Remember when you thought you were tired BEFORE having kids? Oh how we laugh at our pre-baby selves and their hilarious versions of what 'tired' felt like. Because there is NOTHING quite like the exhaustion that comes with a new baby.
From waking every 3.5 minutes to feed to spending hours settling a wide awake bubba, sleep is probably the most talked about topic for new parents (actually make that all parents because toddler sleep can be almost as painful!). And navigating life with minimal sleep is tough (there's a reason why sleep deprivation is used as a form of torture!)
We're sharing our top 4 sleep hacks for tired parents to help make the world a little bit brighter, even when you're running on empty.
4 Sleep Hacks For Tired Parents
1. Sunshine and plenty of it
When you've been up the majority of the night, seeing the sunrise and realising that it's actually morning can be enough to make you want to draw the curtains, curse the sun and bunker down feeling equal parts furious and delirious. Thing is, getting outside and getting some Vitamin D is beneficial for both you and your bub.
One of the best pieces of advice given to me by my midwife as a first time mum was to try and get out everyday, even if it was only for 15 minutes. I was skeptical, but being a bewildered first time mum, followed her advice and was always amazed to find just how much better I would feel. As it turns out, there's science behind the theory as light plays an important role in regulating our body's internal clock while also impacting the production of melatonin, the sleep-promoting hormone. Getting outside can help you to feel more awake (even when you feel more zombie than human). And your baby benefits as well! Exposure to natural light can help helps teach babies to differentiate between day and night and, eventually, helps their sleep patterns settle.
2. Take the pressure off
When it comes to sleep, pressure comes from EVERY direction. From comparing your babies sleep to everyone else's to trying to predict what will happen each night to attempting to nap or catch up one some snooze time and failing miserably, sleep and everything related to it can seem like a never ending nightmare. While it sounds incredibly simple, being able to accept what is, without judgement can help hugely. I remember with my first child being utterly overwhelmed and trying EVERYTHING to 'fix' the lack of sleep problem.
With my subsequent kids I had realised that I wasn't doing anything 'wrong' and that babies just wake up (it's kind of what they do). I also put a huge amount of pressure on myself to catch up on sleep when I could but would find it incredibly hard to nap when I knew that I could be woken at anytime. I couldn't relax but would try and force it so that I ended up frustrated and annoyed (are we having fun yet?). Once I realised that it was ok to do something else to take the pressure off, be it lying on the couch scrolling on my phone, reading a book or even just sitting in the garden with a coffee, I found I could handle my lack of sleep a little better. I would save my naps for the weekends when I knew my husband was around and could attend to the baby if they woke 15 minutes into my lie down.
3. Learn to breastfeed lying down
GAME CHANGER! Learning to breastfeed lying down can mean far less nighttime disruption which equals more sleeeeep (or at least time spent horizontal). Like many aspects of breastfeeding, feeding lying down is a learnt skill and can take a bit of time to master. The Australian Breastfeeding Association has the following tips:
- Place your baby on his or her back in the middle of a large bed.
- Lie on your side, next to your baby with your head on a pillow (make sure the pillow is not near your baby's head).
- You can also put a pillow between your legs and one up against your back if these help with your comfort.
- Slide your baby up or down if necessary so that his nose is in line with your nipple and your arm is above his head (don't rest his head on your arm). Keep your arm clear of his head or this might make his head sweaty.
- Roll your baby onto his side toward you and pull his hips up close to your hips letting his nose just gently make contact with your nipple. If he is young and cannot stay in this position by himself, you could put a corner of a pillow up against his bottom (not near his head).
- You might find your spine and your baby's spine make a v-shape (your hips together make the bottom of the v and your breast and his head make the top points of the v). His head is not squashed up against your breast.
- You can use the arm that is not resting on the bed to shape the opposite breast and guide the nipple into the baby's mouth. Some mothers can let their baby latch on by themselves if they are good at attaching. Older babies can also often find their own way.
- He can then reach up slightly with a wide gape and attach.
- Remember that with any position you try, it shouldn't hurt! If you feel uncomfortable, detach him by putting your little finger into the corner of his mouth to break the seal and try again. You could also try on the other side if one side feels awkward to start with. If it still doesn't feel okay, try in a week or so when your baby gets more confident with feeding.
There is a good chance that your baby will drift off to sleep, especially if they're very young/it's during the night. You may also find yourself feeling snoozy. It is important that you consider where bub will be sleeping when the feed is finished so that you're able to either doze of yourself (if you're bed sharing) or move baby to their own sleeping space (if you're co-sleeping with baby in a cot or bassinet in your or their own room).
Bed-sharing or co-sleeping can be an excellent way to get a little more sleep with many breastfeeding mums finding it a lifesaver BUT it is important that you adhere to the safety guidelines which you can find HERE.
4. Do what you need to do (and don't feel guilty)
Life with a newborn is as much about survival as anything else. While life does go on, especially if we have other children, we also often have huge expectations on ourselves for what we think we should be achieving/doing. As a mother of three, I remember the early days with my third and the whirlwind that was life once my husband went back to work and our new routine got established.
With an A-type personality and desire to 'do all the things, all the time' I knew that I was in danger of throwing myself back into life and pushing things to the limit while running on very minimal sleep and (probably too much) coffee. To stop this happening, I set very small tasks for myself and cut my to-do lists right back. I knew mornings would always be busy with my two older children so scheduled down time for after we'd get home from school and pre-school drop offs. I'd try and tick 2-3 things off my list in the middle of the day but realised that somedays I'd get nothing done (except breastfeeding and entertaining my 3 year old) and that that was ok. I got help where I could and found ways to ensure the essentials got done (i.e meal prepping) but in a way that created the least amount of stress.
I drank plenty of coffee, ate a lot of pastries, watched some Netflix, spent a lot of time out walking with the baby carrier and my older daughter on her scooter and just tried as much as possible to embrace the fourth trimester and a slower, gentler pace.
Looking for more breastfeeding support and advice, make sure you check out our resources section HERE.