Mother’s Day is just around the corner, and it got me thinking. I spend a lot of time talking about how to help your baby sleep. And baby sleep is important, but mom needs sleep too! When you were pregnant, people may have jokingly advised you to ‘rest up,’ hinting at the countless sleep-deprived nights that were coming.
Ironically, this is good advice, but most women find that sleep is uncomfortable during those last months of pregnancy. When the baby arrives, suddenly days and nights just begin to blur together.
Sleep coaching will help once the baby reaches an appropriate age—around six months. Before that, however, parents will lose sleep, and that will result in some sleep debt.
You’re probably wondering, “What is a sleep debt?” A survey by the National Sleep Foundation showed that the average adult sleeps around seven and a half hours per night. Although this is close to the recommendation of 7-9 hours, many wouldn’t classify their sleep as high quality. Factor in a new baby, and it’s probably safe to say new parents aren’t coming close.
With all of the reasons parents are up at night—nighttime feedings, diaper changes, ‘I heard him move, so I have to go check’ moments that come with being a mom—the sleep debt just grows. Luckily, sleep debt, just like any debt can be paid back over time. However, sleeping in on Sunday morning doesn’t cut it.
It’s not just sleep debt. A Harvard Study actually found that mothers who reported sleeping five hours or less per day when their babies were six months old had a threefold higher risk for substantial weight retention (11 pounds or more) at their baby’s first birthday than moms who slept seven hours per day. Another Harvard study suggests that sleep deprivation can lead some to postpartum depression. Sleep is so important, so how can we moms get more sleep?
Talk about it
Discuss everyone’s sleep needs (yours and baby’s) with your partner. Let them know how you handle sleep deprivation. Then formulate a loose plan to help ensure that everyone can get as much sleep as possible.
Sleep when your newborn does
Yes, this is old advice, but it’s good advice. If you can, try to nap when baby naps. I realize that for some moms this will prove difficult, but an extra 2 hours of sleep each day will help to repay the sleep debt that has been building.
Mom needs sleep too! Split night time shifts
There’s no shame in asking your partner for help with nighttime wakening. If breastfeeding has been established, consider pumping so that you can occasionally sleep through the first feeding of the night while your baby has a bottle.
For formula feeding families, you can alternate nights, allowing a full night’s sleep every other night. Be sure that the baby monitor is with your partner on your “sleep night”. Otherwise you might instinctively wake when the baby does.
Set the stage
Remember that the same bedtime advice that works for your baby will also work for you.
• Turn off the television (and all screens) at least an hour before bed. This will set you up for sleep with a soothing routine.
• Have a cup of decaf tea, take a bubble bath, or read a book.
• Pay attention to the temperature in your bedroom. The perfect sleeping temperature is around 68-72 degrees.
• If your bedroom isn’t dark, think about purchasing blackout curtains to help your body with melatonin production.
• Noise is counterproductive to sleep. Running a fan or white noise machine can help to block out cars, trucks, trains, or noisy neighbors.
• Invest in quality sheets, and consider getting a new mattress so that your body is properly supported during sleep.
• Listen to your body and go to bed when you’re tired. If you pay attention, you may find that you are ready for lights out earlier than you may think. Some moms find that they are actually able to fall asleep as early as 8:00 p.m. It takes the average person 20 minutes to fall asleep. If it’s taking you longer than this, it’s okay to get up and read for a bit, then try again.
Sleep is important for everyone
When there’s a new baby in the home, it’s inevitable that parents are going to lose sleep. If mom is breastfeeding, the reality is that she is going to be the hardest hit. Any little things that can help mom, especially for Mother’s Day, will go a long way. When baby’s half-year birthday comes around and you can start sleep-coaching, you can begin to pay back that debt. With a little luck and some good habits, mom can get her “beauty sleep” too!