Once you become a parent, you’ll hear people saying that you’ll never get a good’s night sleep ever again. But is this really true? Learn more about postpartum sleep here and the different ways to can have your well-deserved rest back.
New mothers often experience difficulty in sleeping, especially for the first couple of weeks after giving birth. Newborns have an erratic sleep schedule and will generally wake up every 3 to 4 hours, making it even more challenging for new mums to get a shut-eye.
But on the other hand, mothers are encouraged to get plenty of rest so that they can recover from childbirth and promote breast milk production. However, heeding this advice is easier said than done. Because there are several factors that can keep a mum from getting the sleep that she needs.
Why Some Mums Can’t Sleep After Giving Birth
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Postpartum sleep deprivation refers to the lack of sleep that a mother is getting after giving birth. This can occur for a couple of weeks, or a couple of months depending on your situation. Of course, the primary cause of difficulty in sleeping among new mothers is the demands of taking care of a newborn.
However, there are also other factors that can affect postpartum sleep, such as:
- The birth process automatically changes the body’s hormones. After going through the process of labour, the body needs time to return to normal.
- Excessive sweating. Again, hormones can cause a slight increase in your temperature making it easier for you to feel warm and sweaty, which can make it harder for you to rest and relax.
- Mood changes are also a factor. You always want to keep an eye out for your newborn. But if you’re constantly worrying about your baby’s condition, it will also be challenging for you to get some sleep.
- Baby’s sleeping pattern. Regardless of how exhausted you are, you will still have to get up to breastfeed your child and attend to her needs.
How to Overcome Difficulty in Sleeping After Childbirth
Yes, postpartum sleep is really different from the one you were used to before you had a child but it doesn’t mean that you have to deal with it for the rest of your life. For starters, your child’s sleeping pattern will also adjust as she grows and she will learn to sleep through the night as well.
Meanwhile, here are some tips to help you get better sleep while you’re at this stage of your life as a mum.
Consult a doctor if you’re having trouble sleeping.
If you had this problem before (during pregnancy), consult your doctor early before the baby is born.
“Once you’re pregnant, discuss your sleep deprivation problem with your obstetrician,” said Dr Margaret Park, an assistant sleep specialist at Rush University Medical Center in Chicago.
You can talk to your gynaecologist if you’re having trouble getting some sleep after giving birth, and she can recommend some medicines or home remedies to help.
2. Take advantage of the time you are in the hospital.
Here’s a tip for mums to be – while you’re in the hospital, do not feel guilty for making time to rest completely, except for when it’s time to feed your bub.
“This is the time when you are recuperating from delivery,” said Dr Park. “Let a trained professional care for your baby during the one or two nights you are in the hospital.“
Image Source: iStock
3. Relinquish the control.
Do you feel guilty about not spending much time with your older child? Are you worried about the chores piling up since you came home from the hospital? You need to let go of some of that worry and anxiety.
“Don’t take on extra responsibilities when you have a newborn at home,” advises Susan Zafarlotfi, a clinical director of the Institute for Sleep and Wake Disorders in New Jersey.
Remember mums, you are not responsible for everything. For now, you have to focus on your newborn and on helping your body recover from childbirth.
4. Sleep when the baby sleeps.
Newborn experts will tell you that the key to preventing postpartum sleep deprivation is making the most of your baby’s sleeping moments by also getting some rest.
“If your baby is taking a nap, leave all your homework and take a nap too,” said Zafarlotfi.
“All that homework can wait, but not with the baby,” she added.
Dr Park also said the same thing.
“It’s tempting to do housework like washing dishes, washing clothes and cleaning the floors while your baby sleeps. However, just accept that your house is messy for now, and go to sleep because as soon as the baby wakes up, you have to wake up too,” she explained.
Also, resist the urge to use this time to catch up with a friend or watch your favourite TV show.
5. Say “yes” to those who want to help.
“Accept any help you can get,” said Dr Park.
“A lot of people refuse. Whether it’s a family member, a friend or a babysitter, accept their help so you can sleep for a few hours,” she added.
People consider sleep a luxury, but it is a medical requirement. When you take a nap, avoid watching television, listening to the radio and even looking at your watch so you don’t focus on how much time you have left. Instead, find or create an ambience that is conducive to resting and sleep.
6. Don’t worry that you won’t hear your baby when she needs you.
“Babies are natural alarm clocks and mothers tend to get used to their babies’ cries,” said Dr Park.
If you’re worried that you won’t hear your baby when you’re dozing off, especially when the baby’s room is far from yours, install a baby monitor and keep it close to you. Make sure that baby is in a safe place (in her crib, sleeping on her back) so you won’t worry if they cry for a few seconds when you are sleeping.
7. Share tasks with others.
If you are bottle-feeding your baby, ask your partner or a caregiver to keep an eye on your child and feed him while you’re asleep. If you are breastfeeding, try to keep enough stash of breast milk for your baby so your baby won’t go hungry even when you’re sleeping.
