By Rebecca Vonce
Ahh, the joys of being a first-time parent! You probably pulled your fair share of all-nighters in high school or spent sleep-deprived nights up studying in college. And you may have thought those days were in the past, but aren’t you wrong. Being a first-time parent is one of the most exciting things that will ever happen to you and the adventures and experiences you’re bound to share with your new family are endless, but it doesn’t come without its struggles
Before your first child arrives there is plenty of work you can do to prepare yourself and your house. From making the nursery sleep-friendly, to stocking up on formula and baby food, baby-proofing areas of the home and more—those are all great. The one thing you can’t get ready for physically, however, is the lack of sleep you’re about to experience those first few months. Though we can’t help with that aspect, we’ll do our best to prepare you mentally for those sleep-deprived nights as a first time parent!
Ask for Help
If you’re lucky to live close to or around either your or your spouse's family, take advantage of it! Babies bring people together and make them happy like nothing else, so you’re sure to have no shortage of family who want to be around and make your newest addition the center of attention. While it may feel like a circus of people in and out wanting to visit, don’t be afraid to ask for help from time to time.
The mental strain the first few months take on you can’t truly be described until you experience it. One study found that new parents lose nearly two hours of sleep per night, which is almost four hours between you and your spouse. Knowing the positive correlation between sleep and mental health, you may find yourself beginning to struggle mentally with this lack of rest. Exploring online psychiatry services for you and your spouse and talking to a professional about any problems you may be sharing can be helpful. Whether you are prescribed medication to help or learning of other strategies to cope, asking for help and talking to someone else helps take some of the burden of stress off your shoulders.
Forget Your Sleeping Schedule
When you have a baby, you quickly realize your world revolves around them, and this includes when, where, and how you sleep. As we talked about above, new parents can quickly become sleep deprived. The best way to combat this is to sleep when your baby sleeps. Is your child taking an 8am nap right after being fed? Take advantage of it. Whatever and whenever the case may be, these are easy times that you can rest for a bit, knowing your baby is occupied getting some sleep as well.
Readjust Your Day to Day, Then Readjust Again
When your baby is getting sleep, you may be tempted to quickly do as many household activities as possible. You shouldn’t feel pressure, however, to be productive all the time. Where before having your child you may have been set in a daily routine, that becomes tougher with a newborn around. Much of your day will depend on their sleep schedule and how they are feeling or acting, so be prepared to stay nimble and move your plans around. Getting things done with a baby can be a certain learning curve, but definitely doable. From breaking down your normal routines to smaller ones and finding new ways to de-stress, you’ll be glad this new you is flexible and ready for anything.
Make Lifestyle Changes
You already know by now what helps you sleep regularly, but what about when your sleep schedule is dependent on what your baby decides to do? There are a few easy lifestyle changes you can make to have a better night’s rest.
- Cut back on alcohol at night. Alcohol disrupts our internal circadian rhythm, and when your sleep schedule is thrown-off in the first place from your baby, you don’t need another factor messing with your sleep schedule.
- Whether it’s coffee, tea, or energy drinks, these all contain caffeine to get you up and keep you going. Consuming these close to bedtime can have adverse effects on your ability to fall asleep, so do your best to cut them out well before you plan on sleeping.
- Reducing usage of electronic devices close to bed and in bed can help your body begin to shut down and rest from reduced exposure to blue light.
Bringing a newborn home is an exciting time. From the family members stopping by to watching your little one grow, you’re in for the time of your life! Taking care of your mental health those first few months when you’re sleep-deprived can be a challenge but something you will learn as time goes on.
Rebecca is a mother of two both under age 6. She spends her days walking her dog and taking family trips to local museums and parks. When Rebecca isn’t enjoying time with her family, she likes writing about her experiences as a mother and specifically sharing wellness tips for parents.