Getting a good night's sleep can be challenging when you're caring for a newborn. Throughout the night, your sleep may be interrupted by breastfeeding, changing diapers, or perhaps just soothing a fussy baby who won't sleep.
You need to take extra care of yourself to get through the first few arduous months after your baby is born. Here are a few things you can do to help cope with sleep deprivation.
1. Eat Healthily
Choosing to eat healthy foods will keep you energized throughout the day and help you fight fatigue. According to Health Canada, when you're breastfeeding, you need more vitamin A, vitamin C and zinc.
Some easy-to-prepare vitamin-packed snacks include:
- Apple slices or carrot sticks with peanut butter
- Hummus and celery
- Cottage cheese and fruit
- Hard boiled eggs
- Beef jerky
Balance your diet by visiting Choose My Plate, a food guidance system from the U.S. Department of Agriculture, to ensure that you eat a variety of foods from all the recommended food groups. The "MyPlate Daily Checklist" will give you a personalized food plan based on your age, breastfeeding status, height and weight. This checklist will help ensure you eat your grains, vegetables, protein, fruits and dairy—keeping your energy levels balanced.
Aerobic exercise dramatically improves your quality of sleep, including sleep duration, according to a study by Northwestern University. If you're spending most of your time at home, you might try small things like running up and down the stairs, or turning on some music and dancing. (Use headphones so you don't wake the baby!)
Additionally, yoga has been proven to improve sleep for those suffering from insomnia. In her book, Yoga Mom, Buddha Baby, Jyothi Larson recommends various relaxation postures that can be done before bed. Child's pose, easy forward bend, supine spinal twist and corpse pose are all effective in relaxing the body. These yoga postures alleviate the body tension that builds throughout the day, and help you fall asleep with less stiffness, aches or pains.
3. Keep the Baby Close to You
When your baby doesn't sleep at night, keep the baby close to your bed. The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends your child sleep in their own bassinet nearby to minimize your sleep disruptions. When the baby is this close, you can easily roll over, pick the baby up and place them next to you for breastfeeding.
4. Avoid Caffeine Before Bedtime
Abstaining from caffeine has been proven to improve sleep quality, according to a study in the Journal of Clinical Nursing. Caffeine intake should be a factor in sleep hygiene, try to restrict your coffee to just one cup in the morning.
Before bedtime, try drinking a cup of chamomile tea which has traditionally been used for its sedative qualities and is known for its calming effects.
5. Avoid Screen Time Before Bed
When you use a tablet, smartphone, or computer before bedtime, you can disrupt your body's release of melatonin. Normal production of this key hormone prepares your body for sleep. So turn off your electronics at least one hour before bedtime, try to limit having screens in the bed altogether. You can wait until tomorrow to post those cute baby pictures!
6. Help Your Baby Sleep Better
When your baby sleeps better, so will you. There are a few new tools that are designed to help soothe your baby to sleep. Maureen Howard, a pediatric physical therapist and a mother of 4, struggled with her firstborn's sleep troubles. Drawing on her expertise in pediatric therapy, Howard created the Magic Sleepsuit to help her son sleep peacefully. The sleepsuit swaddles the baby, providing a greater sense of security and helps muffle the jerks and startles that typically occur during sleep and sometimes wake the baby up.
Another great tool is the White Noise Baby app that plays relaxing sounds to lull your baby to sleep. Choose sounds like taking a car ride, conch shell and "doppler ultrasound" of the womb. You can also look into white noise machines.
7. Ask for Help
Don't forget you can and should ask for help. Ask your partner or family members to take turns changing diapers and feeding the baby using bottled breast milk during the night while you sleep. If your friends and extended family offer to help, ask them to cook meals that can stay in your fridge or freezer.
These sleep-deprived nights won't last forever. In the meantime, take these important steps to get as much rest as you can and stay healthy.