Also, share all the load of household chores and childcare (if you have other kids) with your partner as much as possible.
8. Wait for the rewards ahead.
As we mentioned earlier, that day will come when your baby will learn to sleep through the night – some babies earlier than others. This is a reward for you too.
However, if your baby finds it hard to get some sleep, or has been crying at night for several days, do not hesitate to consult with his paediatrician. There may be medical reasons why your baby is fussy and it needs to be attended to immediately.
9. Do not ignore the baby blues.
Lack of sleep can cause mood swings and new mums are at risk for the baby blues, or a more severe cause of postpartum depression. If you experience any of the symptoms of postpartum anxiety or depression, talk to your doctor to deal with them. Mood swings can be made worse by postpartum sleep deprivation and vice versa.
10. Find the basic problems of sleep disorders.
A short nap will usually make you feel rested and recovered, but if you feel that it didn’t help, Dr Park advises consulting a professional to check if you have an underlying sleep disorder that needs to be treated.
Sleep disorders such as sleep apnea are very common among people who struggle with obesity, and they can develop if you gain a lot of weight during pregnancy.
11. Take a warm shower.
Not only does it make you clean, but taking a warm bath brings a number of positive impacts. You will definitely feel calmer, and more relaxed after your bath. It also helps stabilise hormone levels.
Include having a warm shower in your bedtime routine, along with applying a soothing essential oil or lotion to your body. Don’t forget to choose comfortable (and nursing-friendly) sleepwear so you can rest better.
12. Stay active and relaxed.
You don’t have to stay sedentary just because you’re a new mum. Everyone’s recovery period is different. Once you have your doctor’s go signal, choose a type of exercise that is light and makes you feel comfortable. Meditation and yoga can help. No need for complicated poses if you can’t handle them yet.
However, avoid working out at night time as it can keep your energy up and make it harder for you to fall asleep.
13. Get a massage.
A number of light massages are considered effective in relaxing the body and helping the body release endorphins that relieve stress. Not only will you be in a better physical and mental state, but you will also have better sleep.
14. Pay attention to the ambience.
Is your room conducive to sleep? This is another aspect that needs attention as it can also affect the quality of your sleep.
The cool dim light in the room can help regulate your sleep and wake cycle. You can make your room a bit dimmer, as long as there’s adequate lighting for when you need to attend to your baby.
15. Avoid screen time at bedtime.
This might be difficult for today’s millennial parents, but so many studies have proved that the blue light being emitted by these gadgets can have an effect on your sleep. Try to get rid of all electronic devices at bedtime. Resist the temptation to open your emails, personal or work-related.
16. Talk to someone about your postpartum sleep deprivation.
It is very important to tell your partner if you are experiencing any issues such as lack of sleep. Explain to him what the condition is like and ask for his help with it. Maybe he can watch and feed the baby while you sleep or do the chores so that you will not lose sleep over thinking about it.
Sleep and Postpartum Depression
When you become a new mum, you will realise that sleep is golden. It is vital to your very survival physically and mentally.
You may have heard of the baby blues and how it is normal for new mothers to have them. However, if this condition lasts for over two weeks, you may be at risk of having postpartum depression.
While many factors play a role in this condition, postpartum sleep deprivation can worsen symptoms of postpartum depression. They also have quite similar causes such as stress, anxiety and a change in hormone levels.
After pregnancy, women experience a sudden drop in their levels of estrogen, progesterone and thyroid hormones. These changes affect sleep cycles and lay the groundwork for mental illnesses. Over time, if sleep does not improve, the chances of developing postpartum depression.
Apart from the cause, postpartum depression and postpartum sleep deprivation also exhibit similar symptoms such as difficulty in concentrating, feeling tired and overwhelmed and having trouble sleeping.
If you experience any of the following symptoms, you may be suffering from postpartum depression:
- Sadness and mood swings accompanied by frequent crying
- Anxiety, irrational fear or panic attacks
- Losing your temper over small issues
- Can’t sleep even if the baby is sleeping
- Changes in appetite
- Loss of interest in things you normally enjoy
- Feeling lethargic and tired that it’s interfering with your usual routine
- Feeling of guilt
- Excessive preoccupation with the baby, or conversely, inability to bond with your baby
Postpartum Sleep: When to Go to the Doctor
Talk to your doctor right away about your negative feelings or sleep problems, even if you think it’s just a normal part of being a mum. He or she can help you find the appropriate treatment which usually involves a combination of therapy and medication.
Some women may be reluctant to express their feelings, so it’s a good idea to have your partner, family and friends closely supervising the new mum. Treating postpartum depression as early as possible is very important so that it does not become a long-term problem.
If you feel like your lack of sleep is affecting your day-to-day life, especially your responsibilities as a parent, do not hesitate to seek help. Reach out to someone you trust and talk to a medical professional about your sleep issues.
Translated with permission from theAsianparent Indonesia.
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