For Moms

How to Handle Sleep Deprivation as a New Mom

Aaah, sleeping!

One of the greatest life’s pleasures, right?

Also having kids is an immense joy, do you agree?

But for some weird trick of nature, the two things don’t really coexist very well, at least at the beginning.

Here’s when you really experience sleep deprivation. Wondering how you’re going to survive?

I got you covered, so keep reading.

Someone up there must have thought something like, do you want to feel the greatest love you could possibly imagine and brag around about having the divine power of procreation? Then:

  1. You shall bear your children in pain and
  2. For at least, and I mean at least, the first year of motherhood, forget about sleeping!”


For the first one we all know it has something to do with an apple (as if it were a crème bruleè covered in Nutella), but for the second.. What in the world have we done?

But do not fear, dear mama.

While sleep deprivation is definitely not be underestimated, on the flip side, it’s also temporary. Keep in mind both these things while we figure out together how to handle it.

We can do this!

Best Tips to Overcome Sleep Deprivation

1. Be Mentally Prepared

During pregnancy, I bet your heard from moms or your midwife/OB-Gyn telling you to rest until you can.

Sounds familiar?Well, it all makes sense after you’ll have your baby.

Not that sleeping 15 hours a day before giving birth to your child will help you feel more rested when you’ll have to take care of her day and night.

If we could all stash and store some sleep, we’d have the solution: sleep like a hibernating bear for the last trimester and the problem is solved.

Unfortunately it doesn’t work like that.

Surely, sleeping a lot during the last months of pregnancy offers multiple benefits for you and your baby.

One of these is to enjoy the freedom of being able to sleep whenever you want and experience all the physical and mental benefits.

But that’s not it.

What I’m trying to say here, is that being well rested will give you the chance to be mentally prepared to the fact that, for a while, things will be different. But also that it’s absolutely normal.

It might sound crazy, but accepting in your heart and mind that it’ll be hard sometimes having to get up 4 or 5 times a night without having the chance to recover during the day, really helps.

So instead of cursing in ancient Aramaic, maybe you’ll have some breathing exercises ready for when things get tough 🙂 Or whatever helps you reconnect with your zen!

2. Keep in Mind That it’s Only Temporary

Consider that each situation can be very different: some babies sleep even too much during the first months (you actually have to wake them up to make sure they’ll eat) and might start waking up more often when they’re 6 months old and you already thought you got lucky.

Other babies are insatiable from day one and want to eat or seek comfort every hour of the day and night.

Some others eat on average every two hours, but might have colic or reflux or need a lot of skin-contact. Or they might just be enraged for being out in the world instead of comfy in your belly 🙂

There’s really no way to predict how it’ll be. What you can bet on is that, for one reason or another, you’ll have to get up often.This can lead you to feel frustrated, exhausted and, in some cases, even angry.

When you realize you’re feeling any of these things remind yourself that it’s only temporary and in time, your baby sleep pattern will get longer and more consistent.

Don’t let your frustration get the best of you.

If you really feel overwhelmed, step away for a minute, unleash a Tarzan-style-scream in your pillow and go back when you feel better.

In case the feeling is still hanging in your throat, do not hesitate (and most importantly, do not feel ashamed) to talk to someone who can help you.

3. Take Advantage of Your Baby’s Naps

I know that sleeping on command is not easy at all. I’m a living example of that.

Even when you’re completely burnt out, there are tons of factors that could stop you from falling asleep:

  • all the things you feel like you’re neglecting (errands, chores, etc)
  • the thousands of new-mom’s emotions
  • hormones
  • being overtired (yep, it’s not an issues only for children)
  • the desire of finally having a moment for yourself
  • maybe you’d like to take a shower (and possibly shave)
  • and so on, and oooon….

All these reasons can be a true repellent for your sleep, I know.

Here’s when you have to learn how to prioritize what’s more important.

Sleep is primary need and I strongly suggest to treat it as such.

This means that chores can wait, along with your favorite tv show, while for what concerns hormones and being overtired, you can learn how to handle them.

Try getting into bed or at least lie down, with soft or no lights on, turn your tv off or whichever is your usual bedtime atmosphere. Trust me, in few minutes your eyes will close.

A 20 minutes nap is still better than nothing.

