If we could travel back to the time before we became mums, we would probably appreciate our sleep a lot more. In fact, it is something every mother really longs for. New mums especially find sleep to be but fleeting moments.
Still, you continue to care for your newborn—that demands every ounce of your attention—at the expense of your own health. But it’s high time you start putting yourself first and help yourself cope with sleep deprivation because the effects can be profound.
Dr Ng Ying Woo, Consultant Obstetrician and Gynaecologist from the SBCC Women’s Clinic (and member of Healthway Medical Group), shares more insights on this pressing issue as well as offer ways to help new mums cope with sleep deprivation.
Cope with sleep deprivation for new mums: Possible factors
While there could be many factors to sleep deprivation for new mums, Dr Ng has highlighted two key areas which include the following:
- Irregular sleep patterns of newborns
Waking up every few hours to care, soothe and feed baby disrupts mums’ sleep cycles in the first few months of having a child.
When your little one demands for breast milk round the clock, you are stripped away from your sleep time.
Effects of sleep deprivation for new mums
And just so you know, being sleep-deprived isn’t “just about feeling tired in the short-term”, according to the medical expert.
A lack of sleep could lead to taking a longer period to heal, and that’s not ideal for new mums who have just given birth! Your body needs a tremendous amount of rest to recuperate and regain its strength.
And if you wonder why you’re feeling “irritable and moody”, and “easily affected by minor things”? You’ve got your answer. Hearing your baby cry endlessly or dealing with never-ending loads of housework can only add to your stress, if you’re sleep-deprived.
This is a huge one new mummies, take note!
“Fatigue, coupled with increased stress levels can affect your body’s ability to maintain a healthy supply of breastmilk,” said Dr Ng.
While lack of sleep is a fairly common experience for new mums, Dr Ng urges mums to seek help from the doctor if the inability to fall asleep or return to sleep persists after a few weeks or months.
Still, there are practical ways to help new mums cope with sleep deprivation, shared Dr Ng.
6 Practical Tips For New Mums To Cope With Sleep Deprivation
#1. Sleep when the baby sleeps
Dr Ng urges new mummies to get some rest (try!) while baby sleeps, instead of trying to squeeze in other activities such as doing housework.
A little goes a long way—taking a power nap of 20 to 30 minutes can in fact help mums feel more refreshed afterwards, said Dr Ng. And if you have a family member with you, have them “keep an eye on the baby while you rest”.
#2. Take turns to feed
“Round-the-clock feeding is a key reason why some mothers experience sleep deprivation,” stated Dr Ng.
However, he states that you do not have to take it upon yourself to personally feed your baby.
Especially for breastfeeding mums, you could choose “pumping instead of having to breastfeed every feed”. This way, dad or another family member can help to “share the responsibility of feeding the baby”.
As such, Dr Ng explains, each of you “can take turns to get a few hours of uninterrupted sleep through the night,” and at the same time, provide the baby with “a chance to bond with another family member.”
You can also seek valuable advice from a lactation consultant or obstetrician—he/she may be able to aid you in sharpening your breastfeeding skills to better cope with your newborn.
#3. Engage in sleep-inducing activities before bedtime
It’s incredibly tempting to destress by watching television, use the computer or mobile phone after a tiring day of looking after your baby right?
But did you know that this could lead to difficulty falling asleep, even if you feel exhausted? This is because “the blue light from the screens of such devices can be stimulating,” explained Dr Ng.
He suggests new mums to try engaging in “more relaxing sleep-inducing activities” that include listening to the radio, reading a book, or even pick up other hobbies such as knitting which can help to calm the mind.
And you also might want to heed his advice: “Avoid engaging in any screen time in the two hours before you go to sleep.”
#4. Establish a sleep routine for your baby
We know how difficult it is to get a newborn to fall asleep—right mums? And it does not help that “most newborns do not have a fixed sleeping time in the first three months,” said Dr Ng.
But mums, that does not mean you have to surrender your sleep times to your newborn. For a better night’s rest, after three months, Dr Ng encourages parents to introduce a consistent bedtime routine for newborns. Surely, we know it’s important, but do we know what to do? More importantly, are we doing it right?
Routinely engage in activities such as singing nursery rhymes or reading story books in the hour before sleeping.
This helps your baby to associate these activities with sleeping time, making it easier to lull them into sleep. And that only means… anticipating better sleeping times and night’s rest!
#5. Avoid relying on coffee
“Huh, how can?”, you think.
Coffee is pretty much a life-saver especially for mums, having to juggle work (some), family, and looking after the baby.
As much as coffee helps to keep you alert and to tackle the day ahead, over-consumption perpetuates the already sleep-deprived state of mind and body, masking your need to sleep.
And we’re not just talking about coffee. Dr Ng encourages mums to try and limit the intake of caffeinated drinks and avoid drinking it at least seven hours before bedtime.
#6. Make your room conducive for sleeping
How many of us are guilty of placing television, computers or work-related materials in the room we sleep in? Dr Ng advises mums against it, if possible.
Pro-tip: Create a relaxing environment in your room; you can buy a good mattress and pillow, keep the room cool, and avoid using bright lights.
We hope you have found this article useful to cope with sleep deprivation, new mummies—or anyone for that matter.
Sleep deprivation, for anyone, if left as it is, can lead to potential health problems such as weakened immunity, chronic illnesses, obesity, as well as impair our cognitive processes and memories.
And only when you take better care of yourself, can you provide better care for your little one!
All responses and insights are contributed by Dr Ng Ying Woo, Consultant Obstetrician and Gynaecologist, SBCC Women’s Clinic (A member of Healthway Medical Group)
Dr Ng Ying Woo who shares insights on the causes, effects of lack of sleep and how to help new mums cope with sleep deprivation.
SBCC Women’s Clinic: https://sbccwomen.com/
Dr Ng Ying Woo: https://sbccwomen.com/specialists/dr-ng-ying-woo/
Healthway Medical Group: https://www.healthwaymedical.com/