Amongst the many issues that new moms face, one post-birth side effect stands out. Sleep or rather the lack of it is a constant bane of many new moms as nothing works except to adjust and adapt and maybe even live with it.
It is because your baby has yet to develop its circadian rhythm or biological clock; thus, they sleep for short periods. However, poor sleep could contribute to depression and depression may, in turn, add to or exacerbate sleep disturbance.
New moms do not get enough sleep because newborns sleep on an average of 2 to 4 hours at a time, which is 6 - 12 times in 24 hours. However, many moms have experienced their babies sleeping for 30 minutes to an hour as well, which means moms hardly have any time to eat, so there’s no time for rest.
As newborns sleep for such a short duration each time, breastfeeding moms tend to have insufficient REM sleep. About 90 minutes into a sleep cycle, REM sleep starts, and a lack of it affects how moms think and cope in their daily lives.
Most moms have to adapt to taking multiple naps rather than being able to sleep uninterrupted for the night. It is a significant change for most moms as it also means that moms have to catch up on sleep in the day besides sleeping at night.
We have asked many moms and are sharing 10 of their best tips that would help moms get the sleep they need. Rest is necessary for moms as a lack of it may affect your breast milk supply, or it may contribute to postnatal depression.
1. Be mentally prepared
A baby sleeps a few hours at a time as they have small tummies, get hungry and need milk thus they hardly, if ever, sleep through the night. The difference in our sleep patterns means a significant change for moms who have to adapt to the baby’s routine.
Your entire routine will change as you are likely to have less time for yourself. We suggest going for your beauty treatments such as facial, hair and nails before giving birth as you may not have time for them once your baby arrives.
Some moms have even missed meals or have late meals as they are too tired or sleepy to cook for themselves. As such, we suggest stocking up on some lactation snacks so that you would not go hungry.
When your baby arrives, your priorities will change, so sleep may become more valuable to you as sleep deprivation affects your ability to cope with the stress of being a new mom.
2. Entrust your baby to the nurses
Just for a few nights, you can let the nurses help you with your baby while you rest and recuperate from labour. They are trained professionals who have taken care of many babies so you can rest assured that your baby is in safe hands. Besides they will bring your baby to you every few hours as your baby will get hungry.
Consider the option to extend your stay in the hospital for a few days, allowing you to familiarize yourself with breastfeeding and caring for the baby.
3. Get help early
A baby needs a lot of your time and attention, so it is wise to secure assistance before the baby arrives. Whether it is someone helping to clean the house, bring food for you and your family or even look after your baby for a few hours, it is best to decide and plan before your baby arrives.
Many moms engage confinement nannies to help look after baby and mom for a month or more, thus giving a new mom time to rest and recuperate. Nowadays, many companies are delivering warm, healthy and delicious confinement meals to help mummies during their confinement period.
Other services you may want to consider are cleaning services or even hire a live-in helper to help once the confinement nannies leave.
4. Limit visits
Most moms find that having a schedule for visits or limiting visits in the first few days has helped them get some needed rest while they adjust to the demands and wonders of motherhood. We suggest informing them of your wishes before the birth of your baby.
We suggest planning and staggering visits for your family and friends so that you would not be overwhelmed to entertain them if they decide to turn up together. This way, you can get some sleep in between the visits.
5. Take a nap when your baby sleeps
Learning to nurse while lying down is one of the best breastfeeding positions as you get some rest while your baby drinks. Breast milk contains a hormone called prolactin which helps to induce sleep, and this hormone is released into your bloodstream when you breastfeed your baby. It enables you to fall asleep faster and with less difficulty, so relax and take a nap.
Breastfeeding also releases a hormone called oxytocin, also known as the “love hormone”, which soothes a mom’s anxieties and helps you feel an emotional connection to your baby. This hormone-like prolactin helps to promote sleep.
Resist the urge to stay awake so that you can do chores or watch TV when your baby is asleep. I know it is difficult when the house looks like a tornado has gone through it but remember when your baby is awake, you have to be up too. Conserve your energy to take care of your baby as that is your priority.
6. Plan night feed schedule
It is tough to wake up multiple times every night for months to feed a baby. Some moms find it hard to fall asleep after being awake numerous times a night. It takes time for moms to get used to taking a nap in the day and surviving on broken sleep at night.
Delegate a night feed to Dad or a caregiver once a week or however often necessary for you to get some rest. To prevent engorgement, we would suggest adding in an extra nursing or pumping session before sleeping for the night.
7. Be flexible with sleeping arrangements
We all probably thought that babies would sleep in their cots in their nursery, but this arrangement may not work for every family. Be open and flexible to alternative rooming options such as your baby sleeping in the same room as you or even co-sleeping with your baby.
Sometimes you may take forty winks with your baby while sitting on an armchair or sofa while breastfeeding. Soon you may find yourself falling asleep at many places, be it on a mattress beside the cot or even in the car after a day out with your baby.
8. Try different relaxation techniques
Whether it is relaxing music, meditation, a warm bath, postnatal massage or using an essential oil diffuser to diffuse calming oils in your room, try different ways to see what would put you in the mood for sleep. Consider having blackout curtains in the room to make it conducive for daytime naps.
If you cannot fall asleep, we suggest lying down and resting, which would still be beneficial to you rather than staying awake.
Some mummies have reported success with postnatal yoga as an empowering and relaxing way to connect with their mind and body. An alternative would be moms and babies yoga offered at some yoga practices.
9. Invest in baby essentials
Consider purchasing a few baby essentials such as a baby monitor that would alert you to your baby’s cries if you sleep in a separate room. It would give you peace of mind while you sleep. After a while, some moms have become so attuned to their baby that they no longer need the baby monitor.
Another great piece of equipment would be a baby carrier or a baby bouncer so that you can do your chores at home while your baby is awake. It would give you the option of sleeping when your baby sleeps.
10. Take a nursing holiday
A great way to get more sleep would be to take a nursing holiday with your baby. A change of scenery could do wonders since there are fewer things to manage than at home, and you can concentrate on nursing your baby and getting some much-needed sleep.
If possible, it would be great to get a family member or hired help to clean up your home while you are away so that you come back to a home where chores that you left behind have been done and dusted.
Do not ignore sleep deprivation as one of those crosses you must bear since you are a mother. Seek assistance from your family and friends to see who can pitch in. Another option would be to speak to your family doctor about safe medication that can help you with your sleep or maybe even check whether you have any underlying sleep disorders like sleep apnea.
Motherhood is tough as it entails sleepless nights but endless cuddles. Enjoy your breastfeeding journey as one day; many months down the road, your baby will wean, sleep for extended periods and eventually sleep through the night.