Sleep deprivation is an inevitable part of early parenthood. It is a sacrifice that practically comes with the territory, but not without a price that doesn’t only affect you, but your infant as well. On the one hand, parents understand what they are getting into, and while they are ready to deal with sensory overload, negative stimuli and reduced cognitive performance, the increased reactivity can cause them to lash out in front of impressionable child. While the effects of sleep deprivation can be quite surprising for rookie parents, possible solutions are not out of reach.
As baby begins to discern outlines of different faces and, indeed, facial expressions, the infant will become attuned to a range of emotions shown through minute muscle movement. The “zombie effect” of sleep deprivation will make you look tired and it will become increasingly difficult for you to form happy expressions. The scientific research has actually corroborated this, but putting on a smiley face is simply not enough – babies are not as easily fooled as grown children and they can intuit if you are tired and anxious. It can even be felt in your voice.
Some parents might get offended by such glaringly obvious advice – well, of course, they will do everything in their power to keep their little nugget comfortable! However, if you just take a second to think about it, aren’t we all relying on the “broadest common denominator” when it comes to arranging a comfy dwelling for our tot? Parents can be so wrapped up into securing every possible item for their baby that the matter of infant’s idiosyncratic sense of comfort tends to get overlooked.
The rippling effects of reduced sleep intervals that parents suffer can actually be compared to jet-lag which is why some individual has coined the witty term babylag for this condition. The best method to decrease the chance for your baby to tussle and wake up prematurely and cause babylag is to pay extra attention to your child’s preferences and “study” them. What are their favorite sheets, what’s the preferred lighting, do they enjoy certain sounds or a complete silence? You will create the most comfortable baby-environment by answering these questions.
If you don’t want to be one of those parents thatlose 350 hours of sleep during the first year, you should schedule your day to a “t” and have at least an hour for self-maintenance. Use this hour to exercise – do stretches, add a pinch of yoga to the mix and meditate for at least ten minutes. These relaxing exercises will keep your blood pumping and your lymph flowing, which makes all the difference in the world.
In addition, keep your eating and sleeping schedule as consistent as possible to avoid babylags and introduce power naps to your daily routine. They are especially useful if you are a working parent. Scheduling also means that you should learn how to time your baby’s diaper change as if you are a medieval war strategist. Remember to follow this golden rule: change the diaper before the baby eats. Rearrange your nap times around your baby’s bouts of slumber.
Finding dietary advice for better sleep is not particularly difficult in the age of the internet, but you’d be hard-pressed to recall proper sources for such advice that pertains to babies. After all, they cannot drink hot chamomile tea or consume valerian before bedtime. In this case, your best bet is to feed calcium and vitamin B6 to your child, the components that can be found in dairy products and bananas, respectively. Both of these nutrients assist in the body’s production of melatonin, which is a sleep regulating hormone that occurs naturally in our bodies.
While it is honorable that you are ready to “give your all” to your child, if push comes to shove and babylag threatens to topple you over like a stack of bricks, you have to think long term and prioritize your own wellbeing. You cannot help your child if you are completely drained. If you cannot rely on your partner or your family member to “take over the shift”, look elsewhere – to a friend that is also a parent or a professional. Otherwise, the combination of fatigue, stress and, above all, guilt might turn you into a parent you never wanted to become.