So the baby is here and yes you figured it would probably be exhausting being a new parent. But I’ll bet you didn’t expect to become a walking zombie-like shell of your former self, daydreaming about getting just 5 hours of sleep.
How could you know? You probably have no idea what it means to be tired until you have a baby.
In fact, a few British studies have shown that new parents could lose anywhere between 40 and 50 nights of sleep in the first year after the birth of their child. The funny twist is that these same, completely exhausted parents are all of a sudden responsible for keeping a helpless little baby alive, so they have to try to stay at least a little bit alert.
So while you may find lots of resources on how to help your baby sleep better, there aren’t many tips on how to survive the sleepless nights of your child’s first year.
Don’t get worked up, you’re already doing more than enough of that over your baby’s poop color. We have compiled some of our best survival tips for new parents based on research and more tips from other parents who have been there and made it through to the other side.
So how do you survive a new baby when you are so very tired?
Make your body think it has slept
When the sun comes up, open the curtains, even if you have just sat on the couch holding your baby for the last 4 hours. Brew some tea or coffee, take a shower and get dressed.
Basically, do all the little and not so little things you would normally do at the start of a new day to trick your mind and body into thinking you just got out of your oh so precious bed.
You might scoff at this but trust me, not only will these small routines make you feel more like a human, they can also help you wake up. Research has shown that sunlight, a shower, and caffeine can help alert your brain that it’s time to get going.
Take cat naps wherever and whenever you can
I’m sure at this point you want to slap the next person that tells you, “Sleep when the baby sleeps!” But the truth is, even if your baby barely nods off, there are still ways for you to get a quick nap in when you get desperate.
First of all, get some sleep when your baby sleeps. I know, it sucks. But if your baby dozes from 6pm to 10pm, then raises the roof the rest of the night, try to get a few hours of snooze during that window, even if it feels weird.
If your baby doesn’t move around yet, and you are both in a safe place like the playpen, lay down beside your baby and pass out for a few minutes. Some moms can swear by this stealthy move and say the baby will cry and wake you if you are needed. Just try not to roll over on your baby.
This way you may get a few minutes of shut-eye and according to the National Sleep Foundation, 20 minutes is all you need to feel wide awake.
Get out of the house
Here’s a fun fact, sunlight and exercise have been proven to assist tired people in staying awake, so you’re definitely better of taking a walk.
Are you worried that you might pass out while holding your fussy baby? Plop them in your baby stroller and go for a long stroll in your neighborhood or just around your estate. Get together with some of your mom friends for a play date or just push your baby aimlessly through a mall while you nibble on a snack.
The walk might put your baby to sleep, but it will help you keep your eyes open. And the point is, keeping busy will distract you from how tired you might be.
Keep your mind occupied
Sleep expert, Richard Shane once said, “Engaging in something interesting to do or talk about can stimulate your mind to feel more awake,”
Can’t seem to keep your eyes open? Pick up your phone, call a friend and talk about, literally anything. Are you pulling the graveyard shift with the baby who will only sleep while in your arms? Write out some lists, do a puzzle on your phone, watch a movie, or heck, write a book.
Research has shown that you are more creative when you are tired, so why not take advantage? Just make sure you have someone proofread your script before you send Tired AF: A New Mom’s Eye-Opening Journey to a publisher at 3am in the morning. Haha.
I know it sounds weird but tell yourself you aren’t tired. Pretend you had some sleep, and your mind just might believe you!
Many studies indicate that “placebo sleep” that is thinking you had a good night’s sleep even though you did not, can improve your cognitive functions to the same level as a good night’s sleep.
On the other hand, talking about how exhausted you are can actually make feel more fatigued.
Keep in mind, it’s temporary
I won’t be a terrible person who will tell you to enjoy every precious moment with your newborn baby because they grow so fast because I know it sure isn’t fun holding a crying baby at 2am trying to woo him/her back to sleep.
Instead, try to remember that babies sleep better eventually, so do what you need to do to survive right now. If it means watching Netflix on repeat and eating those bars of dark chocolate, you do you. If it means only passing your partner on the corridors in between shifts with the baby and blanking out on what the person you married looks like as a result, you have pictures to remember them by.
If you are reading this article while lying on the floor next to your baby’s crib as he/she practices their midnight dance moves, close your eyes for a minute.
You’ve earned it.