Survival tips for zombie mums

July 23, 2018
Lyndall McAlpine

It’s been a while since I was a new mum but I can still remember that horrid, horrid feeling of lack of sleep that only a new mum can fully experience.

Sleep deprivation makes life hard, in all areas! and can sometimes make it hard to enjoy the miracle of your precious baby.

Here are a few simple tips that might help you survive the zombie mum syndrome.

Firstly chances of getting a good night’s sleep with your newborn is often out of your control. Feeds, nappy change, illness and just the unsettling feeling being on call equals some long sleepless/restless nights. So # 1 rule is …

#1 SNORES BEFORE CHORES! – Make it a priority to catch up on sleep while baby is sleeping throughout the day. Grab an eye mask and make yourself cosy and turn your phone to aeroplane mode. Even a measly 15 minutes here and there can add up and be the difference between making it through a tough day without a meltdown. Don’t stress if you just can’t get to sleep, just resting with your feet up will help….

#2 LEARN RELAXATION TECHNIQUES – If daytime sleep just doesn’t come naturally try meditating. Meditation has shown to help make you more resilient to stress. There are so many great meditating tools online, choose one that you like (I am fussy with accents that annoy me) – I quite like this 9 min one.

Making diaphragm breathing  a continual ritual will help lower your blood pressure and heart rate. Diaphram breathing stimulates our vagus nerve, activating our “calming” parasympathetic nervous system and reducing our “stress” sympathetic nervous system, in other words it helps reduce stress hormones racing throughout your body. Sit comfy, slowly and deeply inhale through your nose and bringing air to your tummy not chest, hold for a few seconds and then slowly exhale through your mouth. I like to say relax on my in breath and release on my out breath but whatever works for you. There are lots of variations, this 4-7-8 breathing exercise is great, give it a go!

#3 GET SOME SUNSHINE – have your stroller ready for a quick morning getaway. Not only will aerobic exercise of a brisk walk help sleep (3) (4). Getting a dose of morning daylight (blue light) triggers wakefulness and helps our circadian (sleep) rhythms (1) (2) with sleep.

#4 NO BLUE LIGHT AT NIGHT- speaking of blue light – sleep time is not the time for us to be exposed to this wakefulness light! Even tape some red paper over the electronic clock light if need be.

Abstain from electrical devices for an hour prior to sleep, yes this includes TV, phone, iPad and yes you can do it! Sleep is more important than checking the status of Joe Blo and getting sucked into wasting precious sleep time. Scrolling FB does not have any health benefits so be strong, at least at bedtime! Take this time saved to instead have maybe a relaxing bath or practice some gentle stretching and breathing before cuddling up under the sheets. You could dim the lights a little and read a “real” book (preferably a light fiction), listen to some soothing music. If for some reason you absolutely have to be on your computer, I’ve read this app F.lux  reduces the blue light from computer screens.

#5 MAGNESIUM IS YOUR SLEEP FRIEND. Magnesium relaxes muscles and can help with sleep as well as anxiety, cramps and constipation. It’s actually recommended that pregnant and breastfeeding women get 20% more magnesium per day. Some foods rich in magnesium are oats, brown rice, spinach, banana. (I have a great recipe below which includes two of these).  Magnesium supplementation is safe whilst breastfeeding. You can add magnesium flakes to your nightly bath or increase intake with supplements (magnesium is best taken with calcium at a 1mag:2cal, or new recommendations are for 1:1 ratio (5) and with vitamin D. It has been reported that melatonin is also safe for pregnancy at 3mg or lower dosage and short term but talk to your health physician about this.

Don’t forget anything you consume can go straight to your baby though your milk. they may seem a godsend at the time but please think twice before using knock out medications.

A few other general tips that may help are:

  • Pump and delegate some night feeds and night settling to hubby. Not only does it give you a much needed rest but baby often settles better without the reminded attachment to you
  • Don’t Uber eats – Friends eats – get friends and family to help by providing a meal of “your” choice
  • Grab a notebook and write down everything you are thinking about before you go to bed. Keep it handy because if you are like me you will think of the most important things as you are trying to drift off. Once it is out of your head and on paper you can let go and relax.
  • Set up your do not disturb on your phone (with favourites allowed) and place in another room. Not only is there strong evidence of electronic wavelengths being unhealthy for us (6) (7) but it will reduce the temptation to scroll. (Of course ouble check that you can hear your phone ring from your room). If for some reason you absolutely HAVE to be on my computer, use an app called “Flux”, which reduces the blue light from computer screens 
  • Try diffusing calming essential oils such as lavender, chamomile, sandalwood, and rose may help.
  • Make a NIGHTLY RITUAL that tells your body it’s time to sleep, eg:
    • Take a bath (IF YOU HAVE TIME!!)
    • Do some light stretching
    • Turn off electronics
    • Read a book for 15 min if you like – don’t do social media!
    • Make room dark (or wear an eye mask) – no blue light

What’s your best tip for surviving with a little one?


Here’s a yummy recipe filled with magnesium rich ingredients



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