Every single person who encounters a pregnant woman or a new mom immediately says the same thing: “Bye-bye sleep!” Having a baby and caring for a new life is an incredibly precious and rewarding journey that will absolutely test new parents in ways they never imagined. Not getting enough sleep can lead to a myriad of problems that can quickly overwhelm a new mother who is already making huge adjustments to care for a tiny new life.
Depression, a weakened immune system, and memory problems are all linked to chronic sleep loss, according to WebMD.
Making up for a sleep debt doesn’t automatically erase problems created by a lack of sleep. After the sometimes-difficult labor, when mother and baby have gone home to begin the next chapter of life, it’s time to settle into a whole new routine at home.
But new mothers quickly realize that even though the baby cannot walk or talk, she needs round the clock care that will tax even the toughest and most prepared mom. A lack of sleep can lead to increased emotional instability and create a dangerous situation for mom and baby, so how mom handles the difficult new schedule makes all the difference. Here are 10 Ways New Mothers Can Cope Without Sleep—And 10 Things To Never Do.
20 Do Seek Savasana
Postpartum yoga can help women gently ease their bodies back into movement and help to tone up all the stretched places that once accommodated baby and labor, according to Do You Yoga.
But before performing any exercise, including any yoga pose, a new mother must talk with her doctor to ensure that the movements will be safe for her particular labor and recovery situation.
For women cleared for poses, a gentle easing into the poses while paying attention to her body can help aid in recovery and comfort, which can contribute to a better quality sleep, and the poses themselves may even help stabilize mama’s mood.
19 Don't Forget: No Caffeine, No Cry
A lot of moms give up caffeinated drinks during pregnancy, but feel like once baby is born it is finally ok to resume that cup of joe. But many doctors still advise cutting down on caffeine, whether the mother is breastfeeding or not, according to the University of Pittsburg Medical Center.
Although very little of the caffeine appears to cross the breastfeeding barrier, doctors also say that the caffeine can disrupt natural sleep rhythms for mother. New mothers may already be struggling with disruption, and too much caffeine can increase the struggle and affect the quality of the sleep.
18 Do Cash In On Herbal Tea Time
A new baby, plus a tough postpartum recovery, plus a lack of sleep equals a recipe full of stress and anxiety for many new mothers.
Many mamas are developing a breastfeeding relationship with the baby as well, and so what mom consumes could affect baby through the breast milk.
But, that doesn’t mean she can’t relax with a calming cup of tea. While it is extremely important to do research, according to The Royal Women’s Hospital, there are a lot of herbs and herbal teas in common usage that can assist with relaxation or even with producing more breast milk, which is a source of concern for many new moms.
17 Don't Skip The Technology Power Down
It can all seem like a blur after bringing baby home and many new moms want to capture as many moments as possible with their phones and on social media.
They may also feel a little disconnected suddenly from the outside world and while keeping in touch with friends and current events is good, when it’s time for sleep it’s time to turn the computer off and put the phone away, according to Sleep.org.
Tech devices admit a light that stimulates the brain and makes it harder to fall asleep, and new moms definitely don’t need more difficulty getting to sleep.
16 Do Practice Baby-Led Napping
If baby falls asleep, mama might want to go ahead and take advantage of that free time to sleep, too. Newborns need to eat every few hours, which means that even babies who never even heard the word colic can interrupt mom’s sleep enough to leave her feeling pretty sleep deprived.
According to the Mayo Clinic, it can take a while for a newborn to develop a night-oriented sleep schedule. While it may not be possible every time, lying down to at least rest quietly can be very restorative to an exhausted new mother.
Her nights are bound to be interrupted, so daytime naps can be really helpful and beneficial.
15 Don’t Shut Them Out
When people volunteer their time and energy, it can be easy to say no. Many new mothers feel like they have to be super mom and do it all.
They worry that if they don’t do everything for baby, they’ll be judged by others.
