So, you’ve spent nine and a half (nearly ten) months working up to the big day; new baby arrives; there’s an influx of family members, friends and well-wishers; you get home from the hospital; you may have other children to look after – there’s your dinner and their dinner to cook… you may or may not be thinking about going back to work already; your body’s changed and is still changing … new baby wants all your attention … is it any wonder sleep-deprivation is such a big concern, for Mums and Dads alike?
And of course, that doesn’t take into account the myriad of ways in which every new-born child has individual needs. Your circumstances will almost certainly be different to the one’s of the family in the ward next door, and almost definitely have a personal significant twist on the ‘ideal routines’ you’ve read about in baby magazine.
With all of that in mind, good, high quality sleep is vital. It helps prevent irritability; you’ll make better decisions. It helps prevent lacks in concentration and poor communication. It helps you stay more emotionally in control, it helps your immune system work effectively, and a good night’s sleep will give you more mental stability during the day – and yes, those are all signs and symptoms of the fact you may not be getting enough sleep.
The question is though, what can you do about it? Here are a few suggestions – some obvious, but nonetheless relevant; some not so obvious and definitely worth a try:
Just say no
Whatever you wanted to do, just then, consider saying no – whatever it was. Friends coming over, to ‘lend a hand’? Sometimes the best way they can help, is to help you get some quality time on your own. ‘Home cooking’, for yourself and the new baby? You won’t suffer from the occasional ready meal. Taking siblings out for a treat? They’ll cope. Whether you’re supported with a partner, or on your own, prioritise yourself sometimes.
Take advantage of other people, relentlessly. If you’re offered a helping hand – take it. ‘Shall I look after the baby for a while?’ Yes please. ‘Is there anything I can do to help?’ Yes – take over here, so that I can get some sleep for a while. And this goes for Dads too, you’re not super-human – you can also ask for a helping hand.
Turn back the clocks
Metaphorically – get your sleep pattern working the way it needs to, even if that means adjusting your day so that you have the opportunity to sleep, regularly, for a longer period of time. Sleep when your baby sleeps. You may miss out on the evening’s TV, but going to bed at 8pm or even 7pm will help you get four or five hours ‘early’ sleep that could help compensate for those bleary-eyed mid-night feeds.
Treat yourself properly
You need to relax, to get some sleep. So if you’re making a warm, milky drink, make it in your favourite mug and treat yourself to a ‘forbidden’ biscuit or something decadent to eat, too. And if you’re having a bath – make sure it’s relaxing, not just by adding bubbles and aromatherapy oils, but also by taking the stresses and strains out of the equation: make sure you’re not going to be interrupted. Don’t answer the phone; ignore it (better still, switch it off). Enlist help – tell your partner or family member not to disturb you unless it’s an emergency (a real one).
Try some old tricks
Relaxing baths and milky drinks are well-known as being a good way to ‘wind down’ and prepare yourself for a better night’s sleep. But try a drop of lavender on your pillow; try opening the windows and sleeping with some fresh air in the room; try going for a walk before you go to bed – on your own; prioritise what’s important, and take what’s not out of your daily routine, as that will help to free up your mind; and finally, don’t worry about the alarm-clock going off tomorrow morning … another five minutes snooze is fine. Really, it is.