What they do not tell you about having a newborn
Looking back on the newborn era of my baby girl I am just wondering how I survived fatigue. I was desperately searching on google for how many hours the newborn normally sleeps. I surprisingly found out that newborns are sleeping for about 14 – 17 hours a day! 😮 This was definitely not my case. My baby was barely sleeping for 7 – 9 hours a day and of course with an irregular pattern that did not fit in mine. Newborns wake up regularly and this is normal. They are not born with fully developed circadian rhythms and don’t know the difference between day and night. Moreover, they have small stomachs, which means they must wake every few hours to eat.
Don’t despair! You may be that lucky parent whose baby sleeps longer. Yes, it does happen sometimes! In any case, even if you kiss goodbye to the 8 hours of uninterrupted sleep, remember it doesn’t last forever. Eventually, your baby will start sleeping for longer and so will you. By four months babies sleep longer and by six months, many babies can go for five to six hours or more without the need to feed and will begin to sleep throughout the night.
In the beginning, you will probably be up several times during the night to feed, change and comfort your baby. This intensive care of your newborn may lead to sleep deprivation for parents. Here are some tips for you to survive the exhaustion:
- Get rest and sleep when your baby sleeps. You do need time for yourself and for catching up with housework or other activities apart from comforting your baby. However, when your baby sleeps is the best time for you to take a nap as well as to charge your batteries for the endless night that is coming. I know it is not always easy to sleep at any time during the day. At least try it! I remember myself exhausted, failing to sleep at 11 am.
- Arrange to have help, even prior to your due day. The first days are the most difficult, especially for new mothers. If you can not have help, try to simplify your household as much as you can and have your expectations down to earth. If you are about to begin maternity leave and looking forward to the free time you will have on leisure reading or watching all your favorite programs, the reality check is “feed, change, soothe, feed, change, soothe – all day long and all through the night”. The first few weeks are hard.
- Share the nights if you can. Use a breast pump and ask your partner to occasionally give the baby a bottle of your milk or formula during the night.
- Eat well. Having a balanced diet enhances your sense of well-being. Avoid the temptation of sugary foods such as sweets, cakes, and biscuits. They give you an initial boost of energy, but it is short-lived and potentially make you more depleted than before. Ensure you drink plenty of fluids to have a good hydration level, especially if you breastfeed.
- Take some gentle exercise. Any exercise or physical activity raises your energy level and releases endorphins that enhance your sense of well-being.
- Speak to your General Practitioner. If you feel extremely tired, unable to take care of yourself and your baby, or find it difficult to sleep even when you are exhausted, ask for professional support.
- Sleep in the same room with your baby. It is more convenient to have your baby close to you, particularly for the first 6 months when babies tend to wake up several times during the night.
- Ask for flexible working. You will be able to continue your career while taking care of your family at the same time.
- Try the side-lying breastfeeding position. This helped me a lot because the baby was falling asleep in this position and I was just falling away quietly, without waking up the baby or interrupting her sleep. A bassinet that you can unzip and convert into a bedside sleeper is ideal for this purpose! Have a look at this one below.
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Sleep and tiredness after having a baby. (2020, December 7). Nhs.uk. https://www.nhs.uk/conditions/baby/support-and-services/sleep-and-tiredness-after-having-a-baby/
Postpartum Insomnia: Sleep Tips for New Moms. (2020, September 15). Sleep Foundation. https://www.sleepfoundation.org/insomnia/postpartum-insomnia
Coping with sleepless nights | Tommy’s. (n.d.). Www.tommys.org. https://www.tommys.org/pregnancy-information/after-birth/coping-sleepless-nights