A friend might offer to help in a general way, not knowing what the new mom needs, but new mothers can take the opportunities that friends and family offer by articulating exactly what they need, according to Popsugar.
Getting help with the dishes or a two-hour window to nap doesn’t make a new mom less super, it makes her better.
14 Do Indulge In Fruit Smoothies That Feel Superb
Postpartum pain and recovery, breastfeeding struggles, and sleep deprivation are even harder to deal with if a new mother isn’t nourishing herself with healthy food choices.
Cooking might feel like an added stress and the convenience of fast food is hard to ignore. But new mothers can find that quick unhealthy foods disrupt her food and mood. A smoothie is a super fast way to support the postpartum body in a variety of ways, according to Better Birth Doula.
An added plus is that with the inclusion of protein, it’s a great hand-held meal that helps replenish vitamins and minerals that support recovery and good brain function.
13 Don't Miss Those Opportunities
It is so tempting to watch the baby fall asleep and then to get up and immediately run around doing housework or to just stay awake.
But new mothers need sleep to be at their best, and while it's tempting to post to Instagram, send emails, or dust the furniture, it might be a better idea for her to lie down and if she can’t sleep, at least put her feet up, according to Parents.
Those times where the baby is peacefully sleeping, or a partner or caregiver is there, could become missed opportunities for the new mother who desperately needs sleep if she doesn’t take advantage of them.
12 Do Call In Reinforcements
A new baby is overwhelming at times no matter how well prepared a new mother is. So many moms feel that they have to do everything themselves, but that is simply not true and asking for help does not make a mom bad or weak.
New mamas can make a list of people that are trustworthy. Friends and family may offer help without even being asked. According to Today’s Parent, it’s important to be honest when they offer help about what is needed and not needed.
But having a pal over to cook a healthy dinner or to rock baby while mom catches forty winks is beyond value.
11 Don't Expect Perfection
New mothers were comparing themselves to other mothers long before social media became the norm, but Instagram supermoms have not helped women who are trying to cope with the enormous changes that happen with bringing home a new baby.
But an image or a built up fantasy of new motherhood perfection can be very damaging and can take time away from sleep self-care and further fuel postpartum depression, according to the New York Times.and
It’s important for new mamas to communicate the complicated feelings they may have during this transition, and that not presenting perfection can produce a healthier state of mind.
10 D0 Work Out To Wake Up
Once the doctor has cleared the new mother for exercise she may find that it’s a good way to get the neurons going, especially if caffeine is still off the table because of breastfeeding.
Doing exercises that include baby, or taking the baby on a walk or jog is a great way to lift the mood and boost energy, according to Parenting.
Exercises can also be incorporated in so many small ways during the day, whether housecleaning or running errands. It may be hard to find the motivation, but exercise can even lift the mood and improve quality of sleep, which is already in desperately short supply.
9 Don't Check Out On Checking In
Many women assume that they’ll be so tired caring for a new baby and recovering that sleep won’t be the problem--finding the time for it will be. But a lot of new mothers find out to their dismay that postpartum insomnia is a real phenomenon, according to Motherly.
If a mother is struggling with insomnia, it’s vital that she check in with the doctor or medical professional. The doctor can work with mama to try a diet change, counseling for anxiety, or can recommend therapies. But the longer the new mother waits to check in, the more dangerous insomnia can become for mom and baby.
8 Do Get In That Meditation Mindset
New mothers face a lot of stress and change as they adapt to a new world. Often new mamas sacrifice their well-being without realizing what they’ve done in their effort to do the best for their newborn.
But self-care for new moms is vital. Replenishing the self helps a new mom better care for her baby and meditation is a great way to center and find calm, according to Yoga Journal. Moms can take just a few moments and practice meditation to help relieve stress and worry and releasing some tension can even help improve her ability to sleep.
