Are you expecting a new baby? If so, you’re probably wondering how your sleep is going to be affected by your new family member. After all, babies cry and they need a lot of attention…at all hours.
So, how can you avoid being a “zombie” during these first few post-partum months? And, how can you best prepare yourself for your new life?
As a reminder, there are many changes in the postpartum period that affect sleep. These include not only hormones and the other changing components of our bodies, but our lifestyle changes including our new responsibilities and our interpersonal relationships with partners, parents, caretakers, etc.
Of particular concern are postpartum mood and anxiety disorders (PMADs) including postpartum depression, postpartum anxiety, and postpartum psychosis. These may occur during pregnancy and in the first year after your baby is born.
Making sure we get the best sleep we can reduces our risk for developing a PMAD.
Some of the factors that affect women’s postpartum sleep include:
– Sleeping Arrangements
– Method of feeding
– Number of children in the household
– Relationships with partner / family members
– Postpartum support
- Sleeping Arrangements
There are several options:
– Bed Sharing: In the same bed
– Room Sharing: In the same room, but a separate bed
– Solitary Sleeping: In a separate bed in a separate roomGive some thought to what will be best for your lifestyle and mode of feeding (breast or bottle). Remember that when baby comes you can always decide to switch.
- Method Of Feeding
There is much controversy over the best way to feed your newborn. There are great arguments for breastfeeding and there are many women who may not be able to breastfeed for medical or social reasons.There is no right or wrong decision – it is important to do whatever is best for you and baby.If you are breastfeeding, you may decide to “pump and sleep”. This means that you will pump breast milk before you go to bed and that breast milk can be given to your baby while you get some sleep by the other parent or a family member etc. This may allow you to share nighttime feedings with your partner so you can both get some sleep. Additionally, you or your partner may decide to wake your baby up to feed her on a specific schedule so you can sleep.
- Other Children In The Home
If you have other children in your home, the good news is you’re already an expert on this. You have some tried and true experience as a mother that makes you an awesome authority on the best sleep plan for you and a new baby.With that said, if your other children are not already sleeping regularly, now may be a good time to think about getting them sleep-trained. No mom or child sleeps perfectly so try not to stress too much about having your younger children be perfect sleepers – this will just keep you up longer!! :)) But, expecting another child is great motivation to make real strides in this department.
- Partner Relationship
If you have a partner, i.e. husband or wife, then you probably already know about the stress that pregnancy can place on a relationship. You probably already know how your partner can be an ally in keeping your health and sleep on track. You may also have noticed how stress with your partner can negatively affect your health and sleep.Now is a great time to think about working on things with your partner. You are going to need each other when your newborn baby comes. Partner dissatisfaction does not just “go away” so realize there is never a wrong time to come in and talk about your relationship. In fact, the birth of your new baby should be considered an opportunity to take stock of your relationship and work to make it more effective.
Having a newborn can be one of the more stressful moments in life. But, it doesn’t have to be that way if you can proactively take care of yourself.Here are some great tips from a prior article on Self Care.
- Postpartum Support
Let me discuss postpartum support in two different ways.First, it’s important to realize that when you have a newborn, your life WILL change…dramatically. You simply can’t do everything. Hopefully you have a partner and/or family and/or friends who can help and give you the occasional nap. If not, you need to consider finding outside help or you need to simplify your duties beyond caring for your child so that life is more manageable.Second, it’s important to be aware of possible post-partum psychological issues that might arise. These are the PMADs I mentioned earlier ((including postpartum depression, postpartum anxiety, and postpartum psychosis). 1 in 7 women suffer from some sort of PMAD, so know that you are not alone, you are not to blame, and with help you will be well. Obviously I’m available to help in a situation like this, and there are many other qualified professionals that can help as well. The key is to get help before it escalates.
- Sleep Tips
Finally, here is a link to some sleep tips…what I can Getting Your Vitamin ZZZ.
My name is Amanda Itzkoff, MD. I am a New York City based Psychiatrist and Assistant Professor at Mount Sinai Medical Center.
For additional information about getting over a breakup, or other relationship or mental health issues, please feel free to email our office at Amanda.Itzkoff@gmail.com.
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