4. Ask ANYONE for Help

With this I mean not to hesitate to ask for help from your spouse or partner, your mom, your brother or sister, aunt, or your neighbor’s granma’s cousin (if necessary… And it WILL be necessary sometimes, trust me).

And when they show up at your door, forget about the mess or the hospitality standards with appetizers and drinks.

They can find the fridge.Just say “Hi,” and “Thank you,” leave the little one and throw yourself in bed with and Gold medal dive.

As soon as you’ll see the pattern in your baby’s sleep, getting organized will also get easier.

For example, some breastfeeding moms can pump their milk so that their partners can get up and feed the baby, while others prefer to get up at night and then have someone else helping during the day.

Whichever is your routine, find those moments when you can seek support and do not hesitate to ask for it.

In my case for instance, my son was like a Swiss clock and, for the first months, he would eat exactly every 2 hours. Unfortunately though, he also had pretty bad baby colic until he was 9 months old (yep, you got that right!)

This made everything a little more unpredictable, although we managed to find our pace, even without much help. Often after breastfeeding him, I would lie down on the couch while holding him and we’d both take our nap just like that: in a koala-style hug.

At night I used to go to sleep around 10 pm after feeding him and my hubby stayed up until 4 am, handling his colic and feeding him with pumped milk.

Then I’d wake up at 6 with the baby and he’d sleep until noon, and so on.

5. Do Some Exercise

Wait, what?I know, you’re thinking I’m completely insane.

Sleep deprivation does that to you sometimes, but I assure you this is not the case. I completely recovered before writing this article :)I’m not saying you should do heavy lifting or go climb the K2 (unless you like that).

Even one short 15 minutes walk a day is fine.

Exercising helps in many way. Let me show you some:

  • it leads to that muscular fatigue that’ll allow you to sleep on command more easily
  • It often pushes new-moms to get out and enjoy some fresh air and a couple of UV rays, which are good both for you and the baby
  • It helps you establish a healthy routine
  • It improves and speeds up postpartum recovery
  • It prevents the infamous “cabin-fever,” which you might experience when you feel forced at home for long period of time in order to take care of your child.

As an ex-personal trainer and athlete, I could stay here forever listing the benefits of daily exercise, even if in small doses.

But I’ll just say that, for how crazy it may sound, a good walk or a couple of abs exercises will help you sleep better and more often. Especially because your child will benefit from it too.

And if she sleeps better… See point #3.

It seems weird that, right when you’re experimenting the most draining mental and physical exhaustion of your life, I show up saying that burning some calories and stretching your muscles will actually help, right?

And yet, that’s exactly how it is.

The above mentioned divinity was right: you won’t sleep much for a while, but you’ll experience way more joy and rewards.

Always keep this in mind and it’ll get easier.

Not trying to sound to negative here, but you really need to make your peace with it because, even when you’ll think that your baby finally got into a more human sleep pattern, there comes the teething, night terror, or potty training, or growth spurs.

Hence, there will always be something every now and then.

However, that’s exactly how it has to be.

So don’t make the same mistakes I made. When your baby starts sleeping through the night, still go to bed early and enjoy your 8 hours of sleep. Because at the first molar or belly pain or flu, I promise you’ll be grateful.

Let’s Recap

  1. Be mentally prepared
  2. Keep in mind it’s only temporary
  3. Take advantage of her naps
  4. Ask ANYONE for help
  5. Do some exercise

Soon, you’ll have to ring Tibetan bells to wake her up and you’ll end up looking at the sky saying: “Haven’t I already done my penance?”

There you’ll hear a big fat diabolic laugh in response rising from within.

But no worries mama, motherhood is not a Medieval torture.. Cross my heart! 🙂

Hi there!
I'm Isabella, an Italian mom living is the US and founder of Mama Made in Italy. I'm married to Scott and we have a beautiful "half-blood" son named Ethan (yes, I'm a huge Harry Potter fan!). We're planning on making an entire tribe of half-bloods :)

At my bilingual blog I write all about life changes, which include motherhood, change of career or moving abroad.

We often hear saying that "after having a baby, everything changes" and it's the truth.

But I've found that too many moms struggle with it and start feeling stuck or end up quitting on their dreams or ambitions.

That's why my passion is to help mamas all around the world hold on to those dreams and create a life they really love, wherever it may be.

And with a touch of humor, which is always good for the soul :)

Check out my most popular post "10 tips for Tired Mamas"

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