Freelancers: How to improve your sleep as a new parent
This fortnight, we are focusing on ways to improve sleep. Rumour has it that being a freelance parent to a newborn makes sleep a challenge, so we enlisted the help of Nicole Ratcliffe, owner and sleep consultant at Baby2Sleep, to find out her top tips.
As a freelancer, you might find your natural personality makes it difficult to do the following with a newborn baby:
- Ask for help or admit you need help
- Take a break and sleep when your baby sleeps
- Say no to additional work
It is what makes you who you are and is why you are good at what you do. Freelancers need to have strong will and determination to remain motivated. However, when you have a baby, you may need to let a few things slide and the best way you can do this is to prepare yourself.
Here are some top tips on improving your sleep with a newborn:
1. Be realistic about what you will be able to do
If your baby hasn’t arrived yet, talk to your partner or friends about what you will and won’t be able to do once your baby arrives, especially if you will be having a C-Section.
See if there is anything your friends and family can do to help, such as bringing you food, watching your baby while you shower, or holding baby while you eat.
If your house is a mess, let it be. You and your baby’s sanity and health are more important than whether the dishes are done during nap time or not. If you can’t cope with dirty dishes, get some paper plates and disposable cutlery so they can just be thrown away. Do whatever you can to make your life easier.
There are no awards for keeping a clean house with a newborn baby. Your baby won’t be crawling for a long time, so you won’t have to worry about them getting into things…yet.
2. Ask for help
Decide if you will be breastfeeding or bottle feeding and plan who will do each chore around the house, especially in the early days. If you plan on breastfeeding, expect to have a baby attached to you a lot in the very early days while you establish your milk supply and get a good latch.
If finances allow, you could hire a doula or nanny for a few hours every few days to give yourself a break.
An important tip: Don’t make the brews. If people pop round to see you and the baby, they can make you a (*cough* - decaff) brew. Don’t fall into the trap of being the perfect host, you have just given birth and need looking after.
If you can get these small bits of help, you will naturally feel less stressed which should help you sleep better at night, and get some work done once you feel completely comfortable to go back to work.
3. Only go back to work when you are ready
If you can sleep a little better at night, you will feel like you can do a bit of work and still be productive, rather than staring at a blank screen in frustration and exhaustion.
If you need your hands free, use a sling for naps. You will still be getting the contact of having baby on you, but you will feel less stressed because you have been able to do the jobs that are playing on your mind.
“Sleep when your baby sleeps” is a phrase you will hear a lot, please listen. The first few months fly by. Your work will still be there when you are ready for it.
4. Communicate with your loved ones
Have an open mind about how you may or may not feel and keep the lines of communication with your partner open. Becoming a mum is so overwhelming and it doesn’t matter how prepared you are, hormones will take over and you will become emotional when you least expect it.
If you are sleep deprived, your mood may suffer which is why it is important to talk to your partner. If either of you find that something doesn’t feel right, ask for help whether it be your GP, your health visitor, or whether you look outside of the NHS. There is support for everything, you just need to look for it. Facebook groups are a great place to ask for recommendations of support.
A few extra things to think about with your newborn baby:
- Sleep breeds sleep – don’t keep your baby awake for long periods, they can probably only tolerate 30 – 45 minutes awake in the early days.
- Expose baby to 12 hours of daylight and 12 hours of darkness to help them adjust to life outside the womb. Until a baby is around 12 weeks old, they are unable to produce their own melatonin which helps them to set their circadian rhythm,
- It is normal for babies to wake multiple times in the night, it is an inbuilt protection against SIDS.
- There is no such thing as ‘sleeping through the night’, it is just connecting sleep cycles. Even adults don’t sleep through the night.
- You can introduce a short bedtime and nap routine from as young as 2 weeks old and it can be as simple as a nappy change, a swaddle/sleeping bag and a short story.
Finally, remember that you are embarking on the journey of a lifetime and you will only get to experience these things once. You will have tough days and amazing days. Don’t feel guilty for taking a break or having a nap. You deserve it.