Your newborn baby was up for most of the night, which means that you were up too. Now it’s morning, and the rest of the world is awake, but you’re so tired you can’t even remember how to make coffee. How are you going to make it through the day?
You can start by remembering that you’re not alone, and millions of moms have made it through this sleep-deprivation misery before. So don’t despair – you too will survive. It will just take some time, some patience, and a sense of humor about the fact that you got about as much sleep in the past week as you used to get in one night.
Here are some tips from veteran moms for holding it together:
Sleep when the baby sleeps: You’ve heard this advice a million times before, but it’s really true. Don’t worry about the dishes, the laundry, or the phone calls that need returning. Now is a time when you need to get your rest whenever you can – and the rest of the world will understand.
Take a shower: Walking around with pajamas, greasy hair, and un-brushed teeth might be all that you feel like doing, but when it’s time to start the day, take a shower. (If no one is around to watch the baby, bring him into the bathroom buckled safely into a baby seat.) The shower will give you new energy, and once you have clean hair and fresh clothes, you’ll feel more like a real person.
Work in shifts: If your husband or partner is available to help you in the evening, put him on the first night shift. If he can be “on duty” while you sleep from, say, 7 pm to midnight, you’ll get five uninterrupted hours of sleep (heaven!) and then you can take over from there. It still isn’t perfect, but remember that this rough schedule will only last for a few weeks.
Accept help: If your mom wants to watch the baby for a few hours, or if Aunt Lucy wants to drop off a casserole, or if the teenager next door wants to take the baby out for a stroll – the answer to all of these offers is, “Yes!” For the first few weeks, you should accept whatever kind of break you can get (within reason). And if someone asks what they can do to help, have some ideas ready.
Limit your commitments: During the early weeks and months when you’re not getting much sleep, don’t take on any more work than you absolutely have to. Now is not the time for hosting parties, taking big vacations, or signing up for volunteer work. Ask yourself to do only the absolute minimum – and when you’re feeling better, you can slowly add more commitments.
Take care of yourself: If you are sleep-deprived, you are also more likely to get emotional or even become depressed. Sometimes, when it’s finally time to sleep, you’re so stressed out and overtired that you can’t sleep. If you are experiencing signs of depression or having trouble getting to sleep, it’s time to check in with your doctor to make sure that you are OK. Remember that your baby needs you to be healthy too.
Even though these days and nights seem long, they won’t last forever. So try to take one day at a time, and focus only on getting through that one day. As your baby changes and grows, he or she will start sleeping in longer stretches and will eventually figure out that nighttime is for sleep. And before you know it, one of these days you’ll get your full eight hours of rest and start feeling like yourself once again.