I remember reading blogs, books and posts one after the other, desperately searching for a way to make my son sleep: a) without being nursed to sleep & b) for longer stretches without compromising my beliefs.
I hadn’t known in the early months that my parenting style was rooted in gentle and attachment parenting philosophies, but even after discovering this, I still couldn’t shake the feeling that I simply couldn’t cope on such little, broken sleep for much longer. Something had to change.
My number one tip is probably the most impactful but is likely to be the least popular…acceptance. Yup, I said it, acceptance is the single greatest and most positive thing that has changed in my life and that has helped me to cope with as little as 3-4 hours of (broken!?) sleep a night at times. I don’t simply mean that you should accept your child’s wakefulness and do nothing to help your circumstances.
Accept that your child may not be a solid sleeper right now, but there are things that you can do in the meantime to help your body and mind to get as much rest as possible. If breastfeeding your little one back to sleep helps you all get as much sleep as possible, you should do just that and ignore conventional advice which describes it as a bad habit. Even nursing your babe to sleep overnight can be challenging if they wake up frequently and you struggle to drift back to sleep, but there are things you can do to feel better.
Accept that your child may not be a solid sleeper right now, but there are things that you can do in the meantime to help your body and mind to get as much rest as possible.
My 5 wellness tips for tired mamas
My tried and tested wellness tips for tired nursing mamas are:
1. Never clock watch
Never. I repeat, never ever look at the clock when your little one wakes up overnight. It won’t benefit you in any way and if you’re anything like me it will rob you of even more sleep as you clock watch, wondering if you will ever get back to sleep before your little one wakes up again.
2. Stay hydrated
It makes a massive difference to your body and mind if you are properly hydrated, although you may be sleep-deprived. I’ve gotten into the habit of having a pint of water beside my bed each night, ready to drink first thing in the morning before I get up. This small change makes a real difference to the brain fog that clouds my head the morning after a challenging night.
3. Forget the household chores
Forget anything that is non-essential that doesn’t facilitate you finding opportunities to rest and bond with your baby. If you live with someone, talk to them about how whilst you’re on such night duty, you are going to need to take care of everything else in the home. It won’t be this way forever, but right now it’s what you need. if you live alone, ask your friends and family to help out. Be kind to yourself by putting the pile of laundry out of sight so that it isn’t a constant reminder of everything you think you should be doing. Repeat outfits before you wash them wherever possible and if cooking from scratch is exhausting don’t do it. Ask loved ones to cook for you once a week and forgive yourself for eating more sandwiches and ready meals than you might choose otherwise. Take a breastfeeding multivitamin and add fresh veg and salad to take always to make them more nutritious.
Be kind to yourself by putting the pile of laundry out of sight so that it isn’t a constant reminder of everything you think you should be doing.
4. Rest or sleep when baby sleeps
If you are able to nap during the daytime, it is likely that you already are. If you are not able to, make sure that you go to bed at the same times as your little one(s) each night. Nope, you won’t be able to binge that new Netflix series that everyone is talking about, but the extra hours of sleep that you will get are just so precious. You may be able to squeeze in a whole extra sleep cycle to help you wake up the following day feeling more human and less mombie the next day.
Meditation works wonders for tired minds as a restorative practice. It is scientifically proven to reduce anxiety and depression during pregnancy and beyond (1). Personally, I credit meditation with supporting me through miscarriage, divorce and postpartum anxiety. I learnt of the power of meditation in 2014 when I travelled the foothills of the Himalayas to train as a yoga and meditation teacher. It was every bit as inspiring as it sounds and it transformed my life forever, equipping me with skills for taking care of my mental health and wellness whatever life throws at me. Whether you have practiced meditation before or not, you can listen to a meditation designed specifically to support you to relax and sleep via my YouTube channel.
Life on little sleep is most certainly different, but that does not mean that it cannot still be full of love and joy. You are probably sick of hearing that this season of sleeplessness will not last forever, but whilst it is ongoing, be kind to yourself. Let go of anything unnecessary that does not serve you or your family and do so in the knowledge that you are making the best choices for yourself and them.
These wellness tips for tired mamas are adapted from my book, ‘Self Care: The Breastfeeding Edition’.
Source: 1) /https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/34162788/