Ask any new mom how she’s doing and, more often than not, the answer will be “exhausted”. She might throw in a few happier adjectives to make sure you know she loves this new gig of hers, but “exhausted” is probably the first word that come to mind. Exhaustion from yes, the mental and emotional stress of caring for a new baby, but also from the fact that sleep seems to be a thing of the past. When I was pregnant with Isabelle, I never could have imagined how little sleep I would get over the next year. And how short those stretches sometimes were. We had a period of several months where Isabelle would wake every 45 minutes. Every. Forty five. Minutes. The word I most often used to describe myself during that first year was “zombie”.
Getting less sleep is very much a part of being a new parent, but sleep-deprivation shouldn’t have to be. Without sleep, you’re going to be irritable, lethargic, and unable to concentrate. Depression and anxiety are much more likely when you’re not getting enough sleep, which the National Sleep Foundation lists as 7-9 hours per night. I know plenty of moms (myslef included) who had weeks or even months where they were averaged half that! But if there’s anything that I’ve learned over the past 4 years of parenting, is that getting more sleep is possible. Here are my top 5 tips for getting more shut-eye as a sleep-deprived new mom.
(Side note: All of the photos in this post feature our amazing new bed-in-a-box mattress from Olive Sleep. Check out tip #5 to read all about why updating your old mattress is absolutely worth it to get more zzzs!)
[ 1 ] Sleep when the baby sleeps
This is probably the most common piece of advice you’re going to find and for good reason: it’s the number one way to get more sleep. When you think about it, it makes complete sense. Newborn babies sleep about 17 hours in a 24-hour period. Even if that sleep is in short spurts, it’s still most of their day. And it’s not just babies that sleep a lot. My 4-year old still sleeps 12 hours in a 24-hour period, all in one stretch (aka at night). So if you’re lacking sleep, commit to getting more shut eye when your baby (or toddler) is sleeping. The housework, the e-mails, the rest of your lengthy todo list – it can all wait. Your todo list (and whether or not you were able to check all the items off) is not what you’re going to remember when you’re old and grey. You’re going to remember if you had enough energy to be fully present for your kids when you wanted to. You’re going to remember the memories you made because you felt good enough to get out of the house and start traditions like berry picking in the summer or ice skating in the winter. It’s the hardest piece of advice to take (speaking from experience), but it’ll make a world of difference if you’re feeling too tired to function.
[ 2 ] Turn off all electronics
If you’re having trouble sleeping, make sure you’re only engaging in snooze-inducing activities before bedtime. It might be tempting to decompress with Netflix or by scrolling through Instagram or Pinterest on your phone while you lie down, but experts agree that this is actually counterproductive. The light from your computer or phone screen can be very stimulating and actually keep you up longer once you do decide to sleep. Instead grab a book or listen to something soothing like classical music. It gives your body and mind a chance to truly relax and, chances are, you’ll fall asleep relatively quickly.
[ 3 ] Learn to say no
Mom guilt is very much a real thing. If you’ve got an older child or children, there’s a good chance you’re going to feel guilty about spending less time with them. Or conversely you might feel guilty about spending less time with baby number two than you did with baby number one. And the same goes beyond just our children. We feel guilty that we don’t spend enough time with our significant others, guilty that the house is messy or there isn’t food on the table when guests come over, guilty for taking time off from work. But that guilt often means we take on additional responsibility when we really don’t have any extra time to give. Learn to say no and be okay with it. Learn to say no to visitors that aren’t the helpful kind (aka those that clean and cook for you). Learn to say no to field trips for your older kids, to nights out with old friends when you’d rather just sleep, to anything that adds to your workload. Spend that time you would have spent on others, focusing on yourself and making sure you get enough sleep. It’s not selfish, it’s self-perseverance.
[ 4 ] Enlist help at night
If you’re nursing multiple times a night, it’s easy to say that, well, you’re the only one who can nurse so you might as well be on night shift so to speak. Not true! Yes, pumping is time consuming, but having a longer stretch of sleep each night is absolutely worth it. Even if you don’t (or can’t) pump, set predefined times that you’re doing night duty and when your baby daddy (or whoever is willing to help) is on call. In those early days my husband and I took turns sleeping. The first stretch of sleep is usually the longest, so use that time to get some uninterrupted shut-eye. During those early days, my husband took on the first shift (approximately 8pm-1am) whilst I got sleep without a baby next to me. The fact that the baby slept that first stretch away from me meant two things – 1) I got legit good-quality sleep and 2) baby slept longer because they couldn’t smell breastmilk. My husband would need to settle multiple times and would hold off as long as possible. It often meant he didn’t get any sleep until 1-2am but this parenting thing is a 2-person gig and divvying up the sleep deprivation equally between two people means, yes, both parties are groggy, but both parties also gets some decent sleep.
[ 5 ] Update your mattress
You wouldn’t run a marathon or hike up Mount Everest without the right gear. So why not invest in the proper gear in our bedroom? We spend approximately a third of our life sleeping, after all. The right mattress can definitely make a huge difference in the quality of sleep you get at night.
I recently updated our old spring mattress to a memory foam Olive mattress and I’m so glad I did! Olive is a new Canadian company that offers mattresses that come with an ultra-soft antibacterial and hypoallergenic cover stretched over three layers of breathable, temperature-controlled memory foam. When we opened it up, the first thing I noticed was how stylish it is. I adore the pink stripe and grey bottom of this mattress. So much more modern than any other mattress I’ve ever owned! I know that really doesn’t matter when it comes to sleep quality but it’s kind of like wearing pretty undergarments even when no one else sees them. It just feels luxurious, you know? I almost felt bad covering it up with a fitted sheet. Haha.
I’ve never owned a foam mattress before (always spring until now), so I wasn’t sure what to expect. It did not disappoint! It was very soft and plush when I first lay down and I had a great night’s sleep right off the bat. In the past, whenever I switched up my mattress I usually would have a couple of mornings where I would wake up a little sore as my body adjusted to the new mattress. But not with Olive! A great night’s sleep every night so far. My only complaint was that right out of the box (and plastic it was wrapped up in) it had a bit of a smell to it, almost like new paint, but that went away after a few days.
To be completely honest, the main deterrent for us updating our mattress has been a logistical one. We have a very narrow stairway up to the top floor combined with a sharp corner to get to our bedroom so the idea of trying to wrangle a new mattress up there was somewhere near the bottom of my list of things I’d like to spend a couple of hours on a weekend doing. Let alone getting a mattress (like our old IKEA one) from the store to our house – it’s not like it would fit in our car. And then what to do with the old mattress?
Olive made the logistics super easy. First of all, the mattress arrives in a very manageable sized box. The fact that it was packaged so small meant we could get a queen mattress up our tiny staircase to the second floor, which is amazing. Plus they wont just drop it off in your driveway. They bring it inside and place it exactly where you want. And even better? They take your old mattress free of charge. Plus the box it comes in makes for a pretty awesome play house for your kiddos. Win / win.
If you want to read more about this amazing mattress (and the amazing Canadian company behind it), check out their website here.
What have you found to be the best tips for getting a bit more shut eye with a new baby?
Disclosure: This post was sponsored by Olive Sleep. All opinions are my own.