Menu

How to cope when you've had no sleep 😴

First step? Do less, mama.

how to cope on no sleep

So much sleep advice out there is about how to fall asleep, how to get to sleep, or how to stay asleep. That advice is valid, but if you're parenting a young one, it's probably for a different time in life.

I went from occasional sleepless nights– tossing and turning in anxiety before I had my son—to going into an immediate unconscious stupor at every possible chance after I had him. Those chances, however, were few and far between in the first six months.

It's one thing to have the time to sleep but be lacking in the ability to harness it, and completely another to be dead tired, nearly asleep on your feet, and responsible for a tiny screaming creature that sleeps in only two-hour spurts.


For most of us, thankfully, this period is brief. I've heard it referred to as: “Baby bootcamp," “one long day-night," “the best of times and the worst of times," and ever since Stranger Things came out, “the upside down." It can be extremely painful, and even dangerous. I left our gas stove burner on so many times in the first year of our son's life that my husband bought an electric tea kettle and hid the old one. I'm still on a self-imposed oven-use ban unless there is another adult in the house.

After a nice long stretch of our son sleeping through the night, he recently started waking up again, randomly. While I know it's a phase, it inspired me to get some expert advice for when you know you won't be getting the hours of shut-eye your body and brain are craving.

Do less

“We live in a culture that emphasizes that mothers should have it all or do it all," says Gaby Merediz, mom of two and the brainchild behind Make Your Perfect, a company that teaches mothers how to reconnect with themselves even when they don't have time for it.

Her advice for this trying time is throw away the to-do list, or hand it off to someone else. “There are few things that are so urgent that you sacrifice your health for them," she says. And it's so true.

A practical example from Gaby: “When you shed some responsibilities, you can go to bed at 6pm instead of making dinner and staying up late to do the laundry. When your baby wakes up at midnight, you will have already gotten a full six hours of sleep!"

Ask for help

If you're expecting, or your child is starting to hit a rough patch in the sleep department, go out and recruit family and friends for help right now, says Lesley Yadon, Life Coach with a Masters in Counseling, who specializes in supporting first-time mothers.

“Ask them if they are willing to take up responsibility for things such as cooking, cleaning, and meals in the early days so that you can rest and care for your baby," says Yadon.

It might sound awkward, but when you put yourself in the shoes of those who love you, it's not at all. “Remember that asking for support gives the gift of giving to someone else," she says.

If you get cold feet, “Think of a time you were able to help someone else. Remember how good it feels to be of service to someone? You are blessing another person by asking for support."

It can't hurt to line up the contact information of professionals, either. “You may need extra help from a sleep coach or mental health professional if you find yourself so worried and anxious you can't function, feel disconnected from your baby, don't feel emotion, or you're feeling uncontrollable emotions," she says.

Ask your family and friends to be on the lookout for these warning signs too. “If you are repeatedly doing things that are a bit wacky or strange or accidental, that's a red flag you are not getting enough sleep," she says. Maybe, like, leaving the burner on so many times that you're banned from household stove use?

Be gentle with yourself—and your partner

“Couples have their worst fights when they are either sleep deprived, or intoxicated," says Erika Boissiere, Licensed Marriage and Family Therapist, and Founder of The Relationship Institute of San Francisco. “The truth that many of us don't talk about is that sleep deprivation can be extremely hard on your relationship."

The problem, she says, is that when you are sleep deprived, you are also less able to recognize the signs of sleep deprivation in yourself. “Symptoms include: Irritability, impulsivity, being reactionary, making uninformed decisions, being moody, angry, and/or depressed, weight gain, acting unpredictably, sadness, and anxiety."

Signs can show up after as few as three nights of bad sleep. “During the first six months of your baby's life, if you and your partner get into a fight, I want you to first ask yourself this question, before figuring out the fight: “Are either of us sleep deprived?" says Boissiere.

Once you know you're sleep deprived, you've taken a break from your regular household duties, and you've gotten the support you need, it's time to mitigate the damage.

Boissiere has provided these five quick tips for finding the sleep you need:

1. Monitor your sleep cycles in a simple journal

Log hours you've slept—not your baby's! Usually, after three bad nights of sleep, major symptoms begin to appear.

2. Take the night off

If either you or your partner is in a sleep deprived state, give that person the “night off." Have them sleep in a separate room, whether it's the living room on the couch or any area where they can't hear the baby. Give them earplugs, a white noise maker, and let them get a full night's rest.

3. Sleep whenever you can

If the baby naps at 1 PM, take a nap with them. The dishes can wait. Your sleep is the most important thing you need to function as healthy parent.

4. Take turns

There is no need for both parents to be awake in the middle of the night, after countless nights. Take turns. Your relationship and your baby will thank you. If you are “off" be truly off. If you are on, then take full ownership.

