Inevitably, losing patience with baby not sleeping happens to us all.
Unless you’re one of those rare parents of a newborn who sleeps well from day one – how does that even happen?
So right now, here’s my confession.
I can stand side by side with billions of new parents with newborn babies, in solidarity, and agree precisely how much sleep deprivation hurts.
My newborn baby is 3 weeks old at the time of writing this, and it’s 6.20pm in the evening.
Every night’s something different.
Basically, there’s just not enough sleep. I wake up in the morning a mixture of fuzziness, grumpiness and tearfulness.
My body hurts, my head hurts. I’m a wreck.
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Losing Patience With Baby Not Sleeping
The middle of the night is the worst when sitting upright in bed while he’s suckling on my boob for the tenth time since 10 pm.
But you know what? An early morning 10-minute brisk walk after breakfast is helping loads.
Takes a bit of willpower I admit.
I take the dog out after the baby’s early feed, and that fresh winter air wakes me up better than coffee. It’s the best thing.
Yet it’s not only mums with babies who suffer sleep deprivation.
In fact, an overly worried mind and poor sleep tend to come together.
The Newborn Phase
It’s hard to tell which causes which?
Whether anxiety/stress comes first, or lack of sleep?
But what’s clear is that when the two exist together, it’s a nightmare.
Sleep deprivation especially in the newborn phase, can be a precursor to postpartum depression and mood swings, so it’s important to sort out sleep as a priority.
Yes, sleepless nights are somewhat expected when you’re a new parent, but this is where you, the mother, need help to help you sleep when you can.
Below are helpful tips to support new parents to at least get some sleep, to help you feel human again.
First, try hard not to panic.
I know the fears around needing to go to somewhere or be with the kids and not being able to function the next day. It’s horrible.
But it’s worsened by panicking about that at 2am when you can’t sleep.
Feelings of panic will mean you’ll literally start losing your patience with the baby, which is not what we want at all.
If it’s nightime and your baby is asleep, but you can’t sleep, I suggest getting up, grabbing a herbal tea (camomile & honey is soothing) and spending half an hour reading a book.
Or listening to a podcast or anything relaxing like a meditation or nice music.
You’ll find if you can make yourself a bit yawny, you’ll fall asleep quicker when you go back to bed.
Tossing and turning, and checking the clock will only stress you out even more.
During the day, when you’re feeling sleepy, rest.
Making sure there’s a safe place for your baby or someone to watch over them while you sleep is essential. This is where a kind family member steps in if you’re fortunate enough to have that.
Don’t try and be the hero and tell everyone you’re fine when you’re not by the way which is stupidly what I did.
If you need someone to watch the baby and no one offers, bloody well ask! You are a human with biological needs, and sleep is something you can’t live without.
So, get help, and get to bed lady.
Also, sleep training aside, night wakings in your newborn are very normal.
They need to wake up to feed, so don’t let that worry you. Again, normal. Just tough on you for a while, at least.
Creating a nice bedroom environment will help get a good ish night’s sleep, and may also help calm your baby if the smell is something soothing or familiar.
Clean sheets are particularly nice during night feedings when you’ll naturally be grumpy as hell.
Also, calm lighting before going to bed such as a little night lamp or a reading lamp is a good idea. It helps you relax and promote some quiet time.
You may even drift off into a deep sleep for an hour or so which, trust me, will keep you going in the witching hours.
If you’ve not yet brought one of those night lamps for babies, do so.
The ones which play soothing lullabies, such as this one.
A few drops of lavender oil in a burner, or lavender pillow spray work wonders to promote relaxation when you’re at your wits end dealing with your crying baby. I love these sprays for their gorgeous smells.
Chamomile oil is excellent to calm the mind and body. Lavender too is a great relaxant.
Don’t go to bed if you’re not sleepy either.
This is something I cottoned onto a long time ago. If you’re not sleepy, wait until you’re sleepy.
Sounds basic, but perhaps you’re trying to force yourself to sleep when you need to wait for your mind and body to be tired enough to sleep.
And your circadian rhythm is all out of sync when you’ve just had a baby, so if you’re feeling surprisingly sprightly at 1am, then so be it.
This works the other way too. Go to be super early if your baby is sleeping and you’re feeling shattered.
