Adapted guest post by Jeanne Faulkner, Registered Nurse and author of the book "Common Sense Pregnancy"
I just launched my new book, Common Sense Pregnancy (Random House/Ten Speed Press, June 2015) about pregnancy and parenthood. Common Sense Pregnancy is part medical guide (I’m a registered nurse with decades of maternal health experience), part advice column (I write Fit Pregnancy’s Ask The Labor Nurse blog and I’m Senior Writer for EveryMotherCounts.org), and part memoir (I’m the mother of four and lived to write about it).
Most of my book is about pregnancy, prenatal care, labor and birth, but I also discuss sleep deprivation. I write about it in Chapter 15 and I’ll share an excerpt here:
You’re in for a bit of a shock. Babies rule the night. They’re totally clueless about circadian rhythms and not the least bit concerned about waking you up at all hours to make you do things for them. This goes on for months and months – sometimes even years. Everyone will tell you: Sleep when the baby sleeps. That’s excellent advice the first week or so but not so great after that, because few of us have the privilege of putting everything in life on hold while we take a nap.
We each react differently to interrupted and reduced sleep. Some can suck it up and function fairly well: others fall apart completely. They can’t think, can’t deal and can’t function at all. These parents have to create coping strategies to keep from losing their minds.
First, consider this: while it may seem like you’re never getting to sleep, the reality is you’re almost certainly getting some. Even if your baby is an every-two-hour feeder, that gorgeous hour and a half between feedings might drop you into the deepest sleep of your life. The body is amazing in its ability to grab what it needs, and once you get into a nighttime groove, you’ll find the experience of having bizarre wake-sleep cycles less jolting.
If the fatigue is too extreme, then you and your partner need to make some changes – like alternating nights where one of you gets to sleep all night in a room away from the baby while the other handles night duties. If you’re breastfeeding, this could involve your partner giving the baby a bottle of pumped milk or having dad bring baby in for a quick nighttime feeding, then scooping her back up and away while you go back to sleep.
For some women, sleep deprivation leads to serious changes in mental health – aka postpartum depression and even psychosis. This is serious business and must be addressed by professionals – your doctor or midwife plus a psychologist, psychiatrist, or other mental health professional with experience dealing with postpartum mothers.
Support Resources for New Parents:
Mental Health resources: Postpartum Support International or their primary care physician, New parent groups such
New Parent Support Groups: MomsClub.org, Parents of Multiples
In-Home Postpartum Care: LetMommySleep.com