One of the first things a parent will tell an expectant mother is, "wait until you have kids, then you'll know what it really means to be tired." This can come off as condescending, aloof, or even rude. Yet I'd argue that the years of sleep-deprivation have all but erased the filter which tells you what is and isn't considered an appropriate conversation topic. A prolonged period of time where sleep is just beyond your reach can take a toll on parents. Thankfully, there are some ways to cope with exhaustion as a new mom, because sometimes taking extra long blinks just don't cut it.
You know those days when you wonder exactly how difficult it would be to get an IV drip of caffeine straight into your veins? Well if you haven't, you're probably thinking about it now. In fact, I'm pretty sure every first-time parent has searched Amazon for an IV kit at least once during their delirious state of exhaustion. There's just something about being sleep-deprived that can make a person desperate for any kind of solution to ease their situation.
So whether you're reading this at 3 a.m. because your newborn decided bedtime was over, or you're squinting at the screen because half-closed eyes feel like the closest thing you'll get to a luxurious nap, check out some of these ways to cope with exhaustion as a new mom.
If you're anything like me, neither asking for nor receiving assistance is in your nature. But sometimes, for the sake of your sanity, you have to accept aid. Dr. Elizabeth Lombardo, a clinical psychologist, told Pregnancy & Baby, "people want to help, so let them, even if they just watch the baby while you nap or shower." A nap may not be a great substitute for a full night's sleep, but any bit of rest can help ease a new mom's exhaustion level.
You've probably heard this advice from everyone already, but it's likely because it really does make a difference. "When your newborn sleeps, you sleep," licensed physician Dr. Anna Kaplan said in an interview with Everyday Family. "Learn to nap during the day with her." Though you may want to get caught up on housework or other things that are easier to do sans baby, that can wait —sleep can't.
Do you ever find it difficult to take a nap when the sun is still up? Dr. Frank Lipman, a practicing physician, told The Huffington Post that "light can stop your melatonin levels from rising, which you need to induce sleep." Even if it's daytime, you can invest in an eye mask or light-blocking curtains to ensure both you and your baby can fall asleep quickly.
In this day and age, it's virtually impossible to get away from smartphones and electronic gadgets. Dr. Joyce Walsleben, director of the Sleep Disorders Center at New York University School of Medicine told Parents that, "using the computer or doing work is daytime activity." So when the sun goes down, put the tech devices down, too.
Sometimes even a little rest and relaxation can be a decent stand-in for sleep. As the experts at Baby Center have noted, "if you're breastfeeding, try nursing lying on your side, so you can really relax during feedings." Just being able to let a little tension go can do wonders for your exhausted body.
One of the main reasons I never wanted to go to sleep when my son did was because it felt like that was the only time I had to do what I wanted. One expert just might have a solution to that. In an interview with The Bump, clinical psychologist, Dr. Shoshana Bennet said, "you might be too tired to do much, but at least get out of the house and relax at the park or a favorite hangout." By having some "me time" during the day, you'll be less likely to put off going to sleep at night.
My partner and I seemed to be at the end of our respective ropes as exhausted parents, so we decided to treat it like work and take shifts. If you're breastfeeding, you can pump so your partner can take care of feedings while you nap. Each family dynamic is different, but sharing responsibilities is a great place to start for getting some much-needed rest.