With a new addition to the family comes lots of joy and celebration, but as all mums know, that bundle of joy also brings long and sleepless nights. Why is it all the more important for new mothers to get enough sleep, and how can they do so? Dr Ng Ying Woo, Obstetrician and Gynaecologist at SBCC Women’s Clinic explains.
What are some possible causes of sleep deprivation for new mums?
New-born babies do not have a fixed sleep pattern, which makes it difficult for them to sleep through the night. Mothers often have to wake up every few hours to care for the baby, soothe them back to sleep, or feed them. As such, new mothers often struggle with sleep deprivation and disrupted sleep cycles in the first few months of having a child.
Breastfeeding is a major contributor to sleep deprivation in new mums. New born babies tend to demand for breast-milk round the clock, thereby disrupting the sleep of the mothers. Valuable advice from a lactation consultant or obstetrician may help to sharpen your breastfeeding skills, that will help you to cope with the demanding baby.
Lack of sleep is a common experience after the arrival of a baby. However, if you are experiencing difficulty falling asleep or returning to sleep even after a few weeks or months, you should seek help from your doctor.
What are the effects of sleep deprivation for new mums?
It is natural for new mums to feel tired, especially in the first few months after the baby is born. However, being sleep-deprived is not just about feeling tired in the short-term.
Particularly for new mothers, lack of sleep can have the following effects ways such as the following:
- Longer recovery time – your body needs a tremendous amount of rest to recuperate and regain its strength after giving birth. Not getting enough sleep can affect your recovery time and cause your body to require a longer period to heal.
- Mood swings – you may be irritable and moody, and easily affected by minor things such as having to listen to the baby cry almost every other hour or dealing with endless housework.
- Impact on lactation – fatigue, coupled with increased stress levels can affect your body’s ability to maintain a healthy supply of breastmilk
What can new mums do to get adequate sleep?
Sleep when the baby sleeps
Try to rest while your baby sleeps, instead of trying to squeeze in other activities such as doing housework. Taking a power nap of 20-30 minutes can help you to feel more refreshed afterwards. If you have a family member with you, have them keep an eye on the baby while you rest.
Take turns to feed
Round-the-clock feeding is a key reason why some mothers experience sleep deprivation. However, you do not always have to be the one feeding the baby. If you are breastfeeding, you can consider pumping instead of having to breastfeed every feed so that your partner or another family member can share the responsibility of feeding the baby. That way, one of you can take turns to get a few hours of uninterrupted sleep through the night and also provide your baby a chance to bond with another family member.
Engage in sleep-inducing activities before bedtime
It can be tempting for a new mum to want to destress by watching television or using your computer and mobile phone after a tiring day of looking after your baby. However, the blue light from the screens of such devices can be stimulating and keep you awake even if you are feeling exhausted.
Instead, try to go for more relaxing sleep-inducing activities such as listening to the radio, reading a book, or even pick up other hobbies such as knitting which can help to calm the mind. Avoid engaging in any screen time in the two hours before you go to sleep.
Establish a sleep routine for your baby
Most newborns do not have a fixed sleeping time in the first three months. After three months, parents are encouraged to try introducing a consistent bedtime routine.
For example, routinely engage in activities such as singing nursery rhymes or reading story books in the hour before sleeping. That way, your baby can associate these activities with sleeping time, and it may be easier to lull them to sleep. When your baby is able to get into a bedtime routine, you can better anticipate sleeping times and get a better night’s rest yourself.
Avoid relying on coffee
As a mum, you will need to juggle work, family and looking after the baby. Having a few cups of coffee may help you to feel more alert to survive through the day. However, over-consuming caffeine can mask your need to sleep and prevent you from getting a good nights sleep. Try to limit your intake of caffeinated drinks and avoid drinking it at least seven hours before bedtime.
Make your room conducive for sleeping
Create a relaxing environment in your room such as buying a good mattress and pillow, keeping a cool temperature and avoid using bright lights. If possible, do not install a television or place any computers or work-related materials in your room as these can distract you from sleeping.
Dr Ng Ying Woo is a specialist in obstetrics and gynaecology with advanced laparoscopic skills. He believes in holistic care for his patients and has vast experience in performing surgeries and deliveries. Dr Ng is passionate about offering the best surgical solutions for management of gynaecological conditions.