You’d willingly sacrifice plenty for the sake of your new baby, but one thing you should be more selfish about is your sleep.
While the amount of time you spend snoozing will almost decrease dramatically in the first weeks and months (if not years) of new motherhood, you should try to get as much good rest as you can, and not for the sake of “beauty.” Sleep deprivation is detrimental to your physical health, leaving you more vulnerable to illness and prone to accidents. And it messes with your mental and emotional health: One of the more troubling side effects of sleep deprivation may be a triggering or worsening of postpartum depression or anxiety, as well as other mood disorders.
It doesn’t have to be that way. While indulging in long sleep-ins may be unrealistic for the foreseeable future, it’s entirely possible to be more strategic and – yes – selfish about your own sleep needs. The benefits of sleep are clear for you and your health, but remember, too, that a more well-rested mom is good for everyone in the house. Here’s what you need to know:
Make sleep a priority: While it’s fine to ignore the laundry and the thank-you cards you’ve been meaning to send, don’t ignore sleep. Next time your baby is happy and fed and dozing, you can join her in the prone position, shut your eyes and take a blissful (even if brief) nap. A 20- to 30-minute nap has the power to refresh without making you groggy. Do it. Everything else can wait.
Communicate your needs: Is your mom or a friend coming over and asking what she can do to help? Speak up and say that what you really would like is for her to take the baby for a walk and let you sleep. Let your partner know (no one is a mind reader!) that everyone in the house will be far happier and healthier if you can nap or have a weekend-morning lie-in while he cooks, cleans, and handles baby care.
Trade night feedings: If you’re nursing, pump milk before bed so that the next feeding can be handled by your partner while you sleep. That’ll give your body a few uninterrupted hours in a row. This gives your body a chance to cycle through the stages of sleep. Experts note that it’s the constant interruption of those sleep cycles that does the most damage to your health.
Turn off (or turn down) the baby monitor: Newborns aren’t known for sleeping quietly, and if your senses are fine-tuned to hear every gurgle and snuffle, you’re less likely to fall and stay asleep between actual wakings. No worries; when your baby is truly awake, hungry, and crying, you’ll know it. Make sure your baby’s environment is sleep-friendly and safe. Keep it quiet (though some babies like white-noise machines or the whirring of a fan), cool, and dark. Put your baby to sleep on her back and consider a breathable mattress (like the ones from Newton Baby). Knowing she’s safe and comfy will help you sleep better, too.
Work toward a sleep schedule: Though not every baby will sleep through the night by six months, most babies are perfectly capable of sleeping for seven or eight hours at a stretch by this age, so encourage that with small moves. Along with not jumping up at every noise, you should also keep nighttime feedings short and sweet; don’t turn on any lights or make much noise. The idea is to communicate that it’s sleepy time now. Your baby will get the message. Eventually.
Talk to your doctor: If sleeplessness is leaving you feeling helpless, hopeless, anxious, or depressed, call your doctor immediately. Postpartum depression is a very real risk, and you should not ignore it.
A final note: You are not alone. All over America, new mothers are pacing or rocking and wondering if this stage will ever end. Rest (no pun intended) assured: It will.
How to Get Sh*t Done will teach you how to zero in on the three areas of your life where you want to excel, and then it will show you how to off-load, outsource, or just stop giving a damn about the rest.