Sign up to receive your FREE Sleep Guide!
“Better get your sleep while you can!”
That phrase has to be one of the most overly used bits of unsolicited advice known to man. If I had a nickel for every time I heard it when I was pregnant with my first I’d have collected enough to knock out a large chunk of our hospital bill. Pregnant women hate this phrase because not only is it flat out annoying, especially when given with a “you don’t even know what you’re in for” smirk, but we also know it’s true. We know we will become a sleep deprived mom. We know that life will greatly shift when baby arrives. We know that we’re in for a wild and crazy pee, poop, and puke-covered ride. But it isn’t until we are going on three straight weeks of multiple feedings a night and restless fuss-filled days that we think back to those friends and family members who blessed us with that small slice of know-it-all advice and hate them even more for being so right!
Exhaustion is no joke, especially for new moms. Sleep has so many benefits to our overall health that missing a substantial amount can cause loss of libido, longer recovery time, abnormal hormones (like we don’t have enough of those already!), and an overall feeling of being dumbed down. Unfortunately for moms with new babies, avoiding sleep deprivation is easier said than done. So while you might not have a magic genie that can snap his fingers and cause your baby to instantly sleep through the night, you can try some of these simple steps to surviving as a sleep deprived mom.
- Caffeine is a sometimes food
It might sound counter productive but loading yourself with caffeine when you’re feeling sluggish can actually do more harm than good. By all means, have your morning cup of jo. But after noon say goodbye to caffeine and hello to water. Keeping hydrated is key! Adequate water intake is beneficial to every part of your body, including your brain, and can give you the boost you need when that 3am feeding rears it’s ugly head.
*Breastfeeding mamas should be especially careful how much caffeine they take in as it transfers to baby through breast milk.
- Healthy eating habits
When you’re a sleep deprived mom feeling and sluggish you’re often drawn to starchy, sugary junk foods. These foods might give you a pick-me-up at first, but it’s important to remember that they will inevitably lead to a crash and probably some unwanted pounds if left unchecked! Start your day off with a healthy breakfast that includes some form of protein and try to avoid any junk, albeit tempting, snacks throughout the day. Healthy foods are beneficial for your brain and your waistline!
- Sleep when baby sleeps
I know you’ve probably heard this one plenty and many mamas might scoff at how absurd it sounds but when it comes to picking up some much needed rest, my mantra is if you have the chance, take it! Even if your little one has just fallen asleep after a feeding, kick back and relax with him nestled in your arms. The laundry can wait another 30 minutes while you get a cat nap.
- Nurse lying down
This was my favorite trick with my son who we lovingly referred to as he who does not sleep. Nursing while lying down, especially in the earlier months, is a great way to get a little extra rest while still doing your mommy duties. Once you get yourselves in the right position with a solid latch, you can relax your whole body and recharge. And if you happen to fall asleep, who cares! Your baby is happy and well rested and so are you!
- Beat cabin fever
Sometimes a change of scenery is all you need to kick-start your system. Strap the baby in a carrier or stroller and go for a walk outside. The sun on your face and gentle exercise create a knock-out combo to keep you alert. You could also plan a mini-trip every other week just to change things up a bit from your day-to-day routine. Bring the whole family or leave the baby with dear old dad to grab some incredibly beneficial alone time out of the house.
- Get strict on your own bedtime
You may not have had a bedtime since you were a kid but now is the time to put it back in action. We’ve all looked up at the clock after getting wrapped up in our growing to-do list and realized it was 2:00 am. Add that to a 3:00 am feeding and a 5:00 am wake up call and you’ve got the perfect recipe for one sleep deprived mom. Avoid the vicious cycle by getting to bed at a decent hour. Set a bedtime and stick to it! This might mean saying goodbye to Jimmy Fallon for a while, but you can always watch past episodes on Hulu!
- Peppermint oil
Peppermint oil is one of the most commonly used essential oils. Its invigorating aroma can help perk you up, focus your attention, and even soothe discomfort from headaches. Mix peppermint and coconut oils for a smooth salve that you can spread on your temples, hairline, or wrists to help stimulate your senses and fight exhaustion.
*SmartMom absolutely loves peppermint oil, but it’s important to note that use of peppermint oil while breastfeeding could potentially negatively affect milk supply. We suggest to using it sparingly while breastfeeding and keep an eye on supply to stop using if you notice a significant decrease.
- Ask for help
You know those friends and family members who told you to, “Please let us know if you need anything”? Well, now is the time to cash in and not feel the least bit bad about it. Have a girlfriend come over and help you with laundry so you can get your feet up for thirty minutes or take Aunt Grace up on her offer to make dinner so you can nap instead. Just be sure you thank them with plenty of baby snuggles and maybe a hug. Remember that they wouldn’t have said it if they didn’t mean it and if they didn’t really mean it they shouldn’t have said it!
- Learn to say no… thank you
On the flip side of the previous point, when you have friends and family members that are itching to spend some time with you and your new bundle, it can be overwhelming and exhausting. If you’re like me and feel the need to host every person who comes into your house, the idea of having another mouth to feed and another person to clean for might send you right over the edge. Don’t be afraid to say “no thank you,” when grandma asks to swing by on her way home from the store. If you need some time to yourself to recoup, take it! Just don’t forget to reschedule the visit with grandma.
- Know that it won’t last forever
It’s easy to grit your teeth at the beautiful well-rested mom (with the perfect child who sleeps through the night) who assures you, ”It’s just a phase and things will get better.” Especially when you’ve just realized you wore your house slippers to the grocery store… again. But it’s true. Your child will allow you to get more rest, you will figure out a routine that works, and things will get better. Being a mom might not get any easier, but we certainly do get better at it every day. If it really doesn’t seem like there’s a light at the end of the tunnel, talk to your pediatrician about possible sleep training options. There are more out there than I care to share, or debate, so do your research and find one that fits your family!
Mamas have been running on minimal sleep for centuries. We’re a tough breed, for sure! But finding little ways to help ease the sleep deprivation will make everyone’s lives a little bit sweeter.
What are your go-to tactics for relieving exhaustion? Are you an ice-cold shower advocate or an essential oil maven? Share your secrets in the comments below!
Code to paste