Sleep Deprivation after Having a Baby.
Most parents are unprepared for the reality of how much sleep changes after having a baby, especially how much a mother’s sleep is affected. The one thing a new mom can depend on is losing sleep. It typically begins in your third trimester, when finding a comfortable resting position is next to impossible. It only gets harder to sleep once the baby arrives and you no longer have any say as to when, or for how long, you’ll be able to get some shuteye. Sleep deprivation can last for several weeks, or even months, with some moms logging in only three to four hours per night. Realize that if you haven’t slept through the night in weeks or even months, your mind will be jumbled and your mood will often be sour. But, how much sleep do new moms need? The National Sleep Foundation recommends that adults between the ages of 18 and 64 required sleep is no less than six, and no more than 11 hours of sleep per night.
New parents lose about two hours of sleep per night for the first five months after bringing home their baby. In the first year of their child’s life, parents sleep an average of just 5.1 hours per night. When these hours are compounded, the shocking result is that new moms lose the equivalent of at least one whole month of sleep in the first year after their baby is born.
So the question remains, how do you get more sleep as a new mom?
First, don’t be afraid to ask for help. Whether you are trading off nights with your partner, or you ask Grandma to lend you a hand, assistance is invaluable while your body recovers from childbirth. Be clear with your helper that you need someone to help with the chores so that you can bond with the baby and get more rest. Sometimes visitors think they are helping by taking over baby snuggle duty, leaving Mom to handle the housework as well as act as hostess.
New moms shouldn’t try to be more productive during baby’s nap time. A 20- to 30-minute nap will refresh you without causing sleep inertia, that groggy, out-of-it feeling when you wake up. Most people, not just new moms, could benefit from a short afternoon nap. If your baby isn’t on a regular nap schedule, take advantage of offers of help from friends and relatives. Let your mother hold and entertain the baby while you crash for a while and if falling asleep doesn’t come easily then just lie down, even if you can’t sleep. Don’t stress if you can’t fall asleep, just lying down for a half hour can be very restorative. Furthermore, get off your feet, relax on the couch, and stay off the phone
Secondly, enlist help for night time feedings. One of the best ways to get a solid stretch of sleep is to have your husband or visitor work the night shift for you. It’s easier to turn feedings over to someone else if you’re bottle-feeding, but moms who are breastfeeding can introduce a bottle of breast milk early on so that someone else can provide relief in the middle of the night.
Another tip we recommend is to keep your baby close. Nursing moms can get a bassinet that attaches to the bed or sits next to it. When the baby begins to to stir and wake up, because the baby is close you can just pick him or her, nurse the baby, then put him or her back in the bassinet. Your feet never have to touch the floor.
Followed by this, you should also try to find snooze-inducing activities. For those moms who have trouble falling asleep even after a draining day of caring for a new baby, it might be tempting to decompress in front of a computer or television. But that may be counterproductive. The light from the computer or television can be very stimulating and keep you up. It has been proven that the radio can be the perfect sleep aid. For some moms who often have trouble going back to sleep after waking up to breastfeed, turning on the radio can be a sure fire sleep inducer. Lie there and listen to whatever amuses you, from the cricket and soccer scores from around the world, to music. It really does help a lot of mothers pass out.
It is also important to be choosy about guests. There are helpful visitors (mothers-in-law who make dinner for you and the family and change diapers), and aggravating visitors (co-workers who just want to gossip). In a 2003 study Wolfson directed on changes in sleep patterns in first-time mothers, she found that new mothers with less social support ironically slept more than those with a lot of social support. “When friends and family stop in to visit the new baby, women may feel obligated to entertain, prepare food, and keep people happy. Visitors who put high demands on you or expect the same level of effort and hospitality that you had before you became pregnant will only sap your energy. On the other hand, many people are more than happy to pitch in. When you have a guest who offers to help, let her!
Don’t rely on coffee. Although gulping down a cup of coffee first thing in the morning can give you the jolt you need to be alert, however, it has been said that overdoing it can mask your need for sleep, and may actually prevent you from falling asleep when you finally lie down.
It’s not all bad, realize that the sleepless nights won’t go on forever. Healthy babies usually settle into a routine in which they sleep for longer stretches at night (five or more hours) by 2 to 3 months of age. Almost all babies should be able to sleep through the night by the age of 6 months. The happy ending to the tale from the dark end of sleep deprivation is that eventually after the tough nights, your baby will have started sleeping through the night and so will you.