Sleep Deprivation After Having A Baby
There are many new changes to expect in life after having a baby. New family dynamics, new routines, lots of joys, and learning. One of the biggest adjustments to make is in how much sleep you will get as the parent or guardian of a newborn. Other variables will affect how you handle less sleep, including how much sleep you’re used to ordinarily, what kind of sleeper your baby is, and if/ when you plan to return to work.
Although some level of sleep deprivation is inevitable and should be expected for new parents, life doesn’t have to be inevitably miserable. Let’s learn more about what to expect from sleep after having a baby and what to do about it to make things a little bit more manageable.
what is sleep deprivation?
Sleep deprivation is when someone doesn’t get enough sleep! Because we are all different, this number of hours will vary from person to person. People become sleep deprived for a number of environmental and biological reasons including parenting, work schedule, insomnia, or stress. Sleep deprivation is especially important during the tender postpartum weeks and months because it can have an impact on your body, mood, and relationships. After the birth of your baby, it is extremely important to put your rest and healing high in your priorities. This includes adequate sleep, nutrition, and hydration.
the right expectations
Although it is important to prioritize your own sleep, you will notice an overall decrease in the amount of sleep you get. All new parents should expect to get very little sleep in the first days, weeks, and months of their baby’s life. Good sleep is closely linked to feeding. Most newborns feed every 2-3 hours, around the clock, and require diaper changes just as often. Some settle back into sleep and others may need some help like rocking, bouncing, or shhhing. If you need a little more clarity, you can prepare for what’s ahead by taking an infant sleep class to learn about all things sleep in the early days of having a newborn. All of this makes it really important to have a plan on tackling sleep deprivation!
what can I do to decrease sleep deprivation?
- share overnight responsibilities
If you have a partner, friend, doula, or family member who is available, you may want to think of a few ways to have them participate in the overnight responsibilities of taking care of your newborn. Perhaps one of you feeds and burps and the other takes over to change a diaper and get the baby back to sleep. There are many ways to split the care! No matter what kind of birth you’ve had or how you feed your baby, you and your care team can chip in so that no one person gets burned out.
- sleep when the baby sleeps
If you have not heard this phrase already, you certainly will hear someone advise you to “sleep when the baby sleeps” at some point. Of course, you can’t sleep every time your newborn dozes (which could be upwards of 20 hours a day!) but you can make sure to use some of that time catching up on your own zzzs. It’s very enticing to try to go back to some version of your old life, when you have the opportunity, i.e. when your newborn is asleep, but please understand that the show or movie, chores, book, and the phone will still be around once you get a moment to rest. Expecting to get all the sleep you need during the night could be setting yourself up for extreme sleep deprivation, as it won’t be the uninterrupted sleep that you are used to. Even if you’ve had difficulty taking naps in the past, it’s worth it to give it another try.
- hire a postpartum doula
Different people fare differently when handling sleep deprivation. If you have a larger family or lots of nearby support you may find it easy to find the time to prioritize your own rest. If not, a postpartum doula is a wonderful resource. They can be hired for either day or night hours. A day doula can assist with household tasks such as laundry, dishes, meal prep, and holding your baby leaving you time to rest. An overnight doula will feed, change and comfort your baby while you sleep. Overnight support is an option for all families, including those who are bodyfeeding /chestfeeding/breastfeeding! Some families hire a postpartum doula to come right away after the baby is born, while some after a few days or weeks when the need manifests itself. At boober, we can even find you help within a day, so even if you did not plan for it, it’s never too late to get a doula, and don’t hesitate to reach out to us for help.
Having a baby is a lot of work and you aren’t meant to do everything alone. With the right expectations and support, you will make it through your postpartum period and sleep deprivation. Share and delegate overnight tasks, sleep when you can (even if you don’t usually nap) and enlist in the support of a postpartum doula.
Laura is a doula, a writer, a wife, and the mother of two. When Laura is not supporting new families or her own, you can find her trying out fun new recipes in the kitchen. Laura is available on the boober platform for matches.