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7 Ways for New Moms to Cope with Sleep Deprivation

I recently went to a baby shower for a friend who is expecting twins. Instead of the usual “guess how wide the preggo is” or “who can drink this apple juice out of a baby bottle fastest” baby shower games, this mama opted for something a little more intentional – a round table discussion about the reality of being a new mom. As most of the guests had been new moms at some point, my friend smartly took this opportunity to ask candid questions and seek the truth.

A few of her questions were sweet (what traditions did you have with you mother that you cherish?), and some very practical (what was your most-used baby item?)… and one question struck me as funny. She asked the entire table of about 15 moms, “how did you cope with being sleep-deprived with a newborn?” – and a look of knowing washed over the faces of all of the “survivors”.

How do you cope with being sleep-deprived with a newborn? There were thoughtful answers, stumped expressions, and lots of giggles in response. I’ve had some time to think about it, and fortunately I’ve come up with a list of ways for new moms to cope with sleep deprivation.

 

 

  1. Forget that sleep exists, in the sense that you know it right now. From the time your first child is born, until… well, *ever*, you’ll no longer “sleep”. As a mom you will now simply drift into a state of conscious unconsciousness (oh is that a contradictory statement? don’t worry, that’s pretty much what parenting is anyway – one big contradiction). With a newborn in the house, you’ll do everything in this half-asleep/half-awake state, and it will continually confuse you. “Honey, why is the milk in the cupboard?” your husband will ask. And you will reply, “because I was looking for the mayonnaise” – and in your head, it will somehow seem like a reasonable answer.
  2. Focus on what’s important. With a newborn, “most important” will mean feeding the newborn. That’s it. Forget about the vacuum, forget about the shower, forget about the mirror, forget about making dinner (dude, your husband can proooobably prepare some sort of meal. If he’s like SuperHubs, Mountain House freeze-dried meals will come in handy in times like these). You will now solely be responsible for the nutrition of this tiny vampire that just exited your body. Just feed it. Bonus: you can totally “sleep” (see above) while nursing.
  3. Stop researching ways to cope with sleep deprivation. Seriously, you could be “sleeping” right now if you weren’t playing around on your phone. You’re probably spending your “awake” time doing this too. Cut it out, and go close your eyes. (I almost spent us into the poorhouse with my terrible online-shopping-during-nursing habit that I developed after all three babies… take it from me and know that you do NOT make good buying decisions at 3am. Seriously, you DON’T need that weird baby gadget, book that you’ll never have time to read, or 97 pairs of LuLaRoe leggings.)(BUT, the leggings are toooootally great for post-partum comfort. 10 pairs is justifiable, I’d say.)
  4.  But first, coffee. Lots of it. Oh unless you’re nursing, then “only 100-200mg per day”. Which is like the equivalent of licking the side of a coffee cup to catch a drip. So basically just be sleepy. Or drink the coffee and then be awake and riddled with mom-guilt because you’ve drugged your baby. Your choice! (I choose coffee. But just a supersize mom mug lick .) Funny story – SuperHubs and I got a beautiful red coffee maker for our wedding, and it sat on the counter completely unused- until the week after I gave birth to my first child. So basically I don’t feel bad about drinking coffee while nursing because my kids are the reason I even drink coffee now so *basically* they’re doing it to themselves. Right?
  5. Vitamin B. I get shots. Some people take supplements (read: pills the size of a Chapstick). Some people get that spray that you spray under your tongue. Whatever – it works (or at least that’s what I tell myself – “I’m totally awake right now! Wait did I shut off the oven? Where is my left shoe?”).
  6. Exercise. Exercise totally energizes everyone, right? Who wouldn’t want to work out after the marathon that is labor? Or during the marathon of a day that is caring for a baby? Because you know, endorphins and stuff. Just look up some of the many videos on YouTube or Facebook that highlight “how to workout while holding your baby” – and get right on that. I tried to do a workout video recently while carrying Finn in a Bjorn, and boy did that make planking fun. She has great abs now too.
  7. Sleep when baby sleeps. This is a classic piece of advice. I mean, your husband will totally do the dishes, clean the kitchen, finish the laundry, and prepare dinner, all to your normal standards, right? But seriously… sleep when that baby does. Then just get really good at doing everything else one-handed while baby is awake. I’m the one-armed dishwashing QUEEN, y’all.
  8. (Bonus!) Train your baby to sleep at night. HAHAHAHAHA just kidding. What I meant was, train yourself to forget sleep altogether.

Sounds easy, yeah? ? In all seriousness though, moms just… DO. We do it all. Having babies is like being thrown into a snake pit and told to “figure it out”… and we do! It’s our survival instinct.  Your body will naturally adjust to less/diminished quality sleep, and it will still function. You will get help from your husband, your baby will somehow learn how to sleep, and you will navigate this crazy new world just fine. You’ll lean on friends and family, you’ll figure out what works for you, and you’ll field a LOT of advice. You’ll drink your weight in coffee or tea or water or whatever wakes you up, you’ll figure out a new housework schedule or hire a housekeeper or threaten your husband with his life, you’ll figure it all out through lots of trial-and-error – and you’ll probably find the milk in the cupboard more than once. This is parenting… it’s tough, it’s crazy, it’s weird and it’s awesome. Oh, and one of the number-one ways you’ll LOSE sleep after your baby is born? Staying awake to stare at your baby. I won’t tell you to fight that one – I still do it. <3

(And then I just go lick my coffee cup.)

 

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