I’m a new mom, again. My husband and I have added another little man to our brood, growing our mini soccer team to three boys under four. JJ is a happy little guy, with a mild temperament and easy going personality. We could not be more thrilled or relieved. But don’t think for a minute that I am well rested or feeling my best. I am tired, emotional, and achy from the seemingly constant holding, rocking, bouncing, and imperfect posture during breast-feeding. This is what it is like to be a new mom; we all go through this.
Normal, yes. But benign, no. Fatigue can leave you more emotional, argumentative, and less patient with the other loved ones in your life. Too little sleep increases the risk of car accidents and other injuries. This is no laughing matter- sleep deprivation increases a mom’s risk of post partum depression and anxiety. It can even prevent you from making enough milk if you breastfeed.
We plan to sleep train our little one when he turns four months, just as we did with our other two. For now, that seems like ages away and provides little solace!
With sleep deprivation not likely to improve anytime soon I rely on some tricks that I use and that my patients have shared with me to improve my own sleep in these early months.
Most of us have someone else to rely on in times of struggle. Turn to your partner, parent, sibling, or friend to help babysit so you can get a brief nap. Knowing that someone else is "on call" may allow you to rest more soundly, even if only for an hour.
I am guilty of hiding my fatigue and "powering through" like a super hero. Many of us are terrible at admitting how exhausted we are or how much help we need. Be honest with yourself about wanting some alone time or extra shut-eye, and communicate that to your partner and allies.
I am awful at this one. Truly. I can count on one hand the number of times I have slept when any of my kids napped as infants. I simply feel there are too many things to get done. But really, do those dishes really have to get washed now, or that laundry folded? If you are going to pay for it later, take that time to unwind yourself. Rely on some of your team to help with household chores when you can.
Last week I was asked to volunteer at both my older kid’s schools. "I am on mat leave," I thought, so this is a perfect time to help out. As it turned out this was not a good idea. I was tired, and less committed to the activities than I wanted to be, and ended up cheating my kids out of fun mommy-time. Consider all requests carefully, and only choose to take on what you truly feel comfortable doing. There will be more chances to help.
Easier said than done – when my kids are sleeping I have to watch them. They are their best newborn selves when they are sleeping – so cute and serene and quiet. Watch them for a minute, enjoy the moment, and then go nap too.
Pumping breast milk isn’t for everyone; in fact, it may be my least favourite things to do. But if you are a breastfeeding mom, and you want to leave your child’s side, pumping milk will allow someone else to offer a bottle in your absence.
Your baby is growing up quickly - too quickly. Before you know it he or she will be sleeping through the night and there will be fewer opportunities to snuggle. At some point today try to be in the moment, savour that quiet moment with your child, and take in the delicious baby smell. Trust me, 2 year-olds rarely cuddle (or smell) as well as newborns. These moments are fleeting.
Just remember – this sleep deprivation period will end and before you know it your baby will be talking and walking, and heading off for school. Savor the delicious baby phase and relish in the joys of being a new mom.