You’ll know a woman is a new mom by the way she squints her eyes every minute or two or how she tries to yawn discreetly every chance she gets. Taking care of a baby, especially one who doesn’t have a regular sleeping pattern yet, can be tiring. Couple that with the fact that mom is still recovering from childbirth and you’ve got a recipe for exhaustion.
Jenny Inumerable, art director and mom of Ripley, recalls: “The first three months was one of the most difficult as a new mom. As first-time parents, my husband and I had to figure out our daughter’s different cries, to know when she’s hungry and when she made wee wee and poop. It was a lot of sleepless nights with a newborn baby.”
Maita de Jesus, mom of Evita, editor, and blogger over at The Best of Every Day, says, “When I was still in the hospital, fresh from giving birth, I don’t think I slept a wink. If I remember correctly, on Evita’s second day, she was wailing inconsolably, even when I was breastfeeding her round the clock. The next thing I knew, it was already morning, and maybe we both collapsed or fainted or whatever, but I think I blinked and fell asleep for a bit.”
“When we brought her home, the first two months were challenging, to say the least. Her sleeping patterns were so erratic, I was dealing with a short supply of breastmilk to feed her, and it seemed like every other day, both of us would end up crying. She was crying because, well, she was a baby who needed to be fed/put to sleep/changed, while I was just plainly exhausted,” adds Maita.
Parents losing sleep over their little ones is not news. But it’s important to emphasize that not getting enough sleep, apart from being totally unhealthy, could contribute to mom having pospartum blues.
Maita says, “I dealt with it the way mothers before me have done so: I just did. I rolled with the punches, prayed to God for her nap to last a little longer than it usually does. During my maternity leave, I slept when she slept, and that really helps. If I was too exhausted, I would cry, sometimes right beside her, or sometimes while holding her. It would only last for a few minutes, but it’s what I needed to release the heavy feeling and just keep soldiering on.”
By the time Ripley was three months old, Jenny and her husband had figured out her sleep patterns, cues, and habits. She says, “We read lots of books and articles on sleep schedules for babies and we were able to do it by the fourth month. We always have a routine of giving her a warm bath and massage, breastfeeding, burping, singing, and lulling her to sleep before putting her on the crib by 7PM. It also helped that we made sure that the room has a night light on and that we listen to classical music at night. Another trick is we do the “shhhh-ing” sound or talking to her using a soothing voice when we know she’s sleepy already. We made sure that the baby can sleep even if it’s noisy (usually the TV was on) outside.”
If you’re a new mom, and having a hard time catching up on sleep, here are a few moves which you might want to make:
Say no to extra work. Whether you’re a working mom, a work-at-home mom, or a stay-at-home mom, don’t take on any additional responsibility. You might want to take on a new project at work or host your neighborhood’s next playdate to prove to everyone that you can still do everything that you used to. Don’t! You’re just going to exhaust yourself. Reserve your energy so that you can take care of your baby and yourself—remember that you’re still recovering from childbirth.
Say yes to extra help. If your mother-in-law offers to take care of baby for the afternoon, say yes immediately. Don’t take that afternoon to catch up on your chores or to meet up with friends, go to sleep. You need to!
Sleep when baby sleeps. We’ve often heard of this advice but how many of us actually follow it? Most moms, when their babies are asleep, would take the time to wash the dishes or catch the latest episode of their favorite television series. Forget the dishes; your husband can wash them. Forget the show; you can always catch it online. Go to sleep while you can so that you are energized and refreshed when baby wakes up.
Be conscious of the blues. If you’re sleep deprived, you are more likely to experience mood changes. But there’s a difference between being unhappy because you’re not getting enough sleep and feeling devastated because you’re experiencing postpartum depression. Be mindful of your feelings and when in doubt, consult your doctor.
Let hubby in on the sleepless nights ‘fun.’ Jenny says, “Ask for your husband’s help during sleep time or whenever your baby wakes up in the middle of the night. We would tag team and ask the other person’s help when we are really exhausted and sleepy too… It will also help you bond with your husband because of the shared responsibility of taking care of your newborn baby.”
Keep your head up! Maita says, “Just keep at it. Consider those sleepless nights as your battle scars. Once you get out of that phase alive, you’ll feel invincible. You’ll have a newfound appreciation and feeling of unity with all moms, thinking that my God, you must be one heck of an amazing woman to raise a human being, with no sleep, just sheer love and determination.”
Keep your sense of humor. When all else fails, just grin and bear it. Jenny reassures new moms: “Be patient about the sleepless nights because it too shall pass.”