Will you ever sleep again after having a baby? On episode three of Stylist’s podcast Baby On The Brain, Dr Zoe Williams and YouTuber and Instagrammer Nilly Dahlia explore the fears and realities of tiredness postpartum.
If there’s one thing that everyone talks about when it comes to having a baby, it’s tiredness. With the rigors of labour, fluctuating hormones, and the simple matter of having a human to keep alive, it’s unsurprising that sleep is the first thing to go out of the window.
In this week’s episode of Stylist’s new podcast, Baby On The Brain, executive editor Fliss Thistlethwaite is joined by Dr Zoe Williams and YouTuber and Instagrammer Nilly Dahlia – each in different stages of pregnancy and motherhood – to discuss the role of tiredness in the lives of new mums.
“[Being tired is] an expectation, isn’t it?” says Williams, who is pregnant with her first child. “In the second trimester I was waiting for it to hit. I had the occasional day where it’d get to 2 or 3 o’clock in the afternoon and I’d just think: I’m done. I’d put my head down for half an hour and wake up three hours later.
“The second I transitioned into the third trimester, which was only last week, it hit me like a steam train.”
As a doctor, Williams is more than used to tiredness and long nights but admitted on the podcast that she is worried that having a baby will introduce her to new levels of tiredness. “I’ve spoken to a lot of friends who are doctors and as junior doctors we work in hospitals, we do night shifts and we spend all night looking after people we don’t even know.
“So, you kind of think this is your baby. Alright, you’ll be up some of the night looking after it but we’ve done this before. We’re doctors. My friend Ellie said to me: yeah but whats the longest stint of nightshifts you’ve ever done? It’s seven days.”
She adds: “[But when you have a baby] you don’t know when it’s going to end and it’s that relentlessness that makes it so difficult.”
She explains that she believes preparation is key when it comes to preparing for life postpartum. “There’s a lot to be said for happy mum, happy baby or calm mum, calm baby. I think it’s about preparing yourself for it to be really difficult, and pre-empting that.”
Dahlia, a mother of a six-, four- and two-year-old echoes this sentiment. “Having a baby is physically, mentally and emotionally draining. You’ve got this new human being that you’ve got to keep alive. When they’re sleeping, you’re told to sleep, but you’re worried that they’re not breathing so you’re constantly checking them.”
Though she admits that it’s hard, Dahlia is keen to share that accepting help is not a shameful thing to do and that people who are fortunate enough to have a partner around should be sure to divide up parenting tasks.
“If someone asks if you want help, accept it,” she says. “Parenting gets really overwhelming. You always want to be the best. Having all these expectations on your shoulders can burn you out really quickly and before getting to that point, you need to pour a little bit out of that cup and make it easier for yourself.”
She adds: “The way I’ve been able to get some rest whilst pregnant and with two kids is by making my husband step up. Communication is so crucial.”
Tiredness is something that all parents experience, but that doesn’t mean it has to be something that all new mums fear. With support being out there, whether that be from family, friends or partners, it’s important that new mums take time to look after their physical, mental and emotional wellbeing.
To prove that every mum has been through the trials and tribulations of attempting to get a good night’s sleep, we asked the Stylist team for their tips on how to get some much needed shut eye.
Trust the process:
“Don’t try and solve the tiredness; it’s not a problem to be fixed, it’s a fact. Your body straight after baby is in its fourth trimester and is in recovery so needs to be fuelled and rested. Only as time passes will you become less tired!”
Sleep while you can:
“I never slept in the day. MISTAKE. By the time my third child was born, I took all the naps. I think I was a bit nuts with my first – I wasn’t very good at relaxing, and had painted this ‘busy mum’ pic having lots of coffees, baby classes and walks and – in truth – that was all bullshit. I should have just chilled the fuck out.”
(Try to) enjoy it while you can
“It doesn’t last forever, and that first night they sleep through you stay awake poking them to check they’re okay but it’s magical.”
“Dip in and out of the NCT group chat as needed – there’s always somebody who has a kid who sleeps through from the beginning. Avoid them. They are dicks. Or liars. Possibly both.”
Been thinking about your fertility? Or perhaps you’re pregnant and worried about what happens next in your career? Stylist’s new franchise, Baby On The Brain, is here to answer all your motherhood questions.
This new digital space will be filled with discussions from different women airing their thoughts on motherhood, or the considerations around motherhood. But you won’t find information about the practicalities of sleep or feeding on Baby on the Brain. And this series is not about birth, either. This space is all about you, as women.