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Dealing with Sleep Deprivation

Being sleep-deprived can adversely effect your moods, your ability to cope and your metabolism. It is a normal part of life in the first months with a newborn, but you need strategies to deal with it. Here are some practical tips for the first weeks.

Keep in mind that new babies don’t have a schedule and still need to wake up at least once in the night and usually more often. Take good care of yourself and eventually, you will have sleep routines that work for you and your family.

The key is Two Naps & One Event.

  1. Plan ahead. Fill your kitchen with a week’s worth of groceries. Make copies of a shopping list to share with your friends (or use yourself when you are forgetful). Collect take-out menus and have a stash of cash. When you are tired and hungry you can order food more easily.
  2. Two Naps: Take a nap in the morning, a nap in the afternoon, and then at night, another nap. This prevents you from getting overstimulated and/or overexhausted. Do some stretching to relax, sleep in a comfortable position so your whole body rests efficiently. Put on a meditation CD or calming music, close your eyes. Even just being “horizontal” and resting will refresh your body.
  3. One Event: In the first weeks with a newborn, have only one event every day. That means, going to the pediatrician is one event. Having a visitor for a few hours is one event. But having a visitor and going to the pediatrician will use up your energy for one day
  4. Don't expect to do much else the first few weeks. The first two weeks are when a mother’s hormones are at their highest for her recovery and establishing a milk supply. It’s also an important time to discover your baby and each other as a parenting team.
  5. Switch your sleeping schedule to match the baby’s. For example, if your baby sleeps from 6:30 – 11 p.m., then is awake from 11 – 2, go to bed by 7:00 p.m.so you can get a two or three hours of sleep in the early evening. That way, waking up at 11:00 p.m. with your baby won’t be as difficult. Remember, this schedule won’t last forever… sleep is your top priority!
  6. Do invite friends over, people with whom you can comfortably share your world/feelings. Have them help you with something (prepare a meal, massage your feet) so that your energy is renewed by the visit. Don’t feel guilty about taking a nap while they’re there or asking them to come back another time if you’re too tired to visit.
  7. Do something good for your body, a few minutes each day. Stretch, breathe deeply, and/or get some fresh air. You can take walks outside, with or without your baby.
  8. Continue with your good diet and your prenatal vitamins. Eating something healthy every few hours will help keep your energy levels even.
Take good care of yourself. When your baby is around 6-8 weeks old, you will know so much more and you should have some patterns and routines that work for you. You will keep learning and adapting but it should get easier as the baby gets older.

Adapted from a class handout by Robin Snyder-Drummond: www.birthready.com.

It is the goal of this Task Force to bring together the practitioners, organizations, research, and best practices that North Shore families need for a healthy postpartum experience. The initial scope of this Task Force is the North Shore United Way community, including the following towns: Beverly, Manchester, Hamilton, Wenham, Ipswich, Essex, Gloucester, and Rockport.