New Parents/ Postpartum Sleep: Are your post partum sleep patterns throwing your sleep out the window?
I’m not sure that I can completely convey the sheer pain of not being able to sleep when you become a new parent.
I remember when I first became a mom, the pregnancy was all about me. What did I feel like eating? What new pregnancy outfit did I want to buy? My feet hurt, maybe I should treat myself to a nice pedicure? And then…. I invested countless weeks understanding what was going to happen to my body during labour. I used several meditation and relaxation techniques that would help me manage my pain. And then… Packing all my glamozon outfits into my hospital bag that I had packed for me and my baby.
But man, oh man, oh man, oh man…. Nothing had quite prepared me for that moment when I become a mother. The focus completely shifted from me to 100% attention on this new baby.
This new baby who was so sweet, cute and precious. This new baby that was so bright eyed, warm and cuddly. This new baby who fed every 2-3 hours, woke up constantly and at times made me feel like running into a cave just so I could get a few hours of uninterrupted sleep.
According to the National Sleep Foundation, new moms have less than 5hours sleep during a 24 hour period. The study also showed that 55% of these women only got a good nights sleep a few times a month.
The hardest issue for any new parent though, is that once your sleep has been interrupted you may have trouble getting back to sleep. When you get up, the light signals your brain to wake up and the pieneal gland stops making melatonin. Your body starts to believe that it is morning.
If this happens several times a night, there can be disruptions to your bodies circadian rhythms causes physical, emotional and hormonal imbalances. Blue ray lights have been shown to help neutralise any bright light and can sometimes trick the brain to still thinking its night time.
Now let me tell you my story. In December 2010, I was blessed to become a mother of 3 children. My oldest daughter was 3, my middle son was 1 and my youngest was a newborn.
During my last trimester of pregnancy, I was still getting up through the night with my 1 year old and my daughter still needed my help to go to the toilet at night. By the time I delivered baby number 3, I was already feeling quite exhausted.
Once I would deal with one child, another child needed my attention, and their crying would wake up the other child… the sleep interruptions were happening several times a night and I struggled to let myself relax and fall asleep into that deep, deep slumber that my body needed.
Now this lack of sleep made me a cranky mommy, and nobody likes a cranky mommy… I didn’t even like the cranky mommy I was becoming, and that I why I desperately needed to get some sleep. Here are some tips that I figured out.
Natural sleep tips:
- Eliminate all loud distractions. Turn off the TV, cancel unnecessary appointments, de-clutter your social calender. This time is for you and your new family. You can only be the best parent you can be when you’re rested. NOTHING else matters.
- Create specific family relaxation techniques. Soft calming music, strip you kiddy winkles in a pram, go outside, get some fresh air and go for a walk in the sunshine and have a warm bath once the babies are asleep.
- Have a regular sleep schedule/ routine for your children. When your kids sleep, you should sleep. I can hear what you’re saying.. I have a gazillion things to do…. And I hear you, I was the same. But NOTHING else matters than getting your sleep back on track. So close your to do list, 1pm is household nap time. So go to sleep.
- Eat a healthy, rich diet that is gentle on your digestive system and eases you into slumber (food). I enjoy plenty of water during the day, lots of fresh fruit and vegetables and as I feed these to my kiddies, we eat together and all are much happier and brighter.
- Don’t be a martyr. Ask for help! If you have family or friends that offer a helping hand, then please take them up on this. You are not going to win any prizes for going on this hard road alone. If its help with housework, or looking after kids, or picking up things from the store…. If someone offers, accept their offer.
- De-clutter your house. I know you feel like everything is getting on top of you.. And do you find that you are constantly tidying up your house? This may sound a little harsh – But let’s give yourself a break and pack everything away. I mean keep a few toys out and pack the rest away. See how you manage for one month. If you find you didn’t miss the stuff, you will be giving someone a great gift by donating it. Less stuff, less tidying, less you feel guilty about having an untidy house.
- Meals. This is going to sound uber boring. BUT so necessary. Don’t waste your time and energy thinking up new meals to cook. Get organised. Write a 2 week menu plan. Pre stock your fridge with a week 1’s worth of fresh groceries and stick with preparing the only things that are on your plan. Then do the same thing for week 2. Repeat this 2 week meal plan for 3 every season. I know, I know it sounds boring… But its all about creating a systematised, structured approach to how you create a simple life, that will give you more down time so you can sleep.
- Don’t be silly and stay up late to watch TV. You can watch TV for the rest of your life. Once your kids are propped into bed, its certainly time for you to do a few things that you can’t do while the kids are asleep (give yourself a maximum of 1 hour for this) and then start your bedtime wind down routine. Use the same routine (sleep schedule) as your kids… Dinner, relax, bath, milk, book, bed.. zzzzzz
There is nothing that is glamorous about the steps above. BUT one thing that you need to know is that, this is only a moment of time in your life where nothing else matters except you and your family. You need to look after yourself first, because if you don’t do that, the negative consequences for your children are far too great.
I would love to hear your comments, or hear about any techniques that have specifically helped you deal with becoming a new parent and getting more sleep.