Updated: Oct 11, 2022
I remember reading blogs, books & posts one after the other, desperately searching for a way to make my son sleep: a) independently & b) for longer stretches without compromising my beliefs. I hadn’t known in the early months that my parenting style was rooted in gentle & attachment parenting philosophies, but even after discovering this, I still couldn’t shake the feeling that I simply couldn’t cope on such little, broken sleep for much longer. Something had to change.
My number one tip is probably the most impactful but is likely to be the least popular...acceptance. Yup, I said it, acceptance is the single greatest and most positive thing that has changed in my life & that has helped me to cope with as little as 3-4 hours of (broken!?) sleep a night at times. I don’t simply mean that you should accept your child’s wakefulness and do nothing to help your circumstances. Do accept that your child may not be a solid sleeper right now, but there are things that you can do in the meantime to help your body & kind to get as much rest as possible. These include:
1) Never Clock Watch.
Never. I repeat, never ever look at the clock when your little one wakes up overnight. It won’t benefit you in any way & if you’re anything like me it will rob you of even more sleep as you clock watch, wondering if you will ever get back to sleep before your little one wakes up again.
2. Stay Hydrated.
It makes a massive difference to your body and mind if you are properly hydrated, although you may be sleep deprived. I’ve gotten into the habit of having a pint of water beside my bed each night, ready to drink first thing in the morning before I get up. This small change makes a real difference to the brain fog that clouds my head the morning after a challenging if night.
3. Forget the Household Chores.
Forget anything that non-essential that doesn’t facilitate you finding an opportunities to rest & bond with your baby. If you live with someone, talk to them about how whilst you’re on such night duty, you are going to need to take care of everything else in the home. It won’t be this way forever, but right now it’s what you need.
if you live alone, ask your friends and family to help out. Be kind to yourself by putting the pile of laundry out of sight so that it isn’t a constant reminder of everything you think you should be doing. Repeat outfits before you wash them wherever possible and if cooking from scratch is exhausting don’t do it. Ask loved ones to cook for you once a week and forgive yourself for eating more sandwiches and ready meals than you might choose otherwise. Take a breastfeeding multivitamin and add fresh veg and salad to take always yo make them more nutritious.
4. Rest or Sleep When Baby Sleeps.
If you are able to nap during the daytime, it is likely that you already are. If you are not able to, make sure that you got it bed ay the same times as your little one(s) each night. Nope, you won’t be able to binge that new Netflix series that everyone is talking about, but the extra hours of sleep that you will get are just so precious. You may be able to squeeze in a whole extra sleep cycle to help you wake up the following day feeling more human and less mombie the next day.
Meditation works wonders for tired minds as a restorative practice. It is scientifically proven to reduce anxiety and depression during pregnancy and beyond (1). Personally, I credit meditation with supporting me through miscarriage, divorce and postpartum anxiety. I learnt of the power of meditation in 2014 when I travelled the foothills of the Himalayas to train as a yoga and meditation teacher. It was every bit as inspiring as it sounds and it transformed my life forever, equipping me with skills for taking care of my mental health and wellness whatever life throws at me. Whether you have practiced meditation before or not, you can listen to a meditation designed specifically to support you to relax and sleep via my YouTube channel: https://youtu.be/rqHy1HPwHfM
Life on little sleep is most certainly different, but that does not mean that it cannot still be full of love and joy. You are probably sick of hearing that this season of sleeplessness will not last forever, but whilst it is ongoing, be kind to yourself. Let go of anything unnecessary that does not serve you or your family and do so in the knowledge that you are making the best choices for yourself and them.
These tips are adapted from my book, ‘Self Care: The Breastfeeding Edition (50 Practical, Evidence Based Tips for Nursing Moms’, available to order here, now: www.thebreastfeedingmentor.com/book