By: Jenn Kelner
Certified Sleep Consultant
Sleep: It’s Not Just for Babies!
Angeline from Brossard, Quebec asks:
Q: After the birth of our first baby, my husband refuses to get up with our son. Since I am on maternity leave and he is still working, he believes that I should be able to get up with him since he is working. However, I am exhausted! As a sleep consultant, how important is it for a new Mommy to get some sleep along with our baby? My son is two months old and it would make a world of difference if he just helped out for one of the shifts. Merci!
I think many people underestimate how difficult looking after an infant really is. Sure, you may be off “work” but now you have a much louder, more demanding boss who needs your loving care and attention 24 hours a day. It would be great if you could punch out after an 8 hour shift, but that’s just not possible. Don’t get me wrong – being a new mother is a truly wonderful, awe-inspiring experience, but let’s be honest, it’s the equivalent of working 3 full-time jobs with very little sleep thrown in, and it’s exhausting.
It helps to set realistic expectations when it comes to your infant’s sleep so that you can plan ahead and get the rest you need. Infant sleep is very unorganized and there is no pattern as to when or how long your baby will sleep for. They have short wakeful periods of only 1-2 hours, so watch for their sleepy cues (rubbing eyes, yawning, zoning out) and get them back to bed as soon as you can. Incorporate a soothing routine before naps and bedtime to help them relax and to promote sleep. You can’t spoil an infant or create bad habits, so do whatever you need to do to get them to sleep.
When you do finally get them to sleep, think about getting some rest yourself. I know you’ve heard it a million times, but sleeping when the baby sleeps will help you recharge for the next shift. If the piles of laundry and the dirty dishes are calling you, call a friend or family member to come over and help. Babies often get a longer stretch of sleep right after bedtime, so consider going to bed when the baby does to help you get a longer stretch of sleep as well.
There are some good reasons why you should take care of yourself, get some support, and get some much needed sleep. The body’s immune system has difficulty fighting off illness when it’s short on sleep, and if you get sick, your baby is more likely to get sick. Lack of sleep also affects fine motor skills and simple tasks like climbing the stairs can become dangerous ones, especially if you’re holding a baby. You probably have experienced this one, but sleep deprivation also affects your mood and how pleasant you are to be around. If you’re getting the sleep you need, you will experience a much happier, healthier home life. Another very important reason to get more rest is lack of sleep and spousal support also puts mothers at a greater risk of postpartum depression.
As a child sleep professional, I not only work on getting the child more sleep, but I also work on getting more sleep for the parents. Lack of sleep puts stress on the whole family and if both parents are getting the rest they need, they can both do their jobs to the best of their abilities, which includes looking after the baby.