Being a mother means so much more responsibility and is more burdensome than you imagined, isn’t it? Probably the worst of your trials is sleep deprivation – you don’t remember when you slept well last time, and there’s no way you can count on getting enough sleep in the foreseeable future.
Sleep deprivation aggravates your situation in all its aspects, making even simple tasks uncommonly difficult. Sometimes it’s downright dangerous – The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration report says that mothers driving in a drowsy state because of lack of sleep cause approximately 100,000 car crashes yearly. Besides, it is bound to make postpartum mood swings more severe.
It may seem as if there were no helping this – fortunately, it is not so. Here are some pieces of advice from leading experts in the field.
1. Let everyone know that you are short of sleep
An assistant sleep specialist at Chicago’s Rush University Medical Center, Margaret Park, MD, believes strongly in up front discussion with the partner the issue of sleep deprivation and how you expect to deal with it. The measures may even include saving money for hiring a babysitter or a night nurse. Park has got two kids, the youngest is only 3 months old, so she ought to know what she is talking about!
2. Avail yourself of the hospital nursery
You may consider it improper at first, but, come to think of it, that’s what they are for – to give mothers a chance of catching up on some rest while they are in hospital; their babies will be in the care of a professional.
3. Take care not to overburden yourself
The newborn will be taking so much out of you that you would do well to eschew other responsibilities for a while, even if they are to your older children and other family members. Let them know that you are temporarily unavailable, is the advice of Susan Zafarlotfi, PhD, who works as a clinical director at the Institute for Sleep and Wake Disorders (Hackensack University Medical Center, New Jersey).
4. Take the advantage of the time the baby sleeps
The best advice is to doze off when your baby has fallen asleep. Postpone everything else and just curl up alongside your baby, is Dr Zafarlotti’s tip. Let other things wait.
Park seconds this opinion. “It is very tempting to try and do chores, wash dishes, do laundry and clean floors when your baby is asleep,” she points out, but the best thing is to let it go and get to sleep in the teeth of pressing chores. Also, don’t think you will get a better rest chatting with friends on the phone or watching your favorite serial. As soon as the baby wakes you will have no rest, think about it and reconsider in favor of sleeping.
“If you are too tired to drive your child to the pediatrician, you have a problem on your hands,” is the warning from Michael Breus, PhD, the Arrowhead Health, Glendale, clinical director of the sleep division and the author of Beauty Sleep. Let dirty laundry wait.
5. Accept help
Don’t be too proud to accept any kind of help offered, there’s no use in resisting. Involve friends and family members to gain a spell of sleep. “People think of sleep as a luxury, but it is a medical requirement,” reminds Park. To get it right, find a dark cool place where there are no radios and TV sets, and don’t keep waking up to look at the clock.
6. Don’t worry that you will be sleeping too tight to hear the baby cry
Generally, mothers get tuned to their babies and their crying acts like an unfailing alarm clock, Park assures. If you get too anxious about it or get to sleep too far from the nursery, use a monitor to ensure waking up in good time. On the other hand, if your baby is healthy and safe, he won’t come to harm if he cries a little before you reach him.
7. Share duties
Let your partner feed the baby once in a while, for example, handing over a bottle. If you don’t give the baby a bottle yet, you may pump some milk and relay the task anyway. Your partner may even enjoy feeding! Also, try and make your family members take over some of your other household chores.
8. Be attentive to the baby
There will eventually come a time when the bundle of joy will fall asleep for the whole night – allowing you to enjoy the night’s rest too. It comes earlier for some babies, so you can’t tell when your turn comes. But if you feel that it ought to occur and it doesn’t, or the baby is restless and crying all night long, go consult a pediatrician to see if there is a medical reason for that. Excess of gas or acid reflux may be the cause.
9. Watch out for postpartum depression
There’s always a chance of baby blues or something more serious lurking behind everyday worries. Lack of sleep will quickly result in aggravating this situation, and if you have noticed an onset of symptoms, consult your doctor immediately.
10. Consider the possibility of sleep disorder
If you don’t feel refreshed after getting forty winks, it may mean you’ve got an underlying sleep problem and be needing medical treatment, is Park’s reminder. As soon as you begin to suspect your sleep is more troubled than it is natural, arrange for a sleep study and call in a doctor. For instance, when you put on weight during pregnancy, you could have developed sleep apnea which is fairly common in such circumstances. It means that when you are sleeping your breathing may pause. A medical intervention may set things right.