Get on a Schedule
Sleep deprivation is no joke. Although veteran moms regale their peers with stories of falling asleep at dinner or groggily loading dirty clothes into the dishwasher, many new moms bravely assume they can tough it out for a few more weeks. But the fact is this: Sleep is a vital component in the health of all living things. It's how the body physically and mentally repairs itself. Sleep is so important to our well-being that humans will rapidly deteriorate and die within a week of sleeplessness.
While new parents won't keel over from frequently interrupted slumber, they certainly suffer from the myriad negative effects sleep loss induces, including irritability, lack of concentration, reduced decision-making skills, and loss of emotional control. Lack of sleep also impairs the immune system, making people more susceptible to illness, and often leads to an increased appetite and sluggish metabolism—the perfect recipe for weight gain. So what's a weary parent to do? Consider these suggestions from real moms who survived their days of haze.
Cindy Prichett, mother of two children under age three, says she learned the hard way that taking a laissez-faire attitude toward baby schedules was affecting her entire family. She explains, "With my first son, I just fed him every time he cried, never thinking whether the problem was actually hunger or if it could be overstimulation, discomfort, or a dirty diaper."
By the time her son was six weeks old, Prichett says she was "a mental case" from lack of sleep. "I snapped at my husband, cried constantly, and even resented my little baby for his short naps."
The second time around, Prichett put her newborn daughter on a regular schedule of feeding, playing, and sleeping. "Because of the consistent routine, she slept at regular intervals, so I could sleep, too. She also started sleeping through the night—about eight hours—after only about two months," shares Prichett. "By six months, she was sleeping 12 hours a night."
"That whole thing about 'sleep when the baby sleeps' only works if you have one baby," Prichett says, "but when you've got a new baby plus a two-year-old running amok, there's no way to nap when the baby naps, so you've got to buckle down and get the whole family on a routine."