Shhhh….. Don’t Wake The New Mommy!
Contributed by Carly Snyder, M.D., a specialist in comprehensive reproductive psychiatry and women’s mental health services.
Newborns are natural night Owls. Infants often sleep throughout the day, but wake up like clockwork every three hours to eat all night long. This schedule puts new moms in a predictably difficult position. Add in recuperating from delivery, hormonal changes and the incredible emotional rollercoaster every new mom experiences and you have a recipe for an incredibly exhausted, often overwhelmed and potentially unhappy new mom.
Prolonged sleep deprivation is an almost certain way to ensure a new mom will start to feel tearful, sad, and irritable. Remember how you felt in college after you pulled an all-nighter and then took a big test or handed in a term paper? That sense of dull achiness, mild nausea, the irritability and the general loss of pleasure? All you wanted to do was sleep, not talk to anyone or do anything, just sleep. Now imagine multiplying that from one night to weeks on end – pretty awful, right? That’s what we consider normal for new mothers, but there is nothing normal and nothing healthy about it.
So, what can new parents do to try to minimize mom’s exhaustion so that she can feel her best physically and emotionally, and enjoy her baby to the fullest? Get dad involved in the nighttime feedings! Even if mom is exclusively breastfeeding, dad can still be an integral part of the process.
The best time to design a schedule is before baby is born. If mom plans to exclusively breast feed, map out which feedings dad will bring baby to mom and then take baby back after nursing – mom can go right back to sleep while dad burps, changes and puts baby back to sleep. By dad being part of the nightly feeding routine, mom gets to sleep more and dad is afforded the opportunity to bond with baby alone early and often. It’s a win-win for everyone.
Having a nightly routine is only one of many ways to maximize sleep for mom once a new baby arrives. Additional suggestions include relying on support from family and friends –asking for help from trusted loved ones is a great way to find much-needed time for a nap while providing an opportunity for others to connect with the baby. However, new parents should always feel safe and comfortable asking visitors to reschedule if they would prefer to relax with the baby alone.
Lastly, new moms should take time to heal, and to adjust to motherhood physically and emotionally. Having a baby changes every part of life, but there is nothing as rewarding or as fabulous as parenthood.
If you are feeling unhappy and are not enjoying motherhood as you feel you otherwise should, then reach out for help. There are ample resources available for pregnant and new moms to obtain supports online and in their communities. Postpartum Support International (PSI) provides online support groups and has volunteers available in every state and internationally to connect women with local providers. Postpartum Progress has an active online community where women can read about other people’s experiences and connect with other moms who may be suffering from a postpartum mood disorder.
Carly Snyder, M.D. specializes in comprehensive reproductive psychiatry and women’s mental health services. Her approach combines traditional psychiatric treatment and integrative medicine-based treatments to optimize the whole body, mind, and wellbeing. Dr. Snyder is one of a small cohort of medical physicians in New York City specializing in reproductive psychiatry. Dr. Snyder is an attending physician on staff in the Department of Psychiatry at Mount Sinai Beth Israel Medical Center and holds a teaching appointment at Mount Sinai School of Medicine. She is an Assistant Attending with a teaching appointment at Weill-Cornell in the Payne Whitney Women’s Program. Dr. Snyder is on the Postpartum Support International (PSI) Board of Directors as the Research Chair. She frequently speaks to various audiences, and is often called upon by print media outlets as an expert in her field. Dr. Snyder is also a member of the Women’s Mental Health Consortium. Dr. Snyder is the Director of Women’s Health for Family Health Associates. Dr. Snyder has a weekly radio show, MD for Moms on the BBM Global Network and TuneIn radio, Wednesday’s at 1pm EST. Dr. Snyder also has a HuffPost Parent Blog, MD for Moms- please follow and share!
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