Sleep Strategies for Parents During Pregnancy and Postpartum

Inadequate sleep can impact pregnancy, healing in postpartum phase, and postpartum mental health. We often underestimate how much sleep we’ve had. The sleep you’re getting during pregnancy and the early months after baby arrives is likely broken up, which stops you from reaching the necessary deep sleep. Maybe it’s hard for you to sleep while baby sleeps, or to find a comfortable position to lie in if you’re still expecting. Whatever the reason, when you’re sleep deprived, you are less likely to think logically, less tolerant of stressors, and not as present as you’d like to be.

The good news is, you CAN improve your sleep during pregnancy and the postpartum months! Below are some strategies that can help you get better sleep.

Tag-team sleep cycles with your partner.

One partner is the “team lead” from 10 p.m. to 2 a.m. Then from 2 a.m. to 6 a.m., the other partner takes the lead. This gives each partner the potential for four hours of uninterrupted sleep. It won’t always go exactly as planned, and you may still have to get up to assist when it isn’t your shift.

Prioritize large chunks of sleep.

During sleep, the body cycles through several rounds of rapid eye movement (REM) and non-REM sleep, both of which are helpful in restoration and healing. If you are waking every hour, you aren’t getting this! Try to consolidate chunks of sleep whenever you can. Even if it’s less time asleep overall, you are getting more restorative sleep because you are falling into those deeper sleep stages.

Sleep when baby sleeps whenever possible.

This isn’t always as easy as it sounds. Your anxiety might be higher when baby sleeps. You might feel compelled to clean when baby sleeps. You might want to use this time to journal, watch your favorite show, talk with other adults, shower, etc. When it is easier, do it.

Be flexible with feedings.

Whether you are breastfeeding, exclusively pumping, or formula feeding, work towards flexible thinking with feeding. You can pump during the day and let a partner or support person feed pumped milk overnight. If pumping isn’t possible, you can consider giving one bottle of formula overnight to protect your sleep.

NOTE: After about a month, baby is significantly less likely to confuse bottle nipples and reject nursing directly from the breast.

If a bottle is not possible or preferred, you can still enlist support people to help with this burden. For example:

  1. Baby wakes.
  2. Partner gets baby up and changes their diaper.
  3. You get situated and ready to feed.
  4. While nursing, allow your partner to assist with proper latch, emotional support, pillows, water.
  5. When finished nursing, your partner can burp, re-swaddle and put baby back to bed.

Avoid “trying” to sleep.

Often trying to sleep means we get in bed and that’s when all those anxious thoughts flood our minds, resulting in tossing and turning. Frustration increases, waking you up even more. Your brain can start to associate your bed as the place to feel anxious. Get out of bed, go to a different room, and engage in calm or low stimulation activities. Keep the lights and sounds low. When you start to feel tired again, return to bed and try again.

Calming techniques.

Incorporate relaxation techniques into your nighttime routine or (use some of them to fall back asleep).

Additional Sleeping Considerations.

It is common for your sleep to worsen if baby’s bassinet is in your room.

  • You might find you are able to get better sleep with baby sleeping in their own room.
  • Your own anxieties are important to consider here, too.

During baby’s nighttime feeds or nighttime wake periods …

  • Keep the lights off or as dim as possible–use the light from a hallway, nearby bathroom, or closet with the door cracked.
  • Keep talking to a minimal and voices calm.
  • