Reading Time: 3 minutesEveryone knows that new mums crave sleep: to sleep deeply and for long periods, to recharge your batteries, to heal after the delivery and to give you the strength to cope with the demands of being a parent to your newborn baby.
But catching some good shut-eye in those first few months post-delivery is far easier said than done. Here we share some top tips that new mums can use when they are sleep deprived, to help you survive those newborn days.
Sleep deprivation can have negative side effects. Aside from your feeling tired, overwhelmed and easily irritated, studies show that prolonged sleep deprivation can cause impaired coordination, blurred vision, a weakened immune system and memory and cognitive impairment. In the longer term, even high blood pressure, heart disease and obesity have, in part, been blamed on extended lack of sleep.
As well as a baby disturbing your sleep, some children have periods of separation anxiety, nightmares, rapid development, growing pains and more, which can all lead to sporadic periods of wakefulness for your child, and a reduction in sleep for all of you. Implementing good sleeping practice early-on can help to avoid years of overtiredness.
Post-delivery, you will be craving sleep like you craved various foods during pregnancy, but getting the sleep you need can be more elusive than finding the food you craved. But don’t lose hope.
Here are a few time- and mum-tested things to try to bring you some relief:
• As often as possible, say “No” to things at home or at work that make you feel stressed or tired. As much as we’d like to think we can do everything – raise a family, go to work, have an active social life, look and feel great – more often than not, trying to do everything leaves us frazzled, irritated and overwhelmed. Research and experience show that women recover much more quickly from giving birth, feel more emotionally balanced and breastfeed for longer if they are not trying to do everything in the early weeks.
• Take each day as it comes. Babies have off days too, so try not to worry too much if feeding, settling, etc. has not gone too well. Tomorrow is another day and is usually better. Don’t worry too much about baby’s routine in the first four weeks. Feed on demand and listen to your baby’s needs. Routines can come later.
• Enjoy your baby and relax into your new role as a parent with your partner.
• Go to bed and get up at about the same time every day.
• Get some gentle physical activity and daylight each day.
• Make sure your bedroom is dark, quiet and cool for sleeping.
• Relax for at least one hour before you go to bed every night by doing something you enjoy that does not involve the TV or computer.
• Sleep when your baby does.
• Relax, listen to music, take a bath, watch a funny movie – relaxing also helps with ensuring a good breast milk supply.
• Feed your baby, then go to bed early and ask your partner to wake you and bring baby to you for the late-evening feed.
• Find time in the day for at least one nap or at least some time for yourself.
• Limit visitors, especially in the evening when babies are often demanding and you are feeling quite tired.
• If you are totally exhausted, go to bed very early at least once per week and ask your partner to give the late-evening feed. Express enough breast milk during the day for him to give by bottle. This will then allow you around six or more hours of undisturbed sleep.
• Try not to focus too much on how long you are awake in the night. Just do what you have to do – feed, change nappies, etc. – as quickly and easily as you can, then get yourself back to bed.
• Help your baby develop good self-settling skills early on, which ensures he or she will learn to settle and resettle without too much help from you. Aim from early-on to put your baby in their sleeping place as often as possible before they are already asleep. This helps them to feel comfortable and happy to fall asleep without being held or otherwise helped to sleep. They ideally should go to sleep and wake up in the same place, which helps them feel safe and secure.
• Seek advice if you are worried about your baby, your health or your mood.
• Get help if you’re exhausted, and recognise your limitations
Deborah Taylor is an infant and child sleep consultant and runs Infant Sleep Resources in Hong Kong. Contact her by email at firstname.lastname@example.org, or visit www.infantsleepresources.com.