Welcoming a new baby into the world is amazing and we were delighted here at The Sleep Council to hear the news of the arrival of the latest Baby Royal.
Ask any new mum want they want – and that includes the Duchess of Cambridge –the answer will be a good night’s sleep. Fragmented sleep for weeks, if not months, following the birth of a baby can leave new mums overwhelmed with tiredness and feeling bad tempered, tearful, forgetful and depressed.
Whether you’re a first time mum or on your second, third or even fourth child, sleep deprivation is the hardest to deal with. And if you’re on baby number two, three or four, you’re probably surviving on less sleep than ever before and no longer able to snooze when your baby snoozes!
Here are some top tips that new mums can use when they’re sleep deprived to stay awake and alert through the day:
• Sleep when the baby sleeps. A 20 minute power nap can give you as much energy as two cups of strong coffee, but the effects are longer lasting. Twenty minutes is sufficient to turn off the nervous system and recharge the whole body.
• Step outside. Get some fresh air by going for a brisk walk with the pram. It will make you more alert and is a good distraction.
• Listen to music. Perk yourself up by listening to music. Music triggers emotional responses in humans, helping us engage many parts of the brain.
• Exposure to bright light: Preferably, natural daylight. Your body’s internal clock (its circadian rhythms) is regulated by your exposure to sunlight. This means you can trick your body into believing it should be awake even when it feels tired.
• Cool down: Keep slightly cool. Try splashing your face or running your wrists under cold water. Remove layers of clothing so you don’t feel warm and toasty.
• Food faux pas: Avoid high carb or sugary foods that give you that mid-morning/afternoon crash and try not to eat so you’re full. Excess eating leaves you sleepy. Ditch the chocolate and crisps and keep healthy, easy-to-eat snacks around such as nuts, fresh fruit or raw vegetables.
• Stay hydrated: Being dehydrated can make you feel sleepy and dizzy so keep a cold bottle of water to drink close by.
We’ve also identified a few ‘sleep stealers’ that are common among new mums.
Fear you won’t hear your baby cry:
Mums tend to be attuned to their baby’s crying and as a mum of two, trust me you will hear your baby cry. However if you are concerned you won’t hear them, buy a baby monitor and keep it near you.
Piles of laundry to do:
Accept that some things won’t get done. Housework should take a back seat. Remember it’s more important to sleep and be able to look after your baby’s needs than it is to do the washing or hoovering!
Endless visitors to host:
Everyone wants to visit when you bring your newborn home but be firm and make sure you stagger visitors. Your welfare, and the baby’s, comes first. Use the visitors to your advantage too and accept their offers to help.
Sleep loss can lead to mood changes, and new mums are at risk for baby blues or the more serious post-natal depression. It’s normal to feel emotional after the initial few days but if you continue to experience these symptoms, talk to your doctor to address them. Mood changes may be made worse by sleep deprivation.
Older children to look after:
If this is your second, third or fourth child, the reality of ‘sleeping when the baby does’ is out of the question. So instead why not factor in some quiet time with your other child/children. It’s a good opportunity to spend some one-on-one time with them doing something a little more relaxing, like reading together.
Throughout this phrase, try to remember it won’t last forever. Make sure you get some ‘me time’ and wind down properly before bed. Take a warm foamy bath, read a book or listen to some soothing music. Keep your bedroom environment cool, quiet and dark, clutter free and remove electronic devices. It may be worth considering investing in dimmer light to avoid bright light waking you up.