Newborn parenting can be exhausting – here are some tips to help cope with that new-parent sleep deprivation.
My oldest child rarely slept when I wanted or needed her to! She’s brilliant now as a twelve-year-old, of course, but the beginning was rough. I got to be quite an expert at coping with sleep deprivation, and pulled my top tips together in this post when child number three was born. I’m re-sharing today with new and improved editing to make it easier to read!
To all the sleep deprived parents out there, I promise it gets better! Hopefully these tips help you cope with the exhaustion in the meantime.
20 Ways to Cope With Sleep Deprivation
1) Remember that it won’t last forever.
Even my worst sleeper started sleeping through the night eventually. Many kids start sleeping through the night well before their first birthday.
2) See the humor
Be willing to laugh at your sleep-deprived behavior – I LOVE these Confessions of a Sleep Deprived Mommy from Mommy With Selective Memory.
3) Consider Co-sleeping
Co-sleeping saved my sanity, big time. Be sure to read up on safe co-sleeping before giving this a go.
4) Have someone else watch the kids so you can sleep.
I know that this can feel like a lot of work to arrange, but it’s worth the effort!
5) Swap off who gets up with the kids on the weekends with your spouse.
This is important regardless of whether or not you both work outside the home. Stay at home moms work hard, too, and they need the sleep.
6) Teach kids to have quiet time, even if they aren’t napping, so you can nap.
When Emma was a very-much-not-sleeping-through-the-night toddler and I was pregnant with Johnny I used to go with her into her (very child-proofed) room, close the door, and sleep while she played. Don’t underestimate the value of power naps.
7) Embrace the benefits.
I learned to use the quiet hours in the middle of the night to bond with the child who is awake. It can also be a great time for reflection, prayer, or meditation if you don’t let yourself get upset about being awake.
8) Don’t try to be supermom.
Leave the dishes/laundry/cleaning for another day when you feel especially exhausted. Go to bed early instead. Families need rested mothers!
8) Eat well!
Having a baby puts so much stress on your body, and then sleep deprivation comes along and exacerbates that. Eating healthily makes a huge difference.
9) Use Tools to Compensate for Being Tired.
Write everything down – your tired mind needs all the help it can get! To quote Caz at A Little Learning For Two: “Our youngest has a sleep onset disorder and hasn’t slept well from day dot. My only suggestions are to keep a notepad and pen in your bag because your memory will never be the same, be as organized as possible, learn to enjoy sleeping on carpet and make sure you eat as healthily as possible!” I use Google calendar, a white board, AND write everything down on a paper calendar. And still forget things, sometimes.
10) Have activities planned to help make it through the day after a rough night.
I try to have something quiet the kids can do first thing in the morning so that I can wake up slowly without resolving sibling conflicts or listening to complaints. This can be an organized activity like mess-free finger paint, or something as simple as setting out a toy you know the kids enjoy (and can share nicely).
11) Go to bed early.
Many kids sleep best during the first few hours of the night. Mike and I were going to bed at 8pm for a while, when we had at least one of our THREE older kids waking up nearly every night…
12) Make sure you drink water during the day.
Everyone talks about coffee, but drinking enough water can work wonders when you’re dealing with sleep deprivation.
This is simply one more piece of looking after yourself, but it’s an important one! Don’t underestimate the transforming power of a walk around the block.
14) Apologize and Forgive.
As Rebekah at The Golden Gleam says, “Forgive yourself and apologize to others when you are not a very nice person to be around because of sleep deprivation. It was so easy to be gentle and kind to my baby daughter, but it wasn’t as easy for me to deal with other adults because I was giving everything I had to give to my daughter because of her intense sleep needs. My husband put up with a lot, but it doesn’t last forever and now that she is older I have more to give to the other people in my life.”
15) Sometimes you just need to cry.
Teething babies, sick kids, and night terrors tend to break me down.
16) Give yourself some downtime
Schedule breaks for yourself in the morning or evening. Or both! If you can’t get a break from looking after kids, find something you can do as a pick-me-up. I loved listening to audiobooks while playing on the floor with my kids when they were small. Allow yourself to simply sit and hold your baby, sometimes, even when there are chores that need doing.
17) Make the most of little luxuries.
Time out with friends, a bath, or something as simple as a food you love can make it easier to cope.
18) Don’t blame yourself.
I love this advice from Allie at No Time For Flashcards: “Do not think you are doing something wrong. Once I accepted my kids’ temperaments, the way they nurse my commitment to nursing and to addressing their needs at any time of day or middle of the night it was way way easier.”
19) Don’t Compare
Maybe your friend’s baby slept through the night at two weeks old. Some babies do that; others don’t. Avoid wasting precious energy comparing and focus on looking after your child as best you can.
20) Get Help When Needed!
Wise advice from commenter Jen:
I’d like to add one more tip: If none of the above are working, if you just cannot cope with life, please see your doctor. It could be postpartum depression, and you could be on your way to feeling much better with support and counseling and medication. It’s not you, it’s your brain.