22 October 2016Last updated

Features | People

Sleeping tips for new mothers

Establishing a routine, keeping the baby in a cot/basket next to the bed and getting the spouse involved can help the new mother have a restful night

25 Feb 2016 | 09:56 am
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The early stages of post-child birth can be an amazing time, full of firsts. But it is also a highly stressful and tiring time, there is no doubt about it. One of the biggest challenges is needing to wake up several times during the night to feed your baby. It is important to be fully awake to physically support the baby, and to be cautious of not falling asleep, which could pose a danger. However, it may help you to know that babies who sleep through the night are more of an exception to the rule; it’s actually considered a normal developmental milestone to reach.

Here are some tips you can follow to help you get through the night with a little ease:

Cluster feeds or Dream feeds: Younger babies need to be fed more often during the night. As such, some women prefer to give ‘cluster feeds’ - providing additional breast feeds before the baby goes to bed for the evening, or alternatively, providing ‘dream feeds’ in the middle of the night, and before the baby has woken up, which means the baby will not wake up fully and will sleep longer, at least because they are not hungry. Breast milk can take approximately 2 hours to digest.

Put the baby in a Moses basket or cot right next to the bed: This way, you don’t need to get out of bed or move far for feeding time. Some mothers may prefer to relax safely into a semi-reclined rocking chair, to keep the baby soothed and less likely to wake up completely. If you bring the baby to you in the bed, make sure you have a good quality mattress and plenty of extra pillows to prop you up.

Avoid sleeping with the baby: It is advisable not to share a bed with the baby for several reasons: you could fall asleep on, or roll on the baby inadvertently (your higher than usual level of exhaustion will mean you are less likely to wake up when you do this); and it also becomes dangerous if you or your partner has taken any kind of medication that causes drowsiness.

Get your spouse involved: Many women feel exhausted during this time, which can ignite a range of emotions, such as sadness, overwhelmingness, and irritability, so it would be helpful to get your spouse involved – fathers can feed the baby a bottle of expressed milk while the mother expresses more milk for later in the night or morning. You can also make arrangements as to who does what in advance.

Establish a routine: We often say “sleep when the baby sleeps” but this is difficult if there are other children in the house, especially at night. Try your best to have predictable and consistent routines during the day that the children can expect; and most importantly, have a specific wind-down routine. At a designated time each night, start going through the usual bedtime routines: tidying up, brushing teeth, getting into pyjamas and so forth, then dim the lights, turn off all stimuli (television and phones), and end with story time. For yourself, and after your own routines are finished, where possible, perhaps have a warm shower or small bath and sip a cup of chamomile (calming) tea. These are all good cues for children that sleep time is imminent, and you will also be calmer when you go to check on the baby and go to sleep yourself.

Information courtesy: Melanie C. Schlatter, PhD, Consultant Health Psychologist, Sleep Matters Ambassador

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