It is the weekend, get a little sleep!
Most parents feel “out of order” when they are sleep deprived! Try this weekend to grab a few more minutes of sleep!
Ahh sleep…what new parent isn’t wishing for more? I heard a new parent speak of the first few months of parenting to be as exhausting as the Iron Man Triathlon. Makes sense to me! Not only are new parents sleep deprived, but their fatigue is increased by mental exhaustion. There is so much to learn with a new baby, especially first time parents. Even simple tasks seem more difficult when you are exhausted. I call it “Mommy brain”, it just is difficult to think through a solution to any dilemma, like how to measure the coffee and tend to a crying baby! Eventually everyone will sleep again but what do you do in the meantime?
Simple Steps for Parents:
- Sleep when the baby sleeps. I know everyone tells you this, but how many of you do it? When your baby sleeps, immediately lay down. Leave the dishes in the sink, the laundry on the floor and sleep. Doing “just one more thing” will eat into that very short nap time. You will feel much better with a nap, than with an empty laundry basket that will only be empty a few minutes!
- Don’t stay up late! Dim the lights in the house in the evening, avoid the computer and TV, take a warm shower or bath and then try to relax. Establishing a relaxing bedtime routine will help you drift off to sleep so you are ready for that next feeding in a couple of hours! Even parents of toddlers need an early bedtime. The energy it takes to chase a toddler requires restorative sleep at night!
- Share the night-time baby care routine. Trade off on getting up and comforting. If you are breastfeeding, have Dad bring you the baby after he has changed him. Later, when your milk supply is established well, let Dad give a bottle of pumped breast milk, it is amazing what a 5 or 6 hour stretch of sleep will do for you!
- Walk. Going on long walks in the morning or late afternoon can be an energy booster. It is good for your baby too! Exercise lowers anxiety and stress levels and improves your sleep. Being outside in natural light is very important. Sunlight tells your brain to be alert and happy due to serotonin. So, even if you don’t have the energy to walk, sitting outside for a few minutes getting fresh air and sunlight will give you a bit more energy.
- Eat something besides cookies! When we are tired and hungry, many of us grab something that is fast and sugary. Eating something sweet never helps fatigue. Keep healthy snacks around. If you are a breastfeeding Mom, you need an extra 500 calories a day, and not in cookies! Accept those meals people offer, keep quick healthy snacks of fruits and vegetables prepared, and don’t rely on sugar to help fatigue.
- Drink. Drink water that is! Dehydration can make you feel fatigued. Try to steer clear of too much caffeine and sugary drinks. Even alcohol can alter your sleep patterns. Keep a pitcher of water in your refrigerator, make it look pretty and taste better by floating some fresh fruit in it! You will feel like you are at a spa! Well, it might just encourage you to drink those 6 to 8 glasses of water a day!
Help your baby sleep:
- Watch for sleep cues. Remember your baby will not say, “I’m tired.” Parents have to watch for the cues. Most babies until about age 6 months need to nap every couple of hours. If you notice your baby starting to “zone out” with a blank stare, yawning, rubbing eyes, or getting a bit agitated, then it is time to settle down. Missing the window for sleep results in a baby that is overly tired and doesn’t settle easily. Look at the clock, when you see the sleep cues note how long your baby has been up and then start settling a few minutes earlier the next time.
- Use the 5 S’s. Swaddle your baby, hold your baby side lying or on his stomach, shoosh, and sway. Dr. Harvey Karp’s Happiest Baby on the Block tips really do work! Swaddle your baby for naps and nighttime sleep!
- Try white noise. White noise works wonders for many babies. There are white noise machines, white noise CDs, and even white noise apps for smart phones!
- Make sure your baby naps. Naps promote better sleep. Sleep begets sleep in children. Children that are overly tired sleep less…it is true! Children need to nap during the day until about age 3. Newborns will nap every couple of hours, by 6 months of age most babies will take a longer morning nap and a longer afternoon nap, by 12 to 15 months most children will go to one afternoon nap, and all children will need a nap or “rest time” through age three. Children that are well rested with naps will sleep easier and longer at night. Do not keep your child up during the day hoping that you will get a longer stretch of sleep at night!
- Try wearing your baby during the day. If you can “catch up” your baby’s sleep during the day. Many babies like to be “worn” and will nap well that way!
- Set your baby’s internal clock. In the mornings, stand in front of a window or if the weather is nice take a walk in natural light. Keep the lights on during the day. When evening arrives, start to dim the lights about an hour before bedtime. Even if your baby is not sleeping through the night, treat every feeding after “bedtime” as a night-time feeding. Feed in the dark, no interaction, and no diaper change unless your baby is very uncomfortable or has a dirty diaper. Soon your baby will have an inner clock that knows the difference between day and night.
- Start a routine. Children thrive on routines. Most babies become a bit more predictable around 3 months of age. However, you can start a nap time and bed time routine that is the same every day before that 3 month mark. Provide activities that are soothing like a bath, massage, story, song, and a cuddle. Repeat these routines and your baby will begin to relax with the predictability. Pick a “bedtime” and remember that children are wired “early to bed and early to rise.”
- Help your baby self soothe. At around four months of age, babies can learn to self soothe by using hands, fingers, or pacifiers to suck, or a fuss cry to calm. When your baby starts to wake, quietly help your baby find their hands or a pacifier, lay your hand on their tummy and head and ” shoosh”. Soon your baby will learn to soothe himself back to sleep when he wakes in the middle of a sleep cycle.
- Be calm. Babies can tell when a parent is stressed and that keeps everyone awake! Just realize that this stage will pass too…take a deep breath and stay calm when you are trying to calm a fussy baby. Try one calming method at a time, not all at once! Try swaddling and rocking calmly with a bit of white noise. A walk in the stroller will help many babies. Find what works for you, but keep it calm.
So Mom and Dad, work together this weekend and try to get a little extra sleep! Concentrate on these few tips and see if a few more minutes of sleep makes that overwhelming sense of fatigue fade just a bit. If not, remember, this will pass, you will sleep again…I promise. Happy Friday!
Take a breath, enjoy the joyful moments of each day, and remember you don’t have to be perfect to be the perfect parent.
- Posted in: Becoming a Dad ♦ Becoming a parent ♦ Enjoying parenting ♦ Growth and Development ♦ Health ♦ Postpartum depression, perinatal mood disorder ♦ Sleep ♦ Uncategorized
- Tagged: bedtime routine, crying, dad, Dr. Harvey Karp, enjoying parenting, growth and development milestones, Happiest Baby on the Block, infant, naps, safe sleep, sleep deprivation, sleep problems, sleep routine, sleeping through the night, taking care of mom