7 Tips for surviving new-mom sleep deprivation
Now that I'm beginning to get the hang of this "mom" thing, and feeling a lot more like myself, I think it's safe to say that I've made my exit from the zombiesque stage of new motherhood relatively unscathed. That being said, when I was in the midst of it, I thought it would never end -- my life felt like an endless stream of nursing sessions, 10-hour work days, pumping sessions and bedtime routines, with not much rest in between. But if you're still smack dab in the middle of it, and your Google history reads anything like mine (I may or may not have searched for things like "new mom schedule" and "working mom exhaustion" in search of advice), I hope the tips I've gathered along the way, will give you the boost -- or the hope -- you need to get you through until things settle down a bit.
Take naps. Okay, I have never been great at this, but any veteran mom will tell you that the best way to fight the exhaustion is to nap when your baby naps. If you were a napper pre-baby or have benefited from power naps in the past, this really could be a life-saver for you. Forget the dishes and the laundry and just try to get some ZZZs in, even if it's only for 20 minutes. I have a close friend who would even park her car somewhere safe and take a nap if her son fell asleep while they were driving.
Fuel up. I know you really want to lose the baby weight, but when you're lacking sleep, a strict diet certainly isn't going to help in the energy department -- especially if you're nursing. Try to eat three wholesome meals a day with at least two or three snacks in between. I've never been much of a snacker, but these days I pair something high in protein and fiber with a complex carb at least twice a day. Try whole grain toast with peanut or almond butter, Greek yogurt with fresh fruit or whole grain crackers with cheese.
Hydrate. When your energy is zapped or your nursing, or both, you need to drink more water per day than you ever thought possible. I'm serious. I'm not talking eight cups either. Remember how much better you felt after drinking tons of water when you were pregnant? Same goes for the first few months after delivery -- longer if you're breastfeeding. Six months in and I'm still drinking more than 80 ounces per day. Your body will not function properly if you are not hydrated. Your organs will start to shut down and your thoughts will become even fuzzier. Drink water.
Exercise. I'm not saying you need to fit in an hour of structured exercise a day, or even a half hour -- I sure didn't. But after the first few weeks post-partum, you really should try to do something a bit more physical most days of the week. That could mean a walk around the mall or even just some light stretching before bed. The activity will get your blood flowing to all the right places and bring more of that much-needed oxygen to your brain so that you can at least start thinking more clearly. Just be sure to follow your obstetrician's recommendations and to check with him or her if you're ever not sure of what's safe, especially if you had a Caesarean section.
Caffeinate. I admit, I'm a bit of a caffeine junkie -- if I don't have my cafe con leche first thing upon waking, my day usually does not go well. Even if you're not, it could be just what you need to give you enough energy to make it through the day, especially if you've returned to work. I'm really not trying to encourage bad habits here, but if I have to make the choice between falling asleep at my desk and drinking another cup of coffee, coffee is always going to win. You may not need it daily, and you may not need the full jolt of coffee, but if you're feeling desperate or you just love coffee or tea, give yourself a pass and have some.
Pass off the baby. Or if you really don't want to sacrifice cuddle time, pass off the housework. Let your significant other or a caring family member or friend help you. I've said this before and I'll say it again, it is OK to let someone else care for your baby while you get some long overdue rest or take a shower or do anything else that rejuvenates you. You will feel better if you just take a break, and when you feel better, you will be able to give 100 percent and you will be an even better mom.
This too shall pass. I know it may seem like you will never again regain control of your life, but you will. Soon enough your baby will be sleeping through the night and taking regular naps, he won't require so much of your attention and he may even want some alone time of his own. At some point, you might even be surprised to find that you actually miss the days when he relied so heavily on you. When you feel like you might not be able to handle another day filled with responsibility followed by a sleepless night, just remember that this is only a very short period of your life and that whether it's weeks, months or years from now, things will settle down. In the meantime just snuggle that sweet little baby and remember how much you love him.
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