6 Survival Tips for the Sleep-Deprived Mama

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We all know those first three months are tough. Veteran Moms will try to warn you about how hard it is at first, but you’re not quite there yet so it doesn’t sink in… Really, you’re still trying to cope with the idea of childbirth and dilating to the size of a bagel.

Truth is, once that baby comes into the world, it’s all about survival — not only for your baby but also for you. You’re running on no sleep, have a baby that you can’t fully communicate with quite yet, a home to keep clean, meals to prepare, a nursery to arrange and rearrange…

Stop right there — take a deep breath. Relax.

Here are six tips to help get you through the first three months:

  1. Sleep when your baby’s sleeping. This is the advice everyone will give you… and take it! The first two to three weeks are a huge adjustment. Now you understand what all those moms were trying to warn you about when you were still pregnant… They were right: the struggle is real. Sleep when your baby’s sleeping, and if you have people there to help you, even better: have them babysit in another room while you take as many cat naps as you humanly can. They will pay off when you’re up all night nursing your baby and need the energy.
  2. Do something for yourself at least once a day. It is very easy to feel down when you’re home all day with a newborn. Not only are you exhausted, but you don’t feel like yourself at all: those extra pounds, the lack of muscle tone in your abdomen… you feel fragile from head to toe, and you are. Take the time to do something for yourself every day, even if that means painting your toe nails, reading People magazine, or rearranging your closet (really, whatever floats your boat.)
  3. Allow yourself to depend on your partner once in a while. Props to the moms who can do it on their own. If you are lucky enough to have someone there to help, depend on him or her. Have them babysit while you get that extra hour of sleep in the morning, while you take a quick shower… Remember: you’re in this together. Sometimes it’s hard to give up that control, especially when you’re breastfeeding, but do it for your sanity. Not only will it alleviate some of the pressure, but believe it or not, it will also help your relationship.
  4. There is no such thing as “spoiling” your newborn. A newborn cannot develop any bad habits so early on. So put everything else aside (Facebook and Instagram can wait until nap time) and cuddle your little one. Forget the schedules, rules, and no-no’s and comfort your baby (even if that means he’s sleeping in your bed.)
  5. Give yourself some credit and learn to be patient. The hardest thing to do is stay calm sometimes. Don’t let yourself get overwhelmed (and if you do, let your partner take over for a little while.) Remind yourself that you’re doing a great job as a mom and give yourself a ton of credit for it — it’s the hardest job in the world.
  6. Live in the moment and take it a day at a time. Some days will be amazing and other days will suck. That’s motherhood. Remember to live in the present moment. These three months will soon feel like a distant memory so enjoy them while they’re still here… Your baby won’t stay tiny forever!

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Johanna Riehm teaches in the department of Communication and Media at Manhattanville College and in the department of English at Mercy College. She teaches courses in the history of communication, public speaking, and social media, as well as creative and technical writing workshops. Johanna’s work has been featured in Graffiti Literary Magazine, The Write Place at the Write Time, The Bangalore Review, Cactus Heart Press, and the LaMothe Review. She is working on her first longer work, a creative nonfiction novel called We Carved Our Names in Tamarind Trees.

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