All moms could use a little extra sleep.
Whether you’re a brand new mom or a seasoned one, sleep is something we all crave. The months shortly after having a baby are the worst for sleep deprivation and there’s usually no avoiding it. But once you’ve got baby into a good routine and you’ve settled into motherhood a bit better, you can start to focus on how to reclaim all your lost hours of sleep.
Mom of two and freelance writer, Lisa Smalls, shares some tips on how to reclaim your sleep after having a baby.
Having a new baby will be one of the greatest feelings in your life, however, that thrill can be quickly replaced with the fatigue, lack of focus, anxiety and an increased temper all due to sleep deprivation. Sleep deprivation is acquiring fewer than the seven-plus recommended hours of sleep each night. While newborn babies can sleep 16 to 20 hours each day, those hours are stretched into bursts which are often inconveniently disturbed when the parent is trying to sleep.
On average, a mother in the first three months after having a baby can lose between one and two hours of sleep each night and for both parents they can experience sleep deprivation for up to six years after the birth. While some people can get an adequate amount of sleep at six hours, most need between seven and nine, so those critical couple hours of loss after childbirth can make a big impact on your quality of sleep, especially considering the hours you do get are broken up into two-hour segments dictated by the baby’s fits.
Your body requires not only that you receive seven hours, but also that those hours are subsequent to each other and they are quality sleep. Sleep is the way your body processes thoughts, emotions, memories and helps your body relax and repair. Without consistent sleep your body does not have the ability to process and file all of your information or process it correctly. This leads to a haze during the day resulting in fatigue, lack of focus, lack of motivation, mood swings and anxiety. In turn, these symptoms lead to additional insomnia. So, when your baby is sleeping at night, you may not be able to. It is a vicious cycle.
As your baby ages, additional challenges such as potty training, nightmares, and the concerns of your growing toddler and an active imagination result in sleep deprivation. Though the sleep deprivation you will likely experience as your child ages may not be as complicated as those first few months, it also provides the same symptoms.
So, what can a parent (especially a mother) do to reclaim sleep after giving birth? Here are five tips.
Create a routine for you and the baby
Okay, to be fair your baby is probably not going to pay attention to a routine in the beginning. But, with practice and commitment a routine can help your baby sleep in longer bouts and learn to sleep so that after four months your baby may actually sleep through the entire night. Routine is good and setting a sleep routine such as bath, reading, cuddling, and sleep will be a great payback for the future.
This is such an important factor in helping you sleep that you should keep a sign on your refrigerator as a reminder. After having a baby friends and family will practically tackle each other to offer help and cuddle with that little cutie. But, parents are often unwilling to accept the help. This may be from guilt or simply because it is difficult allowing someone else (including mom) to watch your baby without you there. But, whether someone offers to watch your baby a couple hours, help with the chores, or just hang out to give you a little break, it all pays off.
Keep the baby near you (but not in your bed)
A nursery is great, but it might be better after the six-month mark. In those first months your baby will wake up every couple hours and one way to miss out on sleep is that long walk to the nursery to feed. SIDS is a serious concern and one of the biggest no-no’s is letting your newborn sleep in bed with you. So, whether you have a crib or bassinet in the room keeping your baby close will help you feed without too much hassle.
Don’t worry about the dishes
Having a baby does not mean you have lost your old life, but it does mean you need to adjust going forward. That might mean that if you were emphatic about getting all the chores done and having a spotless house, those chores just might have to wait until you are having a nice relaxing day as the kids play with the grandparents. This does not mean you should live like a hoarder but prioritizing your sleep over missing a night of sweeping the floor, means you should really get your zzz’s.
Lisa is a mom of two and freelance writer from North Carolina. She regularly writes for the sleep health website Mattress Advisor, which has taught her so much about the importance of sleep (especially as a working mom). When she isn’t working on commissions, she loves connecting, encouraging and learning with other parents through her writing.