New data shows parents' sleep is reduced by a whopping 58% after they have a baby. Amanda Cassidy on the precious commodity of sleep and the reality after a newborn arrives.
It’s a piece of advice you will always hear – sleep when the baby sleeps, but for many, that’s just not feasible. We complain about being up all night but what does that actually mean for the average parent of newborns?
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Now, for the first time, an analysis has been done by Sleep Junkie on children aged 18 months and younger (and their parents) to find out what really goes on with this little dribbler once the sun goes down.
They found that an incredible 109 minutes of sleep is lost every night after having a baby, with the majority of new parents getting just five hours of sleep a night. (Health experts recommend over seven hours a night for optimum good health.)
Baby on board
According to the survey, a typical day also sees parents spending around 41 minutes a day driving around to try to get their baby asleep – the equivalent of driving 20 miles a day.
"I once left the house proudly showing off my new baby girl with gloves on her feet instead of socks".
All parents will be familiar with the driveway nap - sitting outside the house or in the carpark waiting for little one to finish their snooze, petrified to move in case they wake up all over again.
Being a new parent is a whirlwind where you feel like you walk marathons up and down the hallways at night trying to soothe your unsettled baby. In reality, the survey found that parents walk for roughly one hour 21 minutes a day to try and get their baby asleep – that works out at about 4.23 miles! That's some decent exercise right there, ladies.
And then there are the consequences of the sleep deprivation. I once left the house proudly showing off my new baby girl with gloves on her feet instead of socks. My mother-in-law gently pointed it out but I still cried. I often found the coffee sitting on the shelf in the fridge and frequently discovered my clothes were on inside out.
Luckily, we are not alone. One new mama told us that she brushed her teeth with nappy rash cream that was beside the sink.
While another admitted that she poured a bottle of milk onto the floor completely missing the sink. Lack of sleep equals a lack of coordination.
Sleep comes dropping slow
Sleep is a luxury that unfortunately we only discover after we have children. It's no wonder some snigger at those without children complaining of being tired – they have no concept of what that really means to be exhausted. All those glorious lie-in's we took for granted in our 20s!
"As a first-time parent, it important to remember everything is a phase, good and bad, but it will eventually pass".
So apart from surviving on such little sleep as we watch our little one grow, is there anything else we can do to make things a little less, well, chaotic? Sleep experts Renee Learner and Hayley Bolton from Forty Winks sleep consultancy gave us this advice:
“During the first months of life, it is normal for babies to wake frequently at night. Night feeding is important for newborn’s growth. As babies get older, they begin to separate night from day until they reach the age when they can sleep all night. We do not recommend sleep training in the first few months but we do recommend introducing a consistent bedtime routine for babies. We feel this makes good sleepers.
What about a bedtime routine?
"The bedtime routine should be relaxing and predictable with the same things happening every night at this about the same time. The routine could include a bath or a body wash, a massage, putting on nightclothes, milk, a story, a lullaby under dim lighting, for example.
How to do it:
Learn to tell when your baby sleepy; being less active, making a few noises, being less interested in their surroundings, looking distressed, eyes are less focused, eyelids drooping.
Put your baby down to sleep when he or she is drowsy but still awake.
Make night-time calm by keeping the room dark, talking quietly and avoiding eye contact as little as possible. (They will just want to say away and play if you catch their eye!)
Remember don’t include things in the bedtime routine that you are not happy to repeat every night
As a first-time parent, it important to remember everything is a phase, good and bad, but it will eventually pass.
Sleep deprivation can have a huge impact on your mental well-being so be sure to ask family and friends for their help or a break if you need one - none of us are superheroes.
The morning is a great time to get sunlight for you and baby which will aid sleep. Enjoy a stroll together or meet friends if you need some company.
To help your own sleep:
Create a sleep haven in your bedroom- soft lighting, lavender scents, and cosy pillows.
Be aware of your caffeine intake throughout the evening if you are struggling to sleep.
Do not feel guilty for having an early night if you need one if you can share the load with a partner/family throughout the night then do!
Reduce your own screen time before sleep -take time to relax as often as you can."
This too shall pass
Remember, this stage doesn’t last forever and they are not little for long. So enjoy those sleepy, moonlight feeds snuggled up together when it seems like the rest of the world is asleep, and that you are the only two people in the entire universe.
Images via Unsplash.com
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