable support system that can include friends and family members you don’t feel pressured to “host.” Or join a local mommy or daddy group. They’ve been, or are currently also in, the same position as you and could also use a helping hand to trade out.
Eat well. When we’re tired, our bodies crave sugar and carbs for the quick boost. Don’t succumb; it’ll only result in a crash later. When you’re super tired, preparing food can seem like an extra hassle, but maintaining a healthy diet can help you in the long run by avoiding those crashes that make you feel even more tired. Fuel up on long-lasting energy foods like dark green leafy vegetables for their iron, whole grains for their fiber, and eggs or fish for their lean proteins. Also, when baby eats, you can eat, too! Snack on raw veggies, fruits or nuts, and don’t forget to stay hydrated with plenty of water.
Fake it until you make it. A newborn can be very disruptive whether it’s your first child or your third, but staying as close to your “business as usual” can be your best mental trick. If you usually start your workday with a shower, continue that task at the same time during parental leaves, or make it a point to get fully dressed even if you just have a full day of staying in with baby. Take a moment to prioritize the things that aren’t getting done, but don’t let a long list stress you out. By listing tasks, you’ll have a plan for accomplishing them when you do get the time. These simple moments can reduce stress levels that can add to your fatigue.
From newborns to adolescents, kids come first at Children’s Hospital of Georgia. To find out more visit augustahealth.org/chog or call 706-721-KIDS (5437) to make an appointment for your child today.