Getting a good night’s sleep can be hard 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.
You need to take extra care of yourself to get through the first few grueling months after childbirth. Here are a few tips to help you cope with sleep deprivation.
1. Eat healthy
According to Health Canada, when you’re breastfeeding, you need more vitamin A, vitamin C and zinc. Choosing healthy foods will keep you energized through the day and help fight fatigue.
Some easy-to-prepare snacks include:
- Apple or carrot sticks with peanut butter
- Cottage cheese and fruit
- Beef jerky
- Hard boiled eggs
Meet your nutritional requirements by choosing your foods wisely. You may want to try using 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 – grains, vegetables, protein, fruits and dairy. Their “MyPlate Daily Checklist” will give you a personalized food plan based on your age, breastfeeding status, height and weight.
According to a study by Northwestern University, aerobic exercise dramatically improves your quality of sleep, including sleep duration. If you’re spending most of your time at home, you might try simply running up and down the stairs, or turning on some music and dancing. (Use a wireless headset so you don’t wake the baby!)
Yoga has also been proven to improve sleep for those suffering from insomnia. In her book, Yoga Mom, Buddha Baby, Jyothi Larson recommends excellent 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 dissipate the tension that builds throughout your body over the course of the day, and help you fall asleep without stiffness, aches or pains.
3. Keep the baby close to you
The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends that you keep the baby close by the bed in his or her own bassinet to minimize sleep disruptions. When the baby is right next to you, you can simply roll over, pick the baby up and place him or her next to you for breastfeeding.
4. Avoid caffeine before bedtime
A study in the Journal of Clinical Nursing found that caffeine abstinence improves sleep quality and recommends that this should be a factor in sleep hygiene. Restrict your coffee to just one morning cup.
Before bedtime, try a cup of chamomile tea which has traditionally been used for its sedative qualities. Chamomile contains the flavonoid apigenin, which binds to the benzodiazepine receptors in the brain, resulting in calming effects.
5. Avoid using electronic devices before bed
When you use a tablet, smart phone, 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 electronics at least an hour before bedtime, and wait until tomorrow to post those cute baby pictures on Facebook.
6. Ask for help
Try not to shy away from asking for help. Ask your partner to take turns changing diapers and feeding the baby using bottled breast milk during the night while you sleep. If your friends and family members offer to help, ask them to cook meals that can stay in your fridge or freezer.
7. Help your baby sleep better
When your baby sleeps better, so will you.
Maureen Howard, a pediatric physical therapist and a mother of 4, struggled with her firstborn’s sleep troubles. Drawing on her knowledge of pediatric therapy, she created the Magic Sleepsuit to help her son sleep peacefully. The “sleepsuit” swaddles the baby, providing a greater sense of security. It also 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.
If you feel like a walking zombie because you’re a new parent, just remind yourself that 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.