I don’t think you can ever fully appreciate the full effects of sleep deprivation are until you have a baby.
When pregnant with my 1st son, I had this crazy idea that my baby would sleep all night and doze all day as that’s what babies do. So it came as quite a shock when I found out that most babies have to learn to sleep on their own, and that for some, it’s not a natural progression from the cosy and comfortable feeling of the womb to the bright, noisy and scary world on the outside where the only place it feels safe is in the arms of mum or dad. And as sleep requires you to feel safe, then the only place my babies ever liked to sleep was on my or my husband’s chest.
All my boys have been rubbish sleepers to start so I’m well equipped to let you know just how sleep deprivation feels. Many new mums begin their journey into parenthood following the marathon of labour and in a cruel twist of fate, as your body is recovering from its battering you then have to wake up every few hours to feed your new and very dependant offspring.
Now don’t get me wrong, I love those first few days being wrapped up in the hormonal rush of love, getting to know the little person you’ve been carrying around for 9 months. And with paternity leave as well as the help from friends and family, most new mums are able to relax and let everyone else worry about the everyday stuff. My fondest and sweetest memories are of the early morning feeds, listening to the dawn chorus, just me and my babe, no distractions, no visitors, no noise. It was pure bliss.
But then the fog sets in, the fuzzy, disoriented grip of no sleep. Emotions run high, decisions harder to make and a everything just seems a little harder to do.It was after my second son was born that I remember looking in the mirror one morning and barely recognised what was looking back at me. I saw dark circles, tired eyes and a dire need of a few hours taming my mop of hair in a quiet, relaxing salon. When I wasn’t leaving the house in slippers, I was taking the hoover out the door instead of the pram. I’d put the baby in the moses basket to run the washing out, then forget where I’d put him and conversations just came out big slushy nonsense. So, like I said, if you’ve ever experience sleep deprivation, I hear you, I hear you loud and clear!
Third time round, you’ll excuse me for being a little nervous, as I knew what was coming, but this time I had a plan, a clever, wise and well thought out plan. Accepting that the odds were on that I was going to have another cuddler/non sleeper and knowing by now that it was perfectly normal for babies not to sleep through the night. I equipped myself with a new mum formula;
Babies have small tummies which get hungry quickly, and yes, breastfed babies will probably wake more often than formula fed due to breast milk being used up quickly and not taking as long to digest as formula. But my determination to feed my babies myself outweighed any sleep I could be missing. I’d nourished them from the inside and wanted to carry on now they were born. The magic of breastfeeding however, is your body produces a sleep inducing hormone when you feed at night so the bottle v’s breast decision is pretty much even when it comes to sleep. If you accept you’ll be woken, then it’s not so hard.
However your baby has chosen to come into the world, it’s tough. Labour is both exhausting and painful. C-sections are major surgery. You need time to recover both mentally and physically. Don’t rush out into the world, picking up where you left off, accept help and relax. Spend time getting to know your new baby, the housework can wait and visitors won’t care whether you’ve got dressed or emptied the dishwasher. I opted for a 10 day new-baby-bubble third time round. I didn’t leave the house, food was ordered online, family and my husband did the school run and I eased my son into the world rather than thrusting! If you have a supportive family and network of friends I thoroughly recommend it.
Collate a new mums tool kit
If you look better, you’ll feel better. Get your hair cut before baby’s born into a manageable style, drink more water to make your skin look better, take a new mum multivitamin and get together a killer, quick to apply make up set. Eye gels and eye mists will help tired eyes, a good moisturiser ( I swear by BB creams) will take care of your face and mascara and lip balm will freshen your look if you haven’t got the time to apply the full works.
Hopefully if you follow all the above, that sleep deprivation won’t seem so bad. And just remember, it doesn’t last forever. Before you know it you’ll have a teenager who sleeps more than is humanly possible.