I have a little gal in my life who doesn’t like to sleep. She never has. She somehow survives on a LOT less sleep than most children. She is 2.5 years old and hasn’t taken a consistent daytime nap since she was under 2, has a hard time falling asleep, and occasionally she decides she is up and ready to go around 4 a.m.
We have tried (and still try) to figure out how to get her better sleep. In addition, there is a tired mama who also needs to get better sleep. So, how have I adjusted and figured out how to adapt to being the mom of a non-sleeper?
I sleep when the kids sleep . . . kind of. For any working mom who has already headed back to the office or SAHM who has more than one kid, you just have to laugh at this statement. This ONLY works when you are at home full-time with one child and you don’t have a million chores to do around the house during your precious time without a baby on your hip. BUT, as hard as it is, I try to make myself go to bed earlier knowing I might be up in the night. This especially applies to moms of newborns; don’t stay up until midnight waiting on the next feeding–GO TO BED. When we don’t get Abigail to sleep until after 9 p.m. sometimes it is tempting to sit in front of the TV too long because it has been the only downtime I have had all day. But I try to limit myself to a short show or two and get some shut-eye. Which leads me to my next point . . . .
I limit screen time. Sometimes a show before bed can relax you, but surfing your bright iPhone or falling asleep EVENTUALLY to the TV does nothing but keep your brain going. We have always had a no-TV rule in our bedroom, and it is amazing how quickly I can fall asleep without that extra stimulation. Also, I know it is tempting when you are up in the middle of the night to nurse/feed to play Candy Crush or cruise Facebook. I used to do it too, but then I discovered, when I went back to my bed, I was COMPLETELY awake. When I stopped and just relaxed (and sometimes slept while the baby nursed), I felt much more rested. If you need downtime after the kids go to bed, consider a cup of tea, listening to some music, reading a book, or chatting with your spouse. We could take a cue from our own children’s bedtime routines, focusing on calming activities before we head to sleep.
I try to take care of me. New Moms, I want to talk to you for a minute (experienced moms, just smile and nod): You MUST eat right (especially if you are nursing). Your body is a miraculous thing, but it can’t turn M&Ms and coffee into quality nutrition for you or your child. A little prep of a pre-made sandwich, fresh fruit washed and ready to eat, pasta salad, etc, already in the fridge doesn’t allow the excuse you didn’t have time to eat.
Now for everyone:
1. Drink water, NOT CAFFEINE. WAIT. Hear me out! A Dr. Pepper has many times helped me through a long afternoon, but I also discovered after suffering with an iron deficiency that caffeinated drinks actually decrease your body’s ability to absorb iron. And low iron is many times a struggle with new moms getting their bodies back in sync while they breastfeed. Low iron causes fatigue; so is that caffeinated drink really helping?
2. Protein, Protein, Protein. It is important, super important in your diet for your health and especially energy levels. Women need 46 grams of protein a day to maintain (71 grams for nursing or pregnant moms). Chart it for a day, see how you are doing. When I found this out and did it, I failed MISERABLY. Still do a lot of days but now that it is on my radar I am doing better.
3. Take Your Vitamins. I was told by my first OB/Gyn (before I was even married) I should be taking a prenatal vitamin, as they have the perfect combo for “women of child-bearing age” so I have taken a prenatal daily since then (10 years ago). More recently I was told that I should also take a B-Complex Vitamin. All I can say is in my experience, three days of adding the B-complex vitamin to my morning routine and I was a NEW WOMAN. It really helps my energy level and generally feeling good. If you are nursing or pregnant, do ask your doctor before adding any vitamins or supplements to your routine.
4. Get Outside and Get Active. When you are exhausted, the last thing you want to do is wrestle clothes on everyone and head out of the house, but that is just what you need to do! Put a bra on under your pajamas and take the kids for a walk in the neighborhood (promise your mom neighbors won’t judge). Fresh air and being active will make you feel so much better and let’s be honest, it is also a great time killer.
And last and the best thing I do; I accept it. Whether you have a newborn or a difficult older child, stressing over it, counting the hours of sleep, and trying to force habits sometimes just makes the situation more miserable for all involved. I am not saying don’t work on a routine and have rules about bedtime, but I do know when my daughter was nocturnal for the first two months of her life, I just reminded myself “she won’t do this forever” and eventually her clock readjusted. When she dropped all naps by 2 and for a week I tried to force her to take one (making her, my son, and myself miserable and bedtime even worse), I finally let it go and our days became more harmonious. It will not last forever. One day he or she will be a teenager that you will be prying out of bed at noon on Saturdays. So if I have to get up WAY too early some mornings and check out what is on Disney Jr at 4 a.m., I can handle that for now!
Hang in there Moms, you’ve got this!
How do you survive sleep deprivation?