I’m excited to have Guest Caryn Shender, certified pediatric sleep consultant, sharing about the importance of sleep for moms. Caryn gives us her best tips to help mom and baby overcome the sleepless nights we’re all too familiar with in the first few years of motherhood.
The Importance Of Sleep
For kids, sleep is vital to help their growth, for development, to stabilize their moods, regulate emotions, process learning and increase memory. Studies show the lack of sufficient sleep each night can affect your health; mentally, physically, emotionally, and spiritually.
Common signs of sleep deprivation include:
- Lack of motivation
- Mood swings
- Inability to focus
- Weight gain from lack of energy to prepare healthy meals
- Decreased energy
- Sleep latency (i.e., how long it takes to fall asleep at night)
- Daytime dysfunction (i.e., difficulty staying awake during the day)
- Poor sleep quality
- Decreased sex drive
- Mental instability (PPD/PPA)
- High blood pressure
- Difficulty coping with even relatively minor stressors
- Decreased patience
- Inability to perceive situations accurately
Then comes baby…
Being a mom is not easy. You’re used to living life a certain way and then baby comes along and suddenly you are thrust into this new way of life. With that comes many new challenges, including sleep, or lack thereof. In the postpartum period, sleep deprivation is extremely common.
A study by The National Library of Medicine found that mothers with postpartum depression sleep 80 minutes less per night than those without it. And for any new mother, who already is sleeping less, that can have a drastic impact and take a serious toll. While “sleep while the baby sleeps” is meant to be helpful, it is often impractical. We, as mothers, often have the idea that we need to sacrifice sleep because that’s “just an expected part of motherhood” or that if we need to take a break or practice self- care, we are not a good mom. These misconceptions could not be further from the truth.
Thankfully, there are some steps you can take to overcome those sleepless nights.
1. Establish A Bedtime Routine:
Create a calm, consistent bedtime routine that you do every single day. Include things like bath, lotion, night-nights, books, songs and a special goodnight phrase. It is best to have your final feeding at the start of the routine to avoid feeding TO sleep. This provides structure, predictability, routine, and a sense of calm in an otherwise chaotic day for both baby and mama. It also serves as a sleep cue to let your child know it is time to unwind and get ready to sleep. If you don’t have a bedtime routine in place or would like to improve yours, check out this Bedtime Routine Guide or this Neurodivergent Bedtime Routine Guide so that you can get a calm, consistent easy to do bedtime routine going tonight!
2. Take Shifts:
If you are breastfeeding, it can be exhausting feeding every 2-3 hours. Consider using formula or trying to build a supply so that you and your partner can take turns feeding overnight to get longer stretches of uninterrupted sleep. For example, mom can feed before baby goes to bed and when baby wakes overnight, the other parent can feed. Then swap so each parent can get about six hours of uninterrupted sleep.
Feeding your baby is best. For those who breastfeed, there is no shame in using formula overnight and breastfeeding during the day; or building a supply and letting dad bottle feed. Your sleep and mental health are worth it.
3. Ask For Help:
If it is within the budget, a night nurse or postpartum doula can support you and provide you the space to be able to take a break and sleep, even if just for a nap or night or two. If a friend asks what she can do to help, let her. Often new moms think ‘I must do this on my own’ or fear ‘if I ask for help, I am a bad mom. When in reality, it is totally okay to ask for help! Asking for help doesn’t reflect on you as parent. You don’t have to sacrifice sleep to be a good parent. It’s OK to ask for help.
4. Practice Safe Sleep:
Give yourself peace of mind and reduce the risk of SIDS by practicing safe sleep. The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends following the ABCs of Safe Sleep. If you aren’t familiar, this means Alone, Back, in Crib. Baby should sleep Alone, on the Back, in the Crib – with nothing but a tight, fitted sheet on a firm mattress. There should be no toys, bumpers, pillows, blankets or loose fitted
fabrics. Place baby on his/her own safe, flat, sleep space. Baby can sleep in your room (roomsharing) on their own sleep surface but not on your same sleep surface.
5. Early Wake Ups:
Are you not sleeping because your child is waking and ready to start their day between 4-6am? Use this guide, 5 Reasons Your Child is Waking Early, to troubleshoot what’s going on in your home.
6. Make a plan for change:
If your child is struggling with sleep, consult with/hire a sleep consultant to make sleep easier and help everyone in your family get the sleep they need. Schedule a FREE 15-minute Sleep Assessment with Sleep Tight Tonight to get started.
Mama, sleep is not a luxury. It’s a necessity. Sleep deprivation may be common, but it does not have to be your normal. Exhaustion is not a badge of honor. You are able to better take care of yourself, your family, and you will start to feel better when you get the rest you need. There is no shame in prioritizing sleep and wellness for your family.
Caryn Shender, founder of Sleep Tight Tonight and author of My Scar is Beautiful, is a mother, certified pediatric sleep consultant, and safe sleep ambassador who has guided thousands of families through the exhausting world of newborn, baby, and toddler sleep. She is trusted by parents and parenting coaches. As an entrepreneur, author, and mother of a heart warrior, she understands the weight and frustration of being sleep deprived, and the anxiety that crying can cause parents, while also understanding the power and importance of getting restful, restorative sleep. She is dedicated to helping families turn sleepless nights into easy, peaceful nights and sweet dreams. Being a mom is hard. Being an exhausted mom is next to impossible. Together, we’ll make sleep easy.