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  • Writer's pictureJackie Cook

7 Sleep Survival Tactics When You Have an Infant




The ugly truth

Most babies don’t allow for a decent night’s sleep until around 7 months. Based on military studies, after 4-5 nights of 5 or less hours of sleep per night, most humans function on performance tasks at a level of impairment that equates with being legally drunk. Sleep deprivation combined with a constantly vigilant, high stress environment is a mental and emotional equivalent to a soldier going to war.


If you are going back to work after 12 weeks (or less), it's not unusual to have months ahead of interrupted sleep. And to feel like you are going to work drunk. Your environment with a newborn (and toddler) is high vigilance and high stress.


It will get better. And it is really hard. For many new parents, sleep deprivation can amplify or worsen perinatal mental health struggles.



Here are 7 survival tactics to consider:


1. Harness the power of caffeine - Enjoy your coffee early in the day to give yourself a gentle boost, but be mindful not to consume it too close to bedtime to avoid disrupting your nighttime sleep.


2. Nap Effectively - target daily if you can manage with your job.

  • To avoid getting into deep sleep, keep it under 60 min

  • To avoid messing with your nighttime sleep, keep it before 4pm

  • If you’re getting ready for a newborn, line up a postpartum doula who can support your naps in the first days/weeks.

3. Tackle the 2pm slump - Try to take a refreshing walk, and get some sunlight if that's an option for you. A little vitamin D is a great way to boost your energy and mood!


4. Your Going to Bed routine - Take 15 min to wind-down before bed. What are the routine cues you can put in place to tell your body "it's time to sleep now?

This is what mine looks like when I'm on my game...which is not always, and which changes every over time and by location:

  • Gifts to my future, non-morning-loving self:

    • Set up the coffee for the morning.

    • Start the dishwasher.

    • Prep/Pack lunches (sometimes)

  • Plug my phone in to charge. Ideally I don't touch it after this point until the morning. Others have noted success by having their electronics set up far from bed or in a different room. I'm not yet that brave.

  • Wash my face, brush my teeth and hair, put some face and hand cream on. Throw clothes into a laundry basket and toss a comfy shirt on.

  • Curl up, kiss my husband, and focus on my breathing for a minute. If I'm reading something good, I'll pull out my Kindle; this has mixed results for my sleep depending on how into the book I am.

5. Strategize nights - Get creative with your sleep game plan! Explore if one parent can catch some quality Z's while the other takes over during the day, or perhaps a tag-team approach suits you best. Consider splitting night duty or finding a sleep schedule that works for both of you. Many parents also opt to hire overnight care to lend a helping hand and give you some well-deserved sleep. If feasible for your family, having a night nurse care for your baby a few times a week is a perfect way to get uninterrupted sleep.

  • No Screens at Nighttime feedings - avoid anything that is going to extend your awake time at night. Consider having a boring read next to your bed to grab if your brain is active.

  • Generally - consider what you're doing in your bed (beyond sleep + sex...are other activities in bed serving you well? if not, get rid of them!)

  • Are there other things happening at night that you can eliminate? If you need water or a snack during a nighttime feeding, can you have those in your room to avoid a walk to the kitchen? If you're changing diapers, do you have a diaper station set-up that doesn't require extra steps, sifting through drawers, or turning on a bright light?

6. Reserve weekends for rest, for now - commit to nothing but naps. Seriously! Social invites should be considered "maybe" or "no". This phase will not last forever.


7. Ruthlessly organize & accept help - make your to-do lists and mark items that others could do, regularly or once in a while. Embrace the support offered by loved ones and seek help (even if you can “do it all” doesn’t mean that you should)!


When to seek professional help:

1 in 5 new moms and 1 in 10 new dads suffer from a perinatal mood disorder - depression, anxiety, and others. These symptoms warrant help beyond a coffee, nap or bubble bath:

  • Overwhelming tiredness; not being able to sleep even when baby is sleeping

  • Feeling confused

  • Feeling sad, hopeless or anxious for more than 10 days after giving birth

  • Thoughts of harming your baby or yourself

  • Hallucinating (seeing, hearing, or smelling things that are not there)

  • Expressing delusions (untrue thoughts or beliefs)

  • Feeling manic (elated mood out of touch with reality)

  • Feeling paranoid

There is help out there! If you or a loved one are experiencing any of the above, please reach out for help. Some resources include:

Resources:

About Popins:

Popins’s services support your journey into parenthood with practical approaches, so your family can thrive. We guide expecting professionals through your transitions in and out of work, prepare your extended family for the new arrival, and connect you to the professionals & products you need to meet your parenting goals. Learn more at www.popinsfam.com.


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