The Truth About Sleep Deprivation (plus 4 tips to survive it)

Friday, 26 May 2017

I can still remember the moment that exhaustion entered my body, and for a long time it felt like it never left. 


Maybe you can relate to the feeling etched across our faces in this photo?

Sleep deprivation on your first child is like nothing that you have ever experienced before. There's no way of knowing or for-seeing how it will feel or how it will impact on your life until the moment your little bundle arrives. 

Your body is healing from birth, your boobs are sore and tender, and everything just feels slightly 'off'. Then the fun of cluster feeding starts, and if you're lucky you *might* get a few hours rest in between each feed, but it never amounts to what you or your body really needs. 

But like the Queen that you are, you shuffle on. Doing your best to mould yourself into this new way of life. But it's tough, my god, is is tough.

There are days you want to (and do) cry your eyes out, mostly likely in the shower where you have some time to yourself and as the water washes over your bone tired body, you feel every drop and realise the exhaustion is almost painful. 

People will try and ease the pain by telling you that baby will sleep through the night in no time, and you won't know yourself when they do. 

But I spent many months bottling up the urge to scream at these people. Honestly, it doesn't help, it just adds pressure to an already tiring and difficult situation. 

I will never confess that I know anything about getting a baby/toddler to sleep through the night. Ever. I feel like I've tried everything (baby massage, sleep coaches, books, later bedtimes, earlier bedtimes, eliminating certain foods before bed, ditching sleep associations etc...) I could probably give you a few pointers, but the truth is -

The pursuit of a sleepful night is ironically exhausting!

Luca has just turned two, and most nights we still have 1 or 2 wake ups. I don't say that to petrify you, I say that to save your sanity and to help you avoid comparing yourself to other mums who's babies sleep through the night from an early age. Babies and toddlers who don't sleep are actually more in the majority.  

I think Luca was around 14 months old when I finally 'gave up'. I stopped fighting the lack of sleep and I stopped trying to 'fix' the problem. After 14 long months, I decided to just roll with it and it has been one of my biggest and best parenting lessons. I concluded that I was blessed with a baby who loved to cuddle, and as his Mamma that is the biggest honour I could have; to be the person out of 7 billion on this planet that he wants to wrap his arms around and nestle into the nook of my arm even at 3am. 

Other people looking in on a situation like this might tell you all that you're doing wrong, that your baby or toddler should be sleeping through the night, but I've come to realise that no one knows your baby better than you do, and no knows what the best solution for you and your family is, better than you do. And even if you're still not entirely sure what to do, it's 100% to do what you need to do to get some sleep. 

It's taken a while to get to this place, and there are definitely things that helped me along the way. While I don't offer any miracle cures to sleep deprivation what I do know is how to navigate and handle the sleep deprivation a little better. 

Through trial and error, through learning and growing as a Mum, the tips that you're about to read are my own. And while they won't cure your exhaustion they might help you feel that your situation is 'normal', and that you’re not alone.

new mums sleep deprivation

1. Look after your health
This is one thing that I let slide massively after having Luca. I stopped taking my post-natal vitamins (because I usually forgot!) and I stopped checking in with myself and asking myself how I was feeling. I reached for sugary snacks and coffee to give me that lift and ended up gaining more weight post pregnancy than during pregnancy!! Dear friend, please make sure you look after your health. Try eat nourishing food more often, drink lots of water, take your vitamins, and check in with your GP or HV if you’re not feeling good. It will be the best gift you can give yourself and your baby. Healthy mamma = happy baby.


2. Lean on each-other
One of the biggest feelings you have when you’re sleep deprived is that you’re alone and no one understands. I have to admit, I think Dads get a hard time in the media for not hearing the baby cry because of genetics and DNA and I do believe that mums are more programmed to the hear the cries of their babies (it’s a protective instinct) But Dads are going through a huge transformative period too. They definitely bear the brunt of your tired moods and irritability. Tip #4 - In the thick haze of exhaustion don’t forget to lean on each other and talk to each other. A baby, especially the first, can put a huge strain on a relationship, but the best teams pull together. Let your partner know exactly how you would like support and don’t forget to spend time together not discussing babies. If you get an opportunity for a date night, grab it! Or if a date at home is on the cards do something fun like playing board games, dance or cook together. Honestly, it will make you feel a million times better.

3. Do something for yourself
A baby changes your life, no doubt about it. Your life suddenly pivots and becomes all about them. When you do get a moment to yourself (either Dad is on baby duty or a friend or family member is helping out) I used to feel at a loss! I couldn’t think of things to do, and so I’d go shopping but then I’d mindlessly wander around feeling bored and just go back home. Tip #3 - Note down 5 things that make you feel great – going to a movie by yourself, a swim, a yoga class, a coffee with a friend, getting your nails done, or a lovely blow dry – whatever they are, write them down and when those precious moments of freedom roll around you’ll know exactly how to spend them. Time for yourself to relax is vital when you're tired. You need to rest and that doesn't always involve closing your eyes. Little things that remind you of who you are can make the situation more manageable. 

4. Move 
I feel a bit of a fraud writing this last one as it’s only recently that I’ve got back to exercising. I developed a fear and anxiety around exercising post pregnancy because I convinced myself it was going to hurt so much, and lets be honest when you’re feeling exhausted, who in their right mind would want to exercise?! But hear me out on this one . . . exercising has been one of the biggest contributing factors in helping me feel better (I can’t believe I just wrote that!) But think about it -  fresh air, heart pumping, endorphins jumping . . . movement is so good in helping you to feel better. Even if it’s a brisk walk around the neighbourhood with your favourite music playing, I guarantee you will feel better, even if you’re exhausted!

___________________________________________________________
 
Post natal exhaustion isn't a joke and it can be a difficult patch to navigate, especially if you sleep disruption is on-going. But know this, I understand and I sympathise because it isn't easy, but I hope some of these tips help. 

And for peace of mind let's just say this - it might not feel like it's getting any easier but it does become more manageable, just make sure you put yourself first when you need it. 

I'd love to hear from you. Have you suffered post-natal exhaustion? Did you do anything to help support yourself? Let's chat in the comments.

If there’s anything you’d like to share personally about your journey with exhaustion, I'm here to listen and talk. You can email me at info@bella-mamma.co.uk

Keep going gorgeous mammas, you're doing better than you can ever imagine xx 

4 comments:

  1. I completely agree with your four tips to survive the sleepless nights. I'm nearly two years and two kids into them :( Hope you get your sleep back soon.

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  2. Aww thanks Katie! We hope you get it back soon too!

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  3. I think I'm owed about 2.5 years of sleep now! Mine are now 5 and 2 and we now have the difficulty of getting them to bed on time (there's a lot of resisting and messing about), plus at least one of them will wake up at least once in the night. Zzzzzzzz! #thelistlinky

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  4. I'm 4 months in with baby number three & the broken nights are catching up with me - plus I go back to work on Monday - eek! #thelistlinky

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