10 Tips for a Better Postpartum: Tip #8
This post is part of the series, 10 Tips for a Better Postpartum. This is Tip #8 in a list of 10 things you can do in pregnancy to set yourself up for a more comfortable, peaceful, and enjoyable postpartum journey. Check back in the coming weeks as I share the next tips in the series!
Tip #8: Maximize Your Sleep
Sleep when the baby sleeps, right? YES. Please do! But in reality you may need to do a bit more strategizing to find ways of getting much needed rest that work for you.
Sleep is so important to our well-being as humans, and particularly after you just completed the athletic event that is growing and birthing a whole other human being! Your mind and body need rest, but that may be difficult to come by through the frequent feedings and wakefulness of your little one. No one solution will be perfect for every family, so I've listed some strategies to consider in pregnancy as you make your plan for maximizing postpartum sleep.
1. Good Teamwork: I listed this one first because (in families in which there are two parents) it can be the foundation of your strategy for maximizing sleep. Both of you need sleep. That being said, one of you just went through a major physical event and continues to expend energy on producing food for your baby. The goal is for both of you to get rest, and when you have to prioritize - priority goes to the birthing person. How does this work? If the birthing person is also breastfeeding, they are likely handling most feedings. The partner's role is to take on any other tasks that help speed the process: Diaper changes, final burping and rocking baby to sleep, washing bottles or pump parts, and in the early days - offering a hand to help baby get positioned and the feeding off to a good start. Taking a quality, independent birth class together can help you to get on the same page, and help your partner understand what to expect and how they can help postpartum.
2. Stretch Your Mornings: As long as you can, feed baby, then return to sleep. Repeat this until baby wants to be up for the day. Have older children? That brings me to my next point...
3. Call in Backups: Family, friends, and a postpartum doula can be instrumental in allowing you that ever elusive, but so needed postpartum shuteye. Can they care for your older children so you can actually sleep when baby sleeps? Take baby for a walk after a feeding to allow you some sleep? Could they handle some household tasks that are preventing you from relaxing enough to drift off?
4. Early Bedtime (For All of You!): Go through your bedtime routine and have your baby down for bed early - maybe in the range of 7-8:30 p.m. Here's the hard part - you ALL go to bed at this time. It can be tempting to stay up to chill and watch a show, clean up the house, scroll social media, etc. Your body will thank you for calling it a night!
5. Consider Sleeping Arrangements: The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) currently recommends that babies under the age of 12 months sleep in the same room, but not in the same bed as their caregivers. They recommend a crib or bassinet within arm's reach. This arrangement allows you to have baby right there - no need to spend time walking to another room for a night feeding. Alternatively, some families choose to co-sleep as another strategy to maximize sleeping. Co-sleeping can pose danger for babies if improperly done. If you choose to co-sleep, you will want to talk with an IBCLC who can share with you safety information on how to reduce risk to your baby.
6. Alternate: Some families choose to alternate wakings with one partner answering a waking, and the other partner answering the next. Some others choose to alternate nights of being "on-call" for baby's wakings. This may require expressing milk to be fed by the non-lactating partner, so this strategy may be best employed after the first 6 weeks or when breastfeeding is well-established.
7. Relaxation Techniques: Becoming really good at intentionally relaxing can save you from time wasted trying to drift off. In pregnancy, joining a prenatal yoga class will help you learn how to release tension and use your breath to calm you. Quality birth education classes will also offer training on relaxation skills and techniques. Some of these same breathing techniques can be used by a parent to calm baby and perhaps help baby drift off more easily as well!
Wishing you all the ZZZZzzzzzs as you find the strategies that work best for you!