Sarah Cummings shares 3 ways to cope with sleep deprivation for breastfeeding moms.
New mothers know the truth. Of course, your baby’s first weeks and months can be an exciting, joyous and incredibly special time. The bond that formed when you held your newborn for the very first time, which you didn’t think could get any stronger, suddenly does. And, if you’ve made the decision to breastfeed, well, that’s an unbreakable bond right there.
But in all the excitement, in all the family visits and in all the chaos that getting to know your little one involves, we moms often neglect something pretty important—our sleep.
It’s vital that, as a new mom, you get enough sleep. Because, let’s face it, you’ll need all the energy you can get! But there’s more to it than that. Better sleep means you’ll be more rested, more productive, healthier and probably a great deal happier as a result. In short, you’ll be in a better position to give your bubs all the love and attention she needs.
This is especially important if you’ve made the decision to breastfeed. After all, your child is depending on you for another kind of nourishment entirely! So you’re going to want to be in the best possible health; something that sleep deprivation simply doesn’t allow. The good news is that if you’re a breastfeeding mom you can potentially get more sleep than your bottle-feeding counterparts. (Yay!) And you know all that lovely oxytocin you release when breastfeeding? Well, it’s known as the ‘love hormone’ and it makes you feel all calm and relaxed … which, just like sex, can act as a great prelude to sleep.
Even so, with all the nighttime feeds and the million thoughts that are probably rushing around your mind in between them, it can be hard to suddenly switch off when you need to.
So here are a few tricks you can try:
1. Eat the right foods
As new moms, having a proper meal sometimes seems like a distant memory. Instead, we find ourselves grabbing something quick when we remember; snacks that aren’t exactly laden with health benefits. But sacrificing your own nutrition isn’t going to help your baby … or your sleep.
By choosing some healthy, sleep-promoting foods in the evening instead of sugary, ‘convenient’ snacks, you’ll be doing you both a big favor. Foods like kiwis, bananas and almonds are great as they’re high in magnesium (which promotes feelings of wellness and calm). And the potassium in them acts as a muscle relaxant, too—bonus!
So, next time you get your little one down and you’re reaching for a cup of tea and a couple of biscuits, think of your poor sleep patterns. Swap the caffeinated tea for a herbal alternative and the biscuits for a snooze-enhancing snack instead!
2. Nap when you can
You’ll probably have heard from a million well-wishers by now, but I’ll say it again for good measure, “Sleep when the baby sleeps.” That nugget is thrown around a lot but not often taken onboard by new moms, who always seem to find a room that needs tidying, laundry that needs washing, or meals that need cooking.
But, really, you should be taking every opportunity you can to catch some zs. Whether day or night, if your baby goes down for a nap, you should too. If you can’t sleep, try closing your eyes or meditating for a while. Because checking emails, shopping online or even watching your favorite Netflix show isn’t really that relaxing. Your mind’s still active and you’re not giving it time to be still.
This is especially important before your own bedtime. If you get your baby down at 10pm, you should try and make yourself sleep soon afterwards. No staying up to watch just one more episode—after all, you’ll be getting up in a couple of hours! Otherwise, you run the risk of being grumpy, irritable and even resentful towards your little one. When, in fairness, he hasn’t done anything except get hungry.
3. Accept help from others
You want to be Supermom. I get it. But even Supermom has her Kryptonite—a lack of sleep. At the very least, it saps her energy, reduces her productivity levels and hinders her ability to make sound decisions. (Not exactly world-saving material, right?!)
When experienced over a longer period of time, sleep deprivation can lead to diabetes, heart disease and depression. Continuous poor sleep is not something that should be taken lightly. After all, your health is your wealth—a wealth that your little ones depend on to live richer lives themselves.
So when people offer you help, accept it. Whether it’s the bigger things, like offering to babysit while you and your partner enjoy an evening to yourselves (imagine!) or the smaller things, like bringing you takeout when you don’t have the energy to cook … say “yes” to whatever help comes your way. It doesn’t make you a bad mom to admit that you’re exhausted. It doesn’t make you weaker if you need to seek the strength of others.
It just makes you human.
So, there it is, ladies! 3 simple ways to handle sleep deprivation while breastfeeding. Of course, like so many things, their effects do take time. And you probably won’t turn into Sleeping Beauty overnight (sorry!)
Still, it’s all about taking control to actively make changes to get a better night’s sleep. Once you’ve done that, you may find that the amount and quality of your sleep begin to improve. Your mind might be more rested and less anxious when you go to bed, and you’ll be able to get to sleep more quickly than before.
Sweet dreams! xoxo
Sarah Cummings writes for The Sleep Advisor.
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