Oftentimes, one, if not both parents, get trapped in the belief system that, “She's on maternity leave and I have to go to work, therefore she should stay up with the baby." While that makes good sense in some regard, the issue is that she is going to work too. She will be working for the next 12 hours with a baby that is unpredictable, cries, poops, and could be fussy. That is a tough job!

5. Load up breastfeeding bottles for the night-shift

If you are breastfeeding and your partner has the baby that night, you both can get your baby to bottle feed fairly early on. Make the bottles in preparation the night before, put them in the fridge, and get some shut eye as your partner cares for the baby.

Getting the sleep you need might seem impossible. Here's a little something for each of you that can help.

Dreamland Baby weighted sleep sack + swaddle

Dreamland Baby weighted sleep sack

Designed with the same principles as weighted blankets to provide the littlest sleeps with a sense of calm and comfort, this innovative sleep sack with detachable swaddle wing helps babies get to sleep faster and stay asleep longer. More sleep for baby means more sleep for mama. Win!

$79

Sunday Citizen bed size snug blanket

Sunday Citizen bed size snug blanket

Whether you're snagging a cat nap or trading off for a solid chunk of bedtime sleep, make it as cozy as possible. The ultra plush (but still totally breathable) knit blanket from Sunday Citizen feels like sleeping on a cloud. Bonus points for its durability and for being machine-washable, making leaky diapers, boobs and spit up bombs no problem at all.

$150

We independently select and share the products we love—and may receive a commission if you choose to buy. You've got this.

By its very nature, motherhood requires some lifestyle adjustments: Instead of staying up late with friends, you get up early for snuggles with your baby. Instead of spontaneous date nights with your honey, you take afternoon family strolls with your little love. Instead of running out of the house with just your keys and phone, you only leave with a fully loaded diaper bag.

For breastfeeding or pumping mamas, there is an additional layer of consideration around when, how and how much your baby will eat. Thankfully, when it comes to effective solutions for nursing or bottle-feeding your baby, Dr. Brown's puts the considerations of mamas and their babies first with products that help with every step of the process—from comfortably adjusting to nursing your newborn to introducing a bottle to efficiently pumping.

With countless hours spent breastfeeding, pumping and bottle-feeding, the editors at Motherly know the secret to success is having dependable supplies that can help you feed your baby in a way that matches lifestyle.

Here are 9 breastfeeding and pumping products to help you no matter what the day holds.

Customflow™ Double Electric Breast Pump

Dr. Brown's electric pump

For efficient, productive pumping sessions, a double electric breast pump will help you get the job done as quickly as possible. Quiet for nighttime pumping sessions and compact for bringing along to work, this double pump puts you in control with fully adjustable settings.

$159.99

Hands-Free Pumping Bra

Dr. Brown''s hands free pumping bra

Especially in the early days, feeding your baby can feel like a pretty consuming task. A hands-free pumping bra will help you reclaim some of your precious time while pumping—and all mamas will know just how valuable more time can be!

$29.99

Manual Breast Pump with SoftShape™ Silicone Shield

Dr. Brown's manual breast pump

If you live a life that sometimes takes you away from electrical outlets (that's most of us!), then you'll absolutely want a manual breast pump in your arsenal. With two pumping modes to promote efficient milk expression and a comfort-fitted shield, a manual pump is simply the most convenient pump to take along and use. Although it may not get as much glory as an electric pump, we really appreciate how quick and easy this manual pump is to use—and how liberating it is not to stress about finding a power supply.

$29.99

Nipple Shields and Sterilization Case

Dr. Brown's nipple shields

There is a bit of a learning curve to breastfeeding—for both mamas and babies. Thankfully, even if there are some physical challenges (like inverted nipples or a baby's tongue tie) or nursing doesn't click right away, silicone nipple shields can be a huge help. With a convenient carry case that can be sterilized in the microwave, you don't have to worry about germs or bacteria either. 🙌

$9.99

Silicone One-Piece Breast Pump

Dr. Brown's silicone pump

When you are feeding your baby on one breast, the other can still experience milk letdown—which means it's a golden opportunity to save some additional milk. With a silent, hands-free silicone pump, you can easily collect milk while nursing.

$14.99

Breast to Bottle Pump & Store Feeding Set

After a lifetime of nursing from the breast, introducing a bottle can be a bit of a strange experience for babies. Dr. Brown's Options+™ and slow flow bottle nipples were designed with this in mind to make the introduction to bottles smooth and pleasant for parents and babies. As a set that seamlessly works together from pumping to storing milk to bottle feeding, you don't have to stress about having everything you need to keep your baby fed and happy either.

