Sleep deprivation is a major problems for parents of a newborn child. Are there methods which could help young parents cope with sleep deprivation or reduce it? Have you tried any of them? What is your personal experience?
Sleep deprivation comes with being a parent of a baby, however you will cope. It isn't fun but you will get through it. Although you cannot avoid it here are some general recommendations:
- Get your baby on a routine: Every parent I know that tried baby-led sleep patterns gave up and instituted a routine, because they really help get your child on a sleep pattern that is compatible with your life
- Make sure you keep taking care of yourself: it's easy to get so involved in your baby's day to day that you forget to look after your own well-being. Try to keep a good healthy diet and some sort of exercise. Work some time to look after yourself into your schedule
- Share responsibilities with your partner: If you plan on breast feeding then expressing some into bottles will allow both parents to feed the baby. This is good for bonding as well as allowing the mother to get some sleep
- Learn to nap: when your baby naps try to get some rest as well. Try not to obsess about cleaning up and being tidy, if you really need some rest take the opportunity. Keep a nap spot ready to go so you can just dive into it
- Keep on top of the essential tasks: If you let crucial things pile up they can get overwhelming, keep a list of what really needs to be done and when so you can refer to it. When you're exhausted your memory can be like a sieve!
To reduce sleep deprivation, sleep when the baby sleeps and do not prioritize tidying or cleaning over sleeping. Work out what things you can do in the company of an awake baby and do those things then so that you can sleep. Many babies love to be in a sling while you shop, vacuum, or read something, or to be in a baby seat or swing while you cook or tidy. They are less happy to be in a sling while you type on a keyboard or talk on the phone, though.
To manage to function well on less sleep than you really need or most certainly less uninterrupted sleep, make sure your room is perfect for sleeping - if you need to, change your mattress, change the kind of blankets or pillows you have, get blackout curtains, a white-noise thingy if there is noise from outside, and so on. Don't use alcohol or caffeine for a while. If you have trouble falling asleep in the little time you have and then you stress anxiously "I can't get asleep and now it's going to be even worse!" then learn relaxation exercises or meditation.
Try to set your life up so you can be safe and functional even if you're a little groggy. This might mean taking the bus or walking instead of driving, or outsourcing the bookkeeping for your family business. To prepare for things like losing your keys, locking yourself out of the car or house, etc, make plenty of copies of keys and hide them on the property or leave them with a neighbor. When you cook, cook a large batch and freeze some so that another time you don't need to cook. Plan your meals in advance and put the plan on the fridge where you can see it, so when you forget, you will be reminded what has defrosted or what has been bought and needs to be cooked before it spoils. Use "information radiators" like wall calendars, bulletin boards, written todo lists and the like to spare yourself from having to remember or from having to tell your spouse that something important is or isn't done. Sleep deprived people forget things. Technology can help to remind you. This sort of preparation can smooth over the rough patches dramatically.
Many families choose one parent whose sleep will get back to normal much sooner (eg Daddy is going back to work so his sleep can't be messed with) and one who handles nighttime parenting and possibly gets a nap in the daytime. Even if both parents have returned to work sometimes they make this deal, with the up-at-night parent napping in the evening when the other parent is also home, or the up-at-night parent holding a job that doesn't require a lot of mental acuity or physical dexterity. If this is what you plan to do, make sure both parents agree this is the plan.
Usually somewhere between 6 months and a year your sleep is close to normal, and then eventually you will forget the details of it. That's how second children come to be :-)
I have two thoughts on the matter.
While money might be tight, consider hiring someone to clean your house once a week or so. I wish that my wife and I had done that.
Take turns caring for the baby if you're not breastfeeding or have bottles available to heat up. It sometimes means sleeping in another room, but even getting one night of good solid rest can help a lot. My daughter is a horrible sleeper as of late, and we generally alternate nights getting up with her in the middle of the night. Or alternatively, I generally get up with her between 12 and 5 AM.