How To Survive Motherhood when the Baby doesn’t Sleep
“Sleep when your baby sleep”. Gosh, I used to hate that sentence.
What do u mean sleep when there is the washing, cleaning, cooking, working, exercising, reading, shopping to do?
I’m sure lots of mothers can resonate with it.
I was one of those people that never prioritized sleep; I have always found quite unfair that a day is only made of 24 hours instead of 48. I used to daydream of being able to freeze the time so I could sleep when everyone was…frozen. I think that was FOMO (fear of missing out) at its best.
Then I had a baby, and it didn’t get any easier; little Luna had her own fear of missing out and would sleep only for a stretch of hours (2–3) a day. I could feel my brain, and body, giving up on me; all of a sudden, life wasn’t as joyful as it used to be, and if someone asked me how I was, my answer was “Tired”. Non because I wanted to whine, but simply because that’s how I felt day in, and day out.
It took me a long time to learn how to rest, and I became such a better person because of it.
Why do new mums (and everyone really) need to nap whenever they can? Because that’s when our body heals when the rewiring of our brain is done, and our energy stock is replenished. Some research suggests that in the first year the average sleep debt is 700 hours!
Sleep deprivation (and lack of nourishment) can lead to fatigue, poor milk production, hypervigilance (very often associated with anxiety), loss of self-esteem, depression, gain weight, frustration, isolation, muscle injuries, exhaustion, brain fog, loss of libido and pure and simple unhappiness.
I’m aware that I didn’t print a happy picture, but there are a few things you can put in place right now, also if your baby wakes up at all times. The key is to make that short moment you have for yourself as restful and peaceful as you can
Sleep hygiene. We can’t really talk about sleeping without mentioning sleep hygiene, which, by the way, has nothing to do with how clean you are. It is an important place to start, where what you do in the hour before sleep can make a huge difference.
Reduce noise; if you leave in a busy city, you can always purchase a white noise machine for a few bucks, or you can download a white noise app on your phone. Sometimes my husband would wake up at night to rock the baby, and I would put the white noise machine (sound of waves to be precise), right next to my ear to block out the crying noise. Bliss!
Avoid any strenuous physical activity for at least 3 hours before going to sleep; you are allowed to do stretching, Yin Yoga and Yoga Nidra.
Avoid emotionally stimulating activities before bedtime…such as arguing with your loved ones, or get into a political debate with a friend.
Read a book, but not a thriller. I read the History of Rome, an 1800 pages bible. I never finished it, but it put me right to sleep after the first two paragraphs; it worked like magic!
Bath. Have a bath with essential oils if you can, but a warm, nice shower with some drops of lavender oil can do the trick. If you don’t like the smell of lavender, you can always try bergamot, sweet orange, mandarin.
Your bedroom should be a haven of comfort. Get rid of the clutter, put away clothes that are covering your floor, throw away (or give away) all the stuff you don’t need, and keep it simple. Once the lights are out, the room should be cool and as quiet and dark as possible.
Dim the lights 1–2 hours before bedtime to get into the groove of things, and avoid drinking too much water before hitting the sack; herbal teas such as chamomile are excellent options to quieten your body and mind, whereas caffeine (avoid it altogether if you can, or have the last coffee at 1pm) and alcohol is banned for the time being.
Take Magnesium, at least 200 mg twice a day. Magnesium bisglycinate is my favourite as it is easily absorbable.
Eat a light dinner, at least 2 hours before going to sleep. Make sure to have high-quality proteins at dinner time, so you won’t wake up peckish in the middle of the night.
Have a massage to release muscles tensions and to quieten your mind.
Anti-tech time. Computer use, TV, and emotional stress tend to hijack sleep quality and should be avoided in the hour of wind down to sleep.
If you can’t, wear blue blocking amber glasses for at least 1 hour before bedtime. Bright lights interfere with the ability of the pineal gland to release melatonin, that hormones responsible for regulating the circadian rhythm.
Ensure lights are dimmed around the house after the sun goes down. When it’s daytime, expose yourself to as much natural light as you can.
Rest when sleep isn’t available. We live in a society of continual ongoing stress and we literally don’t know how to relax or switch off. This has profound effects on hormones, immune function, brain structure, and gut health. I do understand we don’t have a switch off button, and it’s practically impossible to move from crying baby mode to sleep in less than 2 minutes. But you can choose to put your feet up and relax with a nice cup of decaf tea, whenever you can. Trust me, the world ain’t gonna end.
Meditate. Meditation calms the thought processes and your breathing. It is not a proper substitute for a good night sleep, but it can clear your brain and replenish your energy in less than 20 minutes.
Move. During the day, move whenever you feel like, and can, without pain; enjoy a walk in the park, play with your little one, do some squats, kegels and lunges in your living room, which are optimal to strengthen your back and pelvic area. Fatigue your body during the day, as it will lead to a more restful sleep at night.
Eat well and hydrate. Processed, nutrient-poor foods make up a large percentage of the typical diet these days. We are in many cases having “two mouthfuls of food for one mouthful of nutrition.” (Serralach, 2018). Fatigue is one of the most common symptoms during the postnatal phase. Addressing micronutrient deficiencies, and balancing macronutrient is an essential step to regain vitality and zest for life.
When you haven’t slept enough, you will feel more prone to “indulge” in unhealthy snacking.
Avoid that by:
· Combining fats , carbohydrates and protein at every meals
· Choosing crunchy snacks, over soft ones as they are quicker at satisfying the palate
· Hydrating your body by drinking at least 30 mL of water * kg/body weight, and add 700 mL if breastfeeding
· Taking the right supplements (don’t self-medicate)
· Giving yourself small breaks throughout the day to simply breathe
Talk to your nutritionist on how you can implement your life and diet, in order to achieve your goals.