Ways to Combat Exhaustion as a New Parent
When I became pregnant with my first daughter, I heard phrases like this all the time:
“Enjoy sleeping now.”
“I hope you don’t like sleeping in on the weekend.”
“You’ll never sleep again.”
Is there an unwritten rule that veteran moms are supposed to terrify pregnant moms?
I slept for eight hours last night and I have a two-year-old daughter and a three-month old baby. Rarely do I sleep for less than seven hours. (Never consecutive, but we’ll get there.) Don’t let anyone scare you. Quality sleep for you and your babies is absolutely possible.
When my baby, Laney, was born I only slept for two hours at a time. Newborns have to eat every two-three hours, so I was ready for it. Tired, but mentally prepared. And just like with my first daughter, Darcy, my body quickly adapted to less sleep.
By her two month checkup her pediatrician said she can sleep through the night whenever she is ready. She still gets up once every night around 3am to nurse, but I’m not in a hurry at all to change this. In fact, I would prefer time to slow down so I can rock her, nurse her, and hold her in my arms for as long as possible.
Exhaustion is an inescapable part of having a baby, but it doesn’t have to define your time with your newborn.
Here’s how I beat exhaustion:
I Prioritize Sleep
I go to sleep early and I wake up early. No TV show or time scrolling through social media is more important than getting a good night's sleep. To be my best self for my daughters, my husband, and my work, I need sleep. Of course there are nights when Laney has other ideas, but when I typically get seven hours of sleep, I can better handle the occasional “up all night” night.
I Am Mindful of What I Say and Think
If I’m tired, (and trust me, I do get tired!) it only makes me more tired to talk about it. No one needs to know that I only slept for three hours the previous night. If possible, I also avoid thinking about being tired; telling myself things like, I’ll never sleep again, only fuels my sleepiness and bad mood. Instead, I regularly say things out loud like, “We’re going to have a great day!” I say this every morning to Darcy no matter how much I slept the previous night. Or, “We are going to sleep really well tonight!.” This mindset shift helps to remind me that being tired is only temporary and that eventually I will be well rested again.
A Consistent Sleep Routine
As I mentioned in our previous blog post, a sleep routine is so important. I keep bedtime and nap time at the same time every day. Of course, sometimes we have to be flexible and adjust our schedule, but for the most part nap time is at 11am and bedtime is at 8pm. Predictability limits any power struggles between me and my toddler. I also never say, “Bedtime!” When it’s time for a nap or time for bed I say, “Story time!” We read before nap and before bed and, in addition to the countless benefits of reading (more on this later) it makes our sleep routine a bonding experience that my daughters and I cherish. Right now, we can’t get enough of the book Little Bear; it’s one of my childhood favorites.
The günamüna Swaddle Sleep Bag
I did not use a sleep bag with Darcy, and now I know I was seriously missing out. As soon as I started using a sleep bag with Laney she slept so much better! I am terrible at swaddling and Laney continually proved this by freeing her arms in minutes and waking herself up. The günamüna sleep bag has been a night time game changer. I also love that I can change her diaper without taking her out of her cozy swaddle.
I am far from immune to exhaustion. When Laney was about three weeks old I called my mom on the verge of tears; I was so tired I could barely stand. My husband, my toddler, and I were all exhausted from Laney keeping us up all night. So, I went to my moms for two nights so that she could sit up with Laney, I could sleep and devote more one-on-one time to Darcy, and my husband could sleep and tackle the chores at home. Mom to the rescue! Remember, it is OK to ask for help! It really does take a village.
Don’t let exhaustion control the beginning of your motherhood journey. You will be tired sometimes, but you’ll find that feeling tired is secondary to the overflow of love you will feel. Mothers are capable of incredible things, and I promise that you will sleep again.