WHAT ABOUT MUM?
By Anisa Samnani-Shariff : Certified Pediatric Sleep Sense™ Consultant- Save My Slumber Sleep Consulting
Will having a new baby be stressful?
You can’t predict what life will be like with a new baby. You may smile serenely when people talk of the crying, the broken nights, or the 10th nappy change of the day. But until you’ve experienced it, you won’t be able to fully understand how it really feels.
You may be capable of reorganising an entire office department by lunchtime, but when it comes to a newborn baby, be reduced to a gibbering wreck. So if you’re still in your pyjamas by midday, and couldn’t conceive of popping out to the shops for milk, you’re not alone.
What problems might I have when recovering from birth?
As a new mum, you’ve recently been through the emotional and exhausting experience of giving birth. You may have returned home with your new baby on an emotional high but as time passed your mood has plummeted.
Your hormones are rapidly adjusting to new levels and you may be experiencing the baby blues. These feelings tend to peak four or five days after you have given birth. You may be recovering from surgery or stitches, or be bothered by afterpains, backache, constipation or piles. At the same time, you may be trying to establish breastfeeding, all the while suffering from a lack of sleep.
Your partner is probably suffering from sleep deprivation too. If he is the main wage earner, he will be trying to balance the demands of paid work with the needs of his new family. Having a baby takes time for you to recover from, both physically and emotionally. So it’s no wonder that being a new parent is far from easy.
How will a new baby affect my daily life?
Stand back, because daily life with a newborn can be chaos. Not only are you so tired that you can barely open your eyes, you may find it hard just to get dressed in the morning.
It probably seems that every time you pick up something to wear, or reach for your phone, your baby needs her nappy changing again. If you run a bath, your baby starts crying, so by the time you get back, the water’s cold. Then you’re so busy feeding your baby that you forget to eat breakfast. At the same time you may have the scary realisation that you’re now responsible for the care, nourishment and protection of a tiny baby. And that’s 24 hours a day, seven days a week, despite you having little or no previous experience.
You’re then expected to visit the clinic for her checks, ensure her brain is stimulated and sort the laundry. No wonder you feel overwhelmed. From my own experience, the sleepless nights play a huge part in the feeling of overwhelm and that is why I suggest sleep training your little ones. Becoming a mum is life changing. Despite loving your baby, you also feel super tired, stressed, lonely, bored and miss your freedom. A lot of the times, mums’ happiness and health is overlooked because all the priority is on baby; but both baby and mum are important. An overwhelmed and unhealthy mum cannot give her best to the baby.
In its simplest form, sleep training is the process of your baby learning to fall asleep by themselves — whether that’s in the very beginning of the night when they are put into their crib or when they wake up in the middle of the night. “Essentially, you’re getting your baby to realize that they can put themselves to sleep or self soothe,” explains Dr. Schwartz. “It’s a developmental skill they will need to learn.” Sleep training translates to more sleep not only for baby but also for parents or caregivers.
Sleep training your little one is a demanding endeavour. I’ve never had a client who said it wasn’t worth it, mind you, but nevertheless, it’s a lot of work, and it requires a lot of discipline. But once they get their baby on a steady, predictable nap schedule and sleeping consistently through the night, they sometimes find they have a new issue facing them. They’re hesitant to deviate in any way from their routine.
It’s totally understandable. After all, they’ve usually gone from a horrible situation where neither they or their little one is getting any sleep, often for months, to a completely opposite scenario where Mom and baby are both well-rested and happy, and it’s usually taken place over a few weeks. That’s a big improvement in the whole family’s quality of life, and one that parents are really, really hesitant to risk upsetting. But if you’re the parent of a young baby, that means three naps a day and full nights of sleep every night, so when are you supposed to, you know, live?
I don’t mean, “When are you supposed to get out for a fun night with your girlfriends?” I mean, “When are you supposed to buy food?”
After all, if you’re sticking to a rigid nap schedule with a newborn, you’ll get about an hour at a time when you could conceivably get to the grocery store. Or go to the dentist, or get your hair done, or do any number of essential things that, let’s face it, take longer than an hour. So for those times when life insists on impinging on your schedule, I’ve got some advice for minimizing the impact that changing the schedule can have.
First off, wait until you’ve formed a solid foundation for daytime naps. If baby’s been sleeping well during the day for about two weeks, you can feel pretty confident about switching things up a little bit every once in awhile. How often is once in awhile? Well, I’d say 4 out of five days is consistent enough so as not to throw anything out of whack, but pliable enough to let you get some things done. And no, you can’t “bank” those days.
No keeping to the schedule for 12 days and then breaking the rules for three in a row. Second, if you have to skip a nap, or need to have one take place in the car or the stroller, I suggest you prioritize the first nap of the day. That’s usually the one where baby will get the most deep sleep, so keep the car nap for later on in the day if you can. If you do end up needing to let baby nap in the car, do what you can to make sure she gets a full nap. If she falls asleep five minutes into a ten minute drive, you might consider just driving around for a bit until she’s had a decent nap. Barring that, you could try and bring her in and leaving her
in her car seat, but we all know how that usually ends up.
What I don’t recommend is trying to move baby into her crib in the middle of her nap. I don’t see a lot of success with this approach and I think you’re usually better off just letting her sleep wherever she managed to fall asleep in the first place. If, however, baby does wake up after; before she’s had a decent nap, don’t try to put her back to sleep right away. You’re better off waiting for about an hour before you try again.
Above all, don’t be afraid to ask for some help if you can get it. Ideally, baby should be in their crib for their naps, so if you can pass her over to a parent or a friend for a few hours, you should absolutely take advantage of it. You’ll have plenty of opportunities to pay the favor forward down the road.
Anisa is a certified Pediatric Sleep Sense™ Consultant with a soft spot for sleep-deprived moms. If you would like some help in creating better sleeping patterns for you and your child
You can also check out the Save my Slumber Website