$24.99

Washable Breast Pads

washable breast pads

Mamas' bodies are amazingly made to help breast milk flow when it's in demand—but occasionally also at other times. Especially as your supply is establishing or your breasts are fuller as the length between feeding sessions increase, it's helpful to use washable nursing pads to prevent breast milk from leaking through your bra.

$8.99

Breast Milk Storage Bags

Dr. Brown's milk storage bags

The essential for mamas who do any pumping, breast milk storage bags allow you to easily and safely seal expressed milk in the refrigerator or freezer. Dr. Brown's™ Breast Milk Storage Bags take it even further with extra thick walls that block out scents from other food items and feature an ultra secure lock to prevent leaking.

$7.99


Watch one mama's review of the new Dr. Brown's breastfeeding line here:

This article was sponsored by Dr. Brown's. Thank you for supporting the brands that support Motherly and mamas.

Our Partners

Motherly editors’ 7 favorite hacks for organizing their diaper bags

Make frantically fishing around for a diaper a thing of the past!

As any parent knows, the term "diaper bag" only scratches the surface. In reality, this catchall holds so much more: a change of clothes, bottles, snacks, wipes and probably about a dozen more essential items.

Which makes finding the exact item you need, when you need it (read: A diaper when you're in public with a blowout on your hands) kind of tricky.

That's why organization is the name of the game when it comes to outings with your littles. We pooled the Motherly team of editors to learn some favorite hacks for organizing diaper bags. Here are our top tips.

1. Divide and conquer with small bags

Here's a tip we heard more than a few times: Use smaller storage bags to organize your stuff. Not only is this helpful for keeping related items together, but it can also help keep things from floating around in the expanse of the larger diaper bag. These bags don't have to be anything particularly fancy: an unused toiletry bag, pencil case or even plastic baggies will work.

2. Have an emergency changing kit

When you're dealing with a diaper blowout situation, it's not the time to go searching for a pack of wipes. Instead, assemble an emergency changing kit ahead of time by bundling a change of baby clothes, a fresh diaper, plenty of wipes and hand sanitizer in a bag you can quickly grab. We're partial to pop-top wipes that don't dry out or get dirty inside the diaper bag.

3. Simplify bottle prep

Organization isn't just being able to find what you need, but also having what you need. For formula-feeding on the go, keep an extra bottle with the formula you need measured out along with water to mix it up. You never know when your outing will take longer than expected—especially with a baby in the mix!

4. Get resealable snacks

When getting out with toddlers and older kids, snacks are the key to success. Still, it isn't fun to constantly dig crumbs out of the bottom of your diaper bag. Our editors love pouches with resealable caps and snacks that come in their own sealable containers. Travel-sized snacks like freeze-dried fruit crisps or meal-ready pouches can get an unfair reputation for being more expensive, but that isn't the case with the budget-friendly Comforts line.

5. Keep a carabiner on your keychain

You'll think a lot about what your child needs for an outing, but you can't forget this must-have: your keys. Add a carabiner to your keychain so you can hook them onto a loop inside your diaper bag. Trust us when we say it's a much better option than dumping out the bag's contents on your front step to find your house key!

6. Bundle your essentials

If your diaper bag doubles as your purse (and we bet it does) you're going to want easy access to your essentials, too. Dedicate a smaller storage bag of your diaper bag to items like your phone, wallet and lip balm. Then, when you're ready to transfer your items to a real purse, you don't have to look for them individually.

7. Keep wipes in an outer compartment

Baby wipes aren't just for diaper changes: They're also great for cleaning up messy faces, wiping off smudges, touching up your makeup and more. Since you'll be reaching for them time and time again, keep a container of sensitive baby wipes in an easily accessible outer compartment of your bag.

Another great tip? Shop the Comforts line on www.comfortsforbaby.com to find premium baby products for a fraction of competitors' prices. Or, follow @comfortsforbaby for more information!

This article was sponsored by The Kroger Co. Thank you for supporting the brands that supporting Motherly and mamas.

Our Partners

Becoming a mother has been life-changing. It's been hard, tiring, gratifying, beautiful, challenging, scary and a thousand other things that only a parent would ever understand.

It is these life-changing experiences that have inspired me to draw my everyday life as a stay at home mom. Whether it's the mundane tasks like doing laundry or the exciting moments of James', my baby boy's, first steps, I want to put it down on paper so that I can better cherish these fleeting moments that are often overlooked.

Being a stay-at-home-mom can be incredibly lonely. I like to think that by drawing life's simple moments, I can connect with other mothers and help them feel less alone. By doing this, I feel less alone, too. It's a win-win situation and I have been able to connect with many lovely parents and fellow parent-illustrators through my Instagram account.

Keep reading Show less
Work + Money