When I started my blog I was very aware that although I have a huge amount of experience working with families and children, this is my first time as a mum.
Nothing really prepares you.
There is so much information out there about how to look after your baby; how to feed, how to bathe them, how to play… but hardly anything about how to look after yourself.
One of the things I have found the hardest about being a new mum is the lack of sleep.
People tell you it is going to be hard. They make jokes about it but not many people are brutally honest about how it affects your health, both physical and emotional.
So I started writing. I wanted to share my story so that it becomes less daunting to admit you are struggling and it becomes easier to ask for help.
You need to know that you not alone.
However, this story may not be for you if your baby is sleeping well or if you are looking for professional sleep advice.
I am not a sleep consultant I am just a parent who had it tough.
Sleep was a struggle from the beginning.
One of the first issues in my pregnancy was poor sleep and constantly waking up through the night.
Then, as a new born, Ray was the loudest in the hospital, keeping everyone awake.
Our first days at home were tough. I remember spending the 2nd night with both my hubby and my mum in the living room. We all took turns trying to settle the baby who screamed the house down.
Things didn’t really improve.
Other mums’ talked about things settling for them and their babies – but it wasn’t the case for us and I started to feel exhausted, properly physically exhausted, and worried.
During the first 7 months Ray was feeding to sleep and waking up every other hour.
Breast feeding was also a struggle. I had a low milk supply and I was expressing for what seemed like hours every night. I also remember that on Xmas Eve I was ringing the breastfeeding support line and spent most of the day trying to get through to someone.
Ray is now 15 months old and much more active in the day and the last 7 months have felt better, but still, we hardly sleep more than 3 hours in one go. Such a prolonged and sustained lack of sleep is debilitating and I was worrying it was affecting my ability to be a mum. Mum guilt is the worst. But anxiety and real health problems are very real consequences of sleep deprivation.
The Real Impact of Lack of Sleep
For new mums sleep deprivation can lead to pain and a delay in recovering from a C section and the pregnancy aftermaths (carpal tunnel, ribs aches, stomach muscle separation, muscle aches …I’m still having physio).
Most days I have headaches due to tiredness. I even had an eye test to check my vision.
Other physical effects include low energy, feeling constantly physically drained after a few hours of being awake and struggling with everyday chores. Again, this is where if you are not careful mum guilt can kick in. This isn’t laziness. It’s not excuses.
Often new mums who are tired struggle with weight, eating at odd hours, or having a poor diet. IBS and indigestion, even reflux carried over from pregnancy are common problems among new mums, it becomes a vicious cycle – you end the day moody and tearful and struggle to sleep.
Being overtired means you are often hyper vigilant. I get jumpy when my hubby moves in bed worried that I’ve fallen asleep holding the baby. I actually remember googling if you can fall asleep standing up!
What made it Harder
I know a lot was to do with hormones as a new mum and I know I have a very active child, some days I think I will need to test him for ADHD. COVID has made things ten times worse: it stopped playgroups, stopped childcare support and reduced access to friends and family and support.
One of the less talked about problems is around health professionals not having resources or being able to offer solutions. Some GP’s and Health Visitors although they mean well will often normalise sleep problems (my kid was like that, first time mum?)
- having a routine. Using tools like Sleep Eat Play* means that the baby knows what is coming next and feels secure, and, more importantly, when you are tired you have a strategy to support you.
- using the time when baby does sleep to focus on one thing at a time – prioritise what makes you feel better, housework or study for example
- catch up on sleep regularly by asking family and friends to help when they can
- meeting friends and taking time to refocus on you
- talking to other mums to share successes and tips
- acknowledging some days are just hard…
The long-term effects of sleep deprivation and its impact on your health and quality of life are very real.
Having a life coach can help you develop a positive mindset and increase your ability to make choices. Having a regular check in with someone you can share the stresses with and learn strategies to help you manage the effects of a lack of sleep and the general worries of being a new mum can be invaluable.
Get in touch and find out how I can help.