One of the most difficult things about being the parent of a newborn baby is learning how to deal with nighttime parenting stress. Of course, we had all heard the horror stories of babies crying all night. We knew it was coming. Still, until you’ve experienced it once, you never really understand the impact that having a small, needy baby can have on you. Put in the simplest terms, lack of sleep gets stressful. Fast. So, how do you deal with it when you’re at wits end, trying to take care of this little person that you love so much, but who, at the same time, is keeping you from the rest you need to regain a little sanity in your life?
There isn’t one simple answer. We’re all unique people, and we all deal with things differently. However, while there might not be one magical answer that can solve everyone’s nighttime parenting stress, here are several things you can try that may very well work for you.
- Spread the wealth around. Make sure that your partner is doing his or her share of the nighttime parenting. Taking care of a baby at night is a hug undertaking, especially for the first few months. Babies wake up ever 2-4 hours, and need to be taken care of. Figuring an average 8 hour’s worth of sleep per night, that adds up to 2-4 times that you and your partner will be wakened to take care of the baby every night. The more you can alternate, the better off everyone will be. This has the additional benefit of allowing both parents to bond with baby at night.
- Make sure you get as much rest as you can during the day time. When baby takes a nap, lie down and take a nap yourself. If some of the household chores have to wait to let you get some rest, let them wait. Your number one job is taking care of your baby, and you’ll be mush better equipped to do that if you take care of yourself.
- When you are feeling stressed, talk to yourself in soothing tones. This might sound a bit funny, maybe even crazy, but it works for a lot of people. Everyone has a constant inner dialog going on. Right now, yours might be saying something like if I don’t get some sleep soon, I’m going to go crazy! One of the best ways to change your attitude and mood is to start to say to yourself things like We’re going to be just fine. This is something every parent goes through, and I’ll get through it. I am strong, I have a beautiful baby, and I can do this. If you do this while taking care of the baby, your soothing voice can possibly calm both of you.
- Find someone to talk to about your feelings, preferably someone who has been through it before and made it. Ideally, this should be someone who will encourage you. It could be a friend, a parent, and aunt or uncle, or anyone who can listen while you vent for a few minutes. Parenting a newborn can get lonely at times, and it’s important to make a point of retaining some adult contact and relationships in your life.