7 Don't Ignore Mood Swings
Bringing a new baby home is such a huge change and it is perfectly normal for a new mom to experience a range of emotions in the days and weeks following. But extreme mood swings, brain fog that won’t go away, overwhelming sadness, and hearing voices are all signs that something might not be right, according to PsychCentral.
So many think they are the only ones who feel sad instead of happy when looking at the baby. Many women who get a bout of postpartum mood disorder might try to isolate themselves from others. It’s vital that new mothers do not ignore unusual mood swings and seek help immediately.
6 Do Know Who To Call
Calling in reinforcements is no good if the person who comes to help makes the new mom feel bad or doesn’t respect her wishes. The type of help that is best for a new mother is important for her to determine, according to The Bump.
If a helper creates extra stress, that can make new motherhood so much more difficult. It’s imperative that new moms be honest with the people who help and be proactive in articulating what works and what doesn‘t.
If a new mama is struggling with postpartum depression, she should stay in contact with her doctor, as per the National Institute of Mental Health.
5 Don't Listen To The Inner Critic
Parents joke that no baby comes with an instruction manual, but it’s a joke with a lot of truth behind it. Nevertheless, many mothers develop a bad habit of berating themselves for not doing a good enough job, according to AnxietyBC.
This can lead to feelings of anxiousness and those feelings can prevent good quality sleep in a mother who is already experiencing sleep deprivation. Rather than listening to the self-criticism, new mothers can focus on the positive aspects of their character and their emerging parenting skills.
A great way to recognize negative self-criticism is to ask if we would speak to another person in the same way.
4 Do Remember Nutrition Nourishes
What we eat can either hinder or help our ability to fall asleep and have a restful sleep, according to The Sleep Institute. With round the clock feedings, new mothers may find themselves dragging through the day, but too wired to sleep at night.
But some foods - like nuts and other lean protein sources, can help the stomach to feel full longer, curbing hunger pangs.
Some fruits like cherries and kiwis contain melatonin, which can help reset the body’s sleep clock. Warm milk and whole grains may also help improve sleep quality. A fragrant cup of herbal tea is another great way to relax and soothe frazzled nerves.
3 Don’t Pass On Dad
Partners can and should be involved in the care and feeding of the new little life that mom has brought into the world. If the new mama has a partner at home with her, then it is never too early to start having family meetings.
A breastfeeding mother might choose to pump so that her partner can help with some of the night time feedings. Having an honest talk about what will help everyone get through this wonderful but difficult time is key, according to Parents.
New parents that work together and share the tasks and keep communication open will make it through this trying time with less sleep loss.
2 Do Know Your Limits
New moms often feel like they must do everything for their new baby without any help for a few reasons. Some mothers might feel like they need to keep up with other moms they see as having it all together.
But ‘comparison is the thief of joy,’ as Mark Twain said. What other new moms are able to do is not a healthy way to determine what a mother’s needs are.
Another reason that many moms don’t ask for help could be a symptom of postpartum psychosis, according to Postpartum Progress. Great moms are still great if they ask for help, and more likely to be better rested.
1 Don’t Try To Do It All
Eventually, most babies settle into a sleep routine. Most of the sleep happens at night, and mothers can find a rhythm in the day to day tasks and chores.
But the first few weeks are not so predictable, and the stress of that can be compounded when new mothers try to accomplish everything all by themselves.
The poet John Donne wrote that “no man is an island” and neither is a new mother an island alone. Practicing self-care, staying in touch with and seeking help from family and friends, and knowing the signs to look for are key to healthy sleep habits postpartum, according to the University of Michigan.
References: WebMD, Do You Yoga, The Royal Women’s Hospital, Mayo Clinic, Better Birth Doula, Today’s Parent, Parenting, Yoga Journal, The Bump, The National Institute Of Mental Health, The Sleep Foundation, Postpartum Progress, UPMC, Sleep.org, Popsugar, Parents, New York Times, Motherly, Psych Central, AnxietyBC, Phrases, University of Michigan