We recently polled women on what they feared or struggled with most as they stepped into the unknown territory of motherhood. In the first piece of our new blog series, A Bump In The Road: Facing The Fears of Motherhood, we’re sharing tips and resources to help with one of the most common fears we heard: sleep deprivation.
If you’re wondering how you’ll manage to get a healthy amount of sleep while caring for a newborn — you’re not alone. We’re sharing advice to not only get through this season of motherhood, but to thrive as you get to know your new baby.
Why is sleep so important for moms?
According to the Sleep Foundation, sleep helps your entire body to stay healthy and even fight off disease. Additionally, sleep is needed to help your brain function properly. Parent Magazine noted in their article, “Sleep Deprivation After Baby”:
“During REM sleep, the brain sorts memories and processes the day’s events,” says Margaret Moline, PhD, director of the Sleep-Wake Disorders Center. Lack of REM sleep can cause memory lapses and make tasks requiring higher cognitive functioning more difficult, leaving you feeling scattered and foggy (as in, “Did I just change a diaper?”). For moms, this makes a range of daily activities problematic — from balancing the checkbook to conjuring up the patience to deal with a cranky toddler. Indeed, it’s much harder to use techniques such as distraction or humor (instead of yelling) when you’re exhausted.”
In other words, more sleep = happier mama and happier baby. Here’s a few practical ways to get much-needed rest during your baby’s infancy stages.
Sleep When Baby Sleeps
We get it — this advice may not feel practical, especially if you have older children. But when you can, take the age-old advice and sleep when your baby is sleeping. Even a short nap can be helpful. The National Sleep Foundation shared that a 20 minute nap can boost your mood, sharpen your focus, and improve your short-term memory recall, among other benefits.
If you have older children who have outgrown their naps, try to establish a “quiet time” each day where your older children play or read in their room while you also take time to rest.
Set a Routine
Healthline Parent shared this advice from a certified pediatric sleep consultant, “Night sleep develops first, so typically the first portion of the night is the longest stretch of sleep.” Make the most of these longer stretches of sleep by setting a relaxing routine not only for your child, but also for yourself.
Resist the temptation to scroll social media or catch up on your favorite shows once your baby is settled for bed, and avoid electronics for 1-2 hours leading up to bedtime. Plan to turn in for the night soon after your baby is asleep, so that you can maximize your time to rest during your baby’s longer stretches of sleep.
Have friends and family pitch in as much as possible. Don’t be afraid to ask for help, and if someone offers — accept it.
Even if you are nursing, once a nursing relationship is established, you can make a plan for others to help with nighttime feedings. Let your partner, or friend or family member who can stay overnight, give your baby a bottle of formula or pumped breast milk so you can get a longer stretch of uninterrupted sleep.
Practice Good Sleep Hygiene
Keep clutter and reminders of your to-do list out of your bedroom. The same principle applies for children too; a good sleep environment is helpful to calm little ones and support longer stretches of sleep. Many parents have found that swaddling and white noise machines were also helpful for keeping their baby asleep.
Advice from a Real Mom
Angela, TPN’s Health & Client Service Director shared this advice:
It has been awhile since I had a baby—23 years in fact—but, I do remember those sleepless nights and the exhaustion you feel. One thing that I found to be helpful is to sleep while your baby sleeps if you can. Skip doing chores while your baby is sleeping and rest. It is ok to ask for help from your support system when you are tired. Also, I had to learn to not drink caffeine products after a certain time as it would keep me awake.
Meredith is a Development Coordinator at TPN and also teaches our Pregnancy 101 Class. She shared that she also feared how she would cope with little sleep on a newborn’s schedule:
This was a big fear of mine when I learned I was pregnant. I do not do well without sleep, and my body requires about 8+ hours to function on all cylinders.
The first thing I tell pregnant moms is that you can never pray too early, or too often, over your child. When I first found out I was pregnant, I prayed that my child would be a good sleeper, great car rider (I love to travel) and healthy. We know that Biblically our prayers are all heard. God “remembers us” and our prayers strengthen our relationship with him. So, above all, prayer! God hears and honors our prayers.
Second, remember to sleep when the baby sleeps. The dishes, laundry and general house cleaning will always be there. Listen to your body and sleep if it’s telling you to rest. Besides, after giving birth your body needs time and energy to heal! The most important role is caring for your baby and yourself.
Friend, you’re not alone. Motherhood is full of challenges, but it is so rewarding. We would love the opportunity to walk alongside you during and after your pregnancy.
You can also find support through our Pregnancy 101 and Parenting 101 classes. As one woman noted in her review, “[the instructor] made me feel empowered in my pregnancy journey.” Another shared, “They presented a great class even in the midst of COVID-19, where I learned so much and connected with so many moms!…They’re an awesome support system.” Find out more about our free classes here.