While the newborn stage is difficult for all parents, it can be especially challenging for new moms. Although the movies will have you believe that you can hop right back into normal life just days after your baby is born, that’s not typically the case. The hormonal changes that happen postpartum can lead to disruptions in sleep, low energy, and mood disorders.
Even though new mamas can be exhausted, their minds remain hypervigilant for anything that could be wrong with the baby, leading to not-so-great sleep. Getting enough sleep is so important for both moms and dads, so you can be the best parents you can be to your new little one. Let’s dive into everything from hormones to happiness to how to use a weighted blanket to get a better night’s (or day’s) rest.
Sleep Science: The Newborn Stage
Even though new mamas are so exhausted, it can be hard to let yourself fully fall into a deep sleep - after all, what if the baby needs you?? The main reason for these sleep disruptions comes down to hormones. After childbirth, estrogen and progesterone drop dramatically; these hormones play a role in neurotransmitter production and could be a cause for not being able to sleep well.
The first few months of a newborn’s life can be extra chaotic, as they don’t yet have circadian rhythms, which are the 24-hour internal clocks that tell us when to sleep and wake. Our little babes don’t know this yet; they think that day is night and night is day, and often are only asleep for 2-3 hours at a time.
Some babies develop their circadian rhythms as early as 7 weeks, and some, not until 4 months. One theory behind this newborn biology is that babies need to eat so often in the first few months that if their circadian rhythms were active, both baby and mother would sleep through their necessary eating windows (which is 8-12 times per 24 hours, BTW.) Although we have clocks and timers now that could wake us up on time for feedings, our ancestors did not!
The Importance Of Sleep In New Moms
Even though it may seem next to impossible to get a solid night’s sleep ever again, there are so many crucial reasons why new mamas need to get their rest. Sleep deprivation can lead to many health concerns, one of which is your immune system can be impacted. If you think newborn life is difficult now, just imagine if both you and your baby get sick! Getting enough sleep can keep your immune system strong enough to fight off bacteria and viruses.
Lack of sleep can also lead to increased stress and anxiety; stress increases the amount of cortisol in our bodies, which can not only affect your mood, but the cortisol can be passed into breast milk if you’re breastfeeding your babe. We don’t want our little ones being stressed out from day one!
The Baby Blues: What To Do
The baby blues are very common after giving birth, typically due to the hormonal rollercoaster of estrogen and progesterone. Another hormone at play after you give birth is prolactin, which is the main hormone responsible for milk production.
However, prolactin can affect dopamine production in a negative way, which is one of our happy hormones. Low dopamine may also be a reason for low energy levels and mood disorders after giving birth.
While the baby blues are experienced by 80% of moms and typically resolve after a few weeks, postpartum depression (PPD) is more serious. While it can be hard to tease out the differences between the baby blues, sleep deprivation, or PPD, there are some things to look out for. If you’re experiencing anxiety or depression for longer than 3 weeks postpartum, have a history of mood disorders, or can’t seem to enjoy your baby at all, head to your doctor right away.
Researchers have found a connection between a lack of sleep and PPD. It’s a bit of a vicious cycle - lack of sleep can increase depressive symptoms; depression can lead to poor sleep. Let’s get into how we can help new moms get more rest, so you are better able to enjoy this wonderful time with your new baby.
4 Ways New Moms Can Get More Sleep:
1. Embrace the power nap
Napping will become your best friend. When your sleep is interrupted every few hours in the night, it’s crucial that you take some naps during the day. Our sleep cycles tend to be about 90 minutes to get through all the stages, so make sure you have at least one 90-minute period of sleep per day or night. However, when you can only get in 20-30 minutes during the day, your body and mind will get the little bit of recharging that they need.
2. Sleep when the baby sleeps
We’ve all heard the advice, “sleep when the baby sleeps”, and it’s for good reason. Although it may be tempting to wash those dishes piling up in the sink or catch up on Netflix shows that you haven’t watched in weeks, those things can wait. Remember that your sleep is more important!
But what if you can’t sleep when the baby sleeps? Many new moms feel the dreaded ‘tired but wired’, where your body is exhausted but your brain can’t shut off. In those cases, even laying down and resting your eyes, or trying to get in a relaxing activity like a warm bath or deep breathing can help your body to shut off for a little bit while your baby sleeps.
3. Use a weighted blanket
One great way to help new parents get more restful and quicker sleep is by using a Bearaby blanket. Especially for new moms, with all of the hormonal changes, the pressure from the best weighted blanket can be very helpful.
Deep Touch Pressure leads to increased production of serotonin and melatonin, which can boost happiness, reduce anxiety, and help you to drift off to sleep more quickly, which is perfect for the power nap. (Quick reminder: babies don’t belong under weighted blankets, ever!)
Weighted blankets are also a great way to fight off any aches and pains that can come from motherhood – we all know the feeling of a sore back and arms from holding your precious bundle all day long!
Evenly-distributed weight from our knitted Nappers has been proven to lower cortisol levels throughout the body when used overnight. Lower cortisol (also know as our stress hormone) means an easing of tension in mind and body.
4. Ask for help
Although difficult to do sometimes, asking for help from friends and family can be a lifesaver in the first months after birth. A friend coming over for a few hours while you get a solid nap in, your parents watching the older kids for the day, or relatives bringing over food so you don’t have to cook and clean can all be a huge help.
Remember, you don’t need to be a Supermom who does it all alone!
Can a Weighted Blanket Help New Moms Get Better Sleep?
Let’s dive into everything from hormones to happiness to how to use a weighted blanket to get a better night’s (or day’s) rest.
In new moms, sleep deprivation is a common cause of postpartum depression, can lead to increased stress and anxiety, and can even affect your immune system.
Using a weighted blanket, whether at night or for naps, can help a new mom’s body to relax more quickly and relieve stress anxiety.
Other ways to help moms get more sleep include asking for help, embracing the power nap, and going for morning walks with the baby to sync up both circadian rhythms for better rest.
Did you know?
The primary caregiver of a baby is estimated to lose up to 700 hours of sleep in the first year after birth. Let’s try to get some of those hours back!