The sleep deprivation is probably one of the hardest challenges to get through during those first few weeks and months of becoming a new parent. Postpartum depression and anxiety can make it more difficult for you to get the rest that you need. The advice of sleeping when the baby sleeps was not helpful in my case. With my anxious mind racing, I could not get it to turn off when the baby was napping, so I could recharge too. I've compiled a few steps you can take to give yourself more opportunities to get more rest, which can improve your mood, decrease irritability, and lower anxiety.
It is important for you to get your basic needs met, including sleep, before you can begin to recover from depression and anxiety.
1) Ask for support.
This is so hard to do and moms often feel shame for not being supermom and doing it all. A part of our logical minds know that we can't cook, keep up with the house, raise the baby, and be our partner's best friend all at the same time, but another gut-level part of us feels guilty when we aren't doing it all because of the unrealistic image of what "good moms" do.
The truth is, we are not meant to raise this baby alone, and trying to do it all is just a formula for mom burnout, exhaustion and resentment. When your partner, family member, or friend asks if you need anything, say YES. It could be grabbing some groceries, getting you a meal, helping with laundry, watching the baby so you can rest, etc. Every bit of support will add up to assist in your emotional and physical recovery.
2) Alternate night shift duty.
Experts say trying to aim for 6 hours is important for your recovery. Go to bed when the baby sleeps then have your partner or family member give the baby a bottle of breast milk or formula for that first night feeding so you can catch up on some rest. If possible, sleep in another room with ear plugs or a noise maker or both, because you know you'll be waking up if you hear the baby crying. You can switch with your partner for the second shift.
You can even alternate nights if a shift doesn't give you enough rest. Whatever works for you and your family unit. Your partner has to work, so you often feel that guilt again, but their support is part of the solution to your recovery. it is much better that they're tired at work for a few weeks or even months than you not recovering from postpartum depression and anxiety.
Consult a lactation counselor or consultant to figure out support for night feedings if you are breastfeeding. Visit my resource page for free lactation support and in person support.
3) Hire a postpartum doula.
Did you know that a postpartum doula can help you with nighttime care of the baby? This blew my mind when I found out about these services! They can give the baby that middle of the night bottle. They can also help watch the baby in the day time so you can get some rest. They can help with laundry, meal prep, and dishes as well.
Moms feel so much guilt for so many things, but your well-being and becoming your best self for your loved ones is so worth it. Feel the guilt, know it's coming from a place of love, and take care of yourself anyway. I recommend certified postpartum doula Amy Pomerantz. Her contact information is also on my resource page. I personally wish I had her support and expertise around after having my baby.
4) Move that body
Ask your partner or family to watch the baby after dinner so you can engage in some movement that increases your heart rate about 2 hours before bedtime. This could be walking around the neighborhood or following along with a YouTube video. I love YouTube videos. You cannot beat free!
Find a video that challenges you enough but not too much to where you get discouraged. Check with your doctor if you are not yet past 6 weeks postpartum. Listen to your body, and make sure it's an exercise that you enjoy! We're not likely to keep it up if we don't enjoy it.
Movement allows your body to warm up and speeds up your heart rate, and two hours before bed allows time for your heart rate to slow down again and your body to cool off, which will get you naturally sleepy. Movement has been shown to be a better sleep aid in the long-run than any sleep medication. Just make sure it's not right before bed, which can actually energize you and make it harder to fall asleep.
5) Watch your caffeine intake
Reduce or eliminate intake of caffeine for now. I know it is really hard when you're trying to function to take care of that baby. The caffeine can affect your ability to nap, sleep, and get re-energized naturally without the crash. Just start with watching your liquid intake 2 hours before bed. Replace that pop, coffee, or tea with a glass of water. Then you can work on on cutting down more until your body is caffeine free. This doesn't have to last forever, but is important at the beginning of recovery.
6) Shower at night instead of during the day.
A hot shower is a grounding technique that allows you to get in touch senses to relax you. Focus on the sound of the water, the feel of it on your skin, the sight of the droplets, the smells of your soaps and shampoos. Taking a hot shower after movement and an hour before bed can help your body wind down for the night.
Ask your partner, a friend, family member, or neighbor to watch your baby so you can shower regularly. It's amazing how even the most basic things become a challenge with that newborn!
Lastly, know that our bodies and minds are adaptable and you will get through this difficult time.
For more tips and techniques to feel like yourself again, click here for exclusive access to my free guide and 4-day e-course for overcoming postpartum depression and anxiety.
Hi, I'm Thai-An. I'm a postpartum therapist and mother who is passionate about helping pregnant and postpartum parents overcome depression and anxiety so they can feel like themselves again and enjoy life with their baby and family. After overcoming my own battle with postpartum depression and anxiety, I opened Lasting Change Therapy, LLC in South Oklahoma City to dedicate my counseling practice to helping families have postpartum recovery and wellness, and I truly love it!