Why you should safeguard your sleep with a newborn
The arrival day of your little one can be both a joyous and strenuous day for any expecting parent, but despite the frenzy, somehow we manage to balance the excitement of the delivery and a plan for when arriving home from the hospital or birthing center with our newborn. Meals, chores, baby care and breastfeeding support, even a mild exercise routine to help rebuild our strength, are all important duties that may be included in that plan — but what about sleep? Yes, sleep. Your sleep.
We are often reminded to or assume we will “sleep when the baby sleeps.” But, what often ends up happening is that plan starts to unravel after two to three weeks of being home, if not much sooner. Many moms find themselves entertaining, or at the very least, staying awake for a revolving door of well-meaning friends and family who want to come over and see you and the baby. Many of us feel guilty for not inviting them to see the baby in the hospital. So saying, “Peace out, Aunt Sharon, here’s the Swiffer, a diaper and wipes. I’m going to go take a nap," might have her writing you completely out of her will if she is not prepared for the situation.
Yep! That’s the REAL reality. My goal is to encourage you to make more mindful, practical and stress-free arrangements for the family’s meals, chores, and other support so that you can shield your sleep. Safeguarding your sleep ultimately creates a happier mom, protecting your baby from a mama who is on the brink of coo-coo or worse — postpartum depression.
Here is a list of tips that will increase your opportunities for sleep:
1. Enlist a gatekeeper (postpartum doulas and baby planners are great at this) who will notify your friends and family in advance that there’s only a 50/50 chance they will see you and the baby briefly when they come to visit. And a one hundred percent chance they will be washing a sink full of dishes and taking your three-year-old child to the park (while they’re “visiting the baby”) so you can nap with the baby.
2. If you feel that may rub some of your family and friends the wrong way, then schedule their visit to see the baby when your significant other is home, so you can go take a nap, and he can entertain them.
3. In spite of your cabin fever, resist the urge to roll up on the local Mommy and Me group with your three-week-old baby. It’s best to wait until your baby is at least eight weeks old, which is when their circadian rhythms have developed just enough to help them with day and night confusion. This is when your baby, and ultimately you, will experience longer chunks of consolidated sleep at night. It’s not much at this age, but it makes a difference in your own sleep debt. You will now at least be able to get sleep when it’s most restorative to your body, rather than outside of your natural biological rhythms.
4. Ideally, you should have help until your baby is sixteen weeks old, when their sleep cycles become more adult-like in nature, allowing them to reach deeper, more restorative and consolidated sleep at night.
Remember, your postpartum plan isn't just for your physical recovery, but your emotional recovery as well. It’s about protecting yourself from sleep deprivation that accumulates when sleep is fragmented at night as you respond to your newborn on-demand until physical vitals are stable, positive breastfeeding behaviors and milk supply are established, and their sleep cycles are more mature.
If moms are properly supported and they can get through the first four months with minimal sleep debt, then they and their babies will be more apt to thrive, rather than just survive during what I feel is the most wonderful season of the new parent experience.
Written by Jenni June Certified Child and Family Sleep Consultant, CLC & Mom of four amazing young adults! www.jennijune.com