Adjusting to life with a new baby isn’t easy. In fact it can be downright overwhelming at times. Nobody expects to get their pre-baby sleeping habits back, but the popularity of the postpartum sleep support #zombiemoms hashtag on social media illustrates that there are a lot of new moms who aren’t getting enough sleep to function, and that’s a big problem. Not only are new moms not getting enough sleep to begin with, the sleep they have is fragmented as they wake up multiple times a night to tend to the baby. This lack of sleep has an impact on not only your cognitive functioning, but also your mood.
Why Postpartum Sleep Support is Necessary
Studies have shown that sleep (or the lack of it) plays a role in postpartum depression (PPD). One of the most common symptoms of PPD is insomnia. This isn’t just being tired, it’s being exhausted but not being able to sleep. Of course insomnia isn’t only a postpartum problem – many women begin to accumulate a sleep debt in the second or third trimester of pregnancy. One study showed that sleep support for insomnia during pregnancy helped reduce the severity of PPD symptoms at 2 and 6 weeks after delivery. Another study showed that there is a direct correlation between maternal sleep quality (not quantity) and severity of PPD symptoms. Not getting quality sleeping time increases both your risk of getting PPD and the severity of the symptoms if you do get it. While increasing sleep quality (and quantity) is not a magic ‘cure-all’ for PPD, it can help ease the symptoms, so postpartum sleep support for better quality sleep should be the goal of every new mom.
View our REM Sleep Program for customized postpartum sleep support here.
How to get better sleep postpartum:
- Sleep when the baby sleeps. Yes it’s advice that is as old as the hills, but it’s stayed around for a reason. The dishes, the laundry, the show you’re addicted to on Netflix – they will all wait. For the first few months, if the baby is sleeping, try to take a nap too.
- Don’t fall into the guilt trap – if you have older children, you may feel like you need to do more stuff with them to make up for time you’re spending with the baby. Which is fine within reason, but baking 100 cupcakes for the school bake sale will only make you more tired and cranky.
- Postpartum sleep support doesn’t just start with sleep help. Accept all help. Assume that friends and relatives who offer to take the baby, or help with dishes actually want to help you out. Learn to ask for help when you need it. Nobody expects you to do everything for everybody. Make a list of small jobs that need doing, and when somebody asks you if there’s anything they could do to help, give them a task from the list. If a friend offers to watch the baby for an hour, say yes, feed the baby, pack them a diaper bag, and send them out for a walk and then have a baby free nap.
- Consider room sharing. For the first few weeks of life, especially if you’re breastfeeding, it may be easier to have the baby beside your bed in a bassinet so that you can feed on demand without having to get up and go to the baby’s room.
- Put dad on diaper duty. Not every cry from a baby at night is something mom has to attend to. Dad is perfectly capable of changing diapers, even if it’s just for the first couple of hours.
- Nurse your baby right before you go to bed. Knowing that your baby is clean and fed may help you fall asleep faster. Plus the food and clean diaper should help the baby sleep for a few hours too.
- Open communication between your partner, those around you, and yourself. Often those suffering from PPD don’t realize it and it’s important to educate your partner, even while pregnant, on the signs and symptoms of PPD.
If you’re doing all of this and still feeling like a #ZombieMom, then get help. Talk to your doctor and / or a sleep professional to find a solution that leaves you feeling at least reasonably well rested.
Postpartumprogress.org is a fantastic resource for PPD and more. Download their Signs and Symptoms of Postpartum Checklist and reach out to those around you and/or professionals if you feel you need help and support. You are not alone.
Also check out Postpartum Progress’s NEW App to find out if your postpartum medication is working for you.
Alanna McGinn is a Certified Sleep Consultant and Founder of Good Night Sleep Site – a Global Pediatric and Family Sleep Team. She provides free child and family sleep support through her Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram. She invites you to join her sleep community as she works towards Good Night Sleep Site’s mission of a healthier rested family unit. For more sleep tips please visit Good Night Sleep Site. Join our movement and #BringBackBedtime.