Giving yourself a chance to grab any sleep you can is my best advice.
Relax before bed
This is a really important thing to do. Making yourself do something relaxing before bed. If you’re other half can look after the baby for a bit, that’s a bonus.
A half an hour of reading time is my top choice, but other recommendations are a hot bubble bath, listening to relaxing music and a guided meditation, or a form of writing such as journaling.
Soon, you won’t need to force yourself to relax, you’ll start to enjoy that bit of self-care and look forward to it. Relaxation also helps with mental health in the early days of motherhood.
I know you won’t feel like relaxing, and you’ll resent having to try, but please do.
Your baby will naturally be calmer as a reflection of your calmer self (these babies sense stuff you know)
Take the baby or children outside, even in the garden or park for 10 minutes will help you feel more energised and able to function.
A walk in the fresh air will do you so much good BUT you won’t feel like doing it. You do need to pull yourself by the scruff of the neck, grab your coat and DO IT.
And if you do, you’ll feel better instantly, plus you’ll get a boost of feel good endorphins which will make you happier when you return home and enjoy a warm cuppa with a slice of cake.
Exercise is also number one when it comes to helping battle mental health problems.
Baby’s Clock (lack of)
Understanding that your baby isn’t on the same time scale as you goes a long way to letting go of the short-temperedness you may feel.
I find it so frustrating that mums are bombarded with “How to get your kids to sleep longer” sleep training talk when they only make us feel shittier than we feel already.
I’ve taken a ‘day by day’ approach to my children’s sleep patterns.
I’ve tried everything from changing the bedtime routine to co-sleeping to bedside cots to double beds to sleeping on the couch while toddler plays at 3am.
This is what it’s like with young children.
Whatever you can do to get some sleep is what works and I certainly don’t listen to all the should’s and what if’s online. You do what works for you.
With this comes the topic (again) of naps. YOU NEED TO NAP.
You really must nap!
Whether it’s when the baby sleeps or not, napping is essential to maintain functional levels of normality.
You’ll lose patience much quicker if you’re simply not getting any sleep. So please take naps.
Bye Bye Phones
Let’s talk phones for a sec.
Get them out of your bedroom, and certainly don’t look at them right before going to bed.
Phones are designed to be looked at.
The same goes for social media.
Therefore, it makes sense that for us to be calm and restful before bed, we shouldn’t look at our phones.
They’ll only make us more alert.
The blue light emitted from our phones suppresses the sleep hormone Melatonin, and therefore keeps us awake longer.
If you’re struggling to sleep the number one thing you can do is not look at your phone right before bed.
And really try not looking at it during nighttime feeding either as this will make it harder to fall back asleep when baby sleep time eventually happens.
Do a brain dump. My favourite form of getting your mind clearer, is to grab a piece of paper and write down everything.
Literally, all your to do’s, your worries, self doubts, whatever’s on your mind at that time. You can do a dump in list form, or just scribble away.
If you find your mind too busy before going to bed, this is a great thing to do.
I always advise to keep a notepad by your bed, in-case you wake in the night and need to dump any worries onto paper.
Get Help & Support
Reach out to those who can help you, such as your healthcare provider, your parents or friends.
Sleep deprivation can have profound effects, and make motherhood miserable in the early days.
Get professional advice from your GP/medical professional if you’re struggling.
Sleep is necessary for our bodies to regenerate and renewing abilities, and it helps boost our immune system.
We do need sleep, it’s compulsory. It’s not an option not to sleep!
So don’t feel bad about going to the doctor and asking for help.
When you’re feeling exhausted the most obvious thing to do is load up on caffeine, right?
From a wellness perspective, you should drink water!
And a lot of it.
Lack of water has been associated with depression and anxiety, as well as other mental health challenges.
So, skip the coffee and drink water instead.
Or if you tell yourself you can’t live without coffee, drink a glass of water for every caffeine drink you have to help balance things out.
Be Kind to Yourself
Angry outbursts and negative feelings are expected in the early days after having a baby, with hormones being so erractic, very low energy levels and of course, sleep being none existent.
So don’t add to your feelings of frustration by being hard on yourself.
Remind yourself how well you’re doing, how this is an adjustment phase and that it will end eventually.
Babies do sleep! And when they do, so should you.
I hope this post has been useful for you. Please share it if so!