Coping With Sleep Deprivation and Exhaustion
Giving birth takes a lot of energy, and after labour you'll feel emotionally as well as physically exhausted. You'll need time to get your strength back, which can be quite a long process, as you won't get much sleep in the first few weeks after the birth due whilst caring for your baby day and night. New mothers also have to deal with the emotional stresses of caring for a newborn and adjusting to life as a mother to a new baby, as well as the ordinary stresses of everyday life. If you're breastfeeding, you'll also be burning up lots of energy producing milk, which can make you feel even more tired!
How Can I Recover?
To recover, try to get as much rest as you can. You've probably heard it before, but try to nap when your baby naps. You might feel that when your baby sleeps is the time for you to get things done, but if these tasks aren't absolutely essential, they're not as important as you regaining your strength. You're working hard recovering from the labour at the same time as caring for a newborn, so give yourself a break and make a conscious effort to get as much sleep as possible!
To help you recover, let friends and family help you out. You should focus your energies on caring for yourself and your baby, don't think you have to clean the house or do other chores, you need to recover! If people offer to help, take them up on their offer. Ask your partner to help with any jobs that need doing so you can rest and recover. If you partner doesn't automatically do the household chores, explain to your partner that you would really appreciate them taking the reins as you need time to recover. Your partner should do the lion's share of the household chores until you have recovered from the rigours of childbirth.
Think About Yourself More
As well as trying to grab some sleep whenever you can, you should also make sure you're eating well. Many a new mother has skipped the occasional meal as it's sometimes hard to find time to eat when you've got a newborn to look after, but you need to eat well in order to have the energy to recover. Being hungry will make you feel more tired, as well as irritable. Have food in the kitchen which is quick and easy to prepare, and choose food which you can eat one handed (eating one-handed is a skill you'll quickly learn).
Many new mothers rely on caffeinated drinks and sugary snacks for quick energy boosts. While this is better than going without any sustenance, you should avoid these snacks in favour of high energy foods that release energy slowly, giving you sustained energy. These are foods that are high in complex carbohydrates and protein, such as bananas and nuts. Make sure you're drinking plenty of water too, you'll have lost lots of fluids during delivery so you need to replace these. Breastfeeding mothers need to be especially careful to drink lots of fluids to avoid becoming dehydrated.
How To Make Things Easier
Think about using paid services, such as ordering your food shops online and having them delivered, so you don't have to go out shopping. You might also want to consider hiring a cleaner or using a laundry service to make your life easier in the days and weeks of early motherhood.
If you normally cook meals from scratch, don't put pressure on yourself to keep this up when you've just had a baby. While you shouldn't swap homemade meals for junk food, when doing your food shop look for meals which are quick to prepare and have minimal preparation. Making meals in large batches and freezing them while you're pregnant helps enable you to eat healthy, quick meals when you've had your baby and don't have time to spend an hour preparing food from scratch. Choose foods which have a low GI index if you can, as these release energy over a long period of time, keeping you going for longer. Low GI foods include eggs, seeds, potatoes, nuts and lentils, cereals such as oats and shredded wheat, vegetables such as broccoli, spinach, asparagus, and fruit such as pineapple, cranberries, papaya and dates. Taking a vitamin supplement can also give your diet a boost.
What Should I Do About Visitors?
Don't have visitors over if you aren't feeling up to it. Some visitors will be happy to make themselves drinks and entertain themselves, but don't have visitors round if feel you'll have to 'host', as this will be more of a burden than a help. See our article on Visitors for advice on how to keep visits manageable.
The Physical Causes of Fatigue
If you seem excessively tired, see your doctor to rule out any health problems that can cause fatigue, such as anemia. Having the baby blues or postnatal depression can also cause fatigue. While the baby blues is extremely common and usually goes away after a few days, postnatal depression is serious and longer lasting, so seek help if you think you may be suffering from this.
The first few weeks, and even months of having a new baby are bound to leave you sleep deprived, but to help you get through this tiring time, you have your wonderful, amazing baby to marvel at! After another night where you only get 3 hours sleep, you might wonder how you'll get through it, but you will, and pretty soon your baby will start to sleep better at night and you'll feel more like your normal self.