You know it's coming. The sleepless nights. Literally every new mother mentions them at some stage. Well I'm here to tell you that they are actually not as bad as you might think. They can be better and worse for some people depending on the baby, how you sleep yourself, and what your wake-up time and routine is. But you really do just adjust. I am actually one of those people who's baby has never slept "through the night". My son Billy is seven and a half months and right now we are going through a particularly bad "patch". Dreadful teething (but no teeth yet), a leap (you can read about these here), a recent house move, and lack of routine have all had their part to play in it.
But this post isn't going to be a negative discussion on sleep deprivation. We all know how hard it is. Sure wasn't it used as a means of torture throughout history? The reality is that lack of sleep has a profound impact on your mood, your relationships and your ability to think straight and complete the most simple of tasks. It also really affects your emotions. Extreme tiredness and sleep deprivation can make a person feel very down in the dumps. So I'm here to give you my top tips for keeping afloat when you are going through a bad patch and sleep is simply not on your baby's agenda.
1. First on my list would have to be coffee. Not the healthiest answer to battling tiredness, but let's be honest - it works. Even psychologically when I see the kettle boiling and I'm making my first cup of coffee in the morning (there are a few...) I know it's the beginning of me feeling semi-human for the day. The only way is up after that cup of magic.
2. Shower. OK so this one is generally fairly important for hygiene reasons (but that's a whoooole other post) but having a shower really does wake you up. It's actually incredible how much of a difference it makes. This morning for example - after a horrific night of being awoken at least ten times and spending much of the night pacing the floors with my inconsolable baby, I was feeling a little rough (to say the least). Fifteen minutes later and a hot shower made me feel like a new person. I felt fresh, awake, and I was ready to tackle the day. I also smelled particularly lovely, which is always a good thing right?
3. Eat. Obvious right? Not really. I know personally it can be 2pm before I've had a minute to eat something. The baby will be fed and happy and I'll have been pottering around doing housework all morning before I stop and make something to eat. Not eating is only going to make you feel worse. You need to up your energy, not take from it. I find things like yoghurts and bananas are great to have on hand. I always eat a yoghurt while I'm feeding Billy his breakfast. It keeps me going until I can make something decent like a sandwich when he goes down for a nap.
4. Remember the house won't fall down if you leave some of your jobs till tomorrow. I am a divil for this. When I plan to do something (for example hover and wash the floors) I cannot relax until it's done. On days like today, when I am absolutely exhausted, it's about getting the essentials done. Look after yourself and the baby, do whatever absolutely has to be done and do not put extra pressure on yourself. Tomorrow is a whole new day.
5. Ask for help. Why are we so proud? We want to maintain the idea that we are so unbelievably "together". We don't want to appear vulnerable, not able, or even tired. What use is that though when we are exhausted to the point where keeping our eyes open is a task in itself? Sometimes we just need an extra pair of hands. People are usually delighted to be given the chance to help.
6. Get some fresh air. This one is powerful. It will benefit both you and the baby. Whether it's using your sling, pram, or walking hand in hand. It could be a simple walk to the shops, a trip to the park, or a walk around the block. The fresh air and change of scenery will do wonders for your emotional well-being as well as your fatigue.
7. Keep it simple. Don't put pressure on yourself to look more awake than you feel. Dress comfortably. Chances are you'll be glowing from your shower, walk in the fresh air, and coffee (or two...). Comfort is key when you are feeling run down.
8. Sleep. Come again now? Yes you heard me right. Sleep. Don't be afraid to give yourself permission to have a nap while your baby naps (I am the type of person who uses nap times to clean the house, so I understand the resistance to this one). Alternatively, go to bed as early as you can. I am guilty of fighting this one myself. As soon as Billy goes to bed I want some "me time". I plonk myself on the couch and spend hours on the laptop, reading or watching TV. It feels great to just unwind for a couple of hours. But I could definitely have some me time and still go to bed earlier. Going to bed late is only making life harder for ourselves. Particularly when another "bad" night may be ahead of us.
Sleepless nights are a very real part of parenthood. It gets all the more difficult when parents are working full time and have to show up at work and still be alert and productive amidst the exhaustion. But we have to look after ourselves also. The recommendations above are very simple in theory, but they might be the difference between you running on empty and getting through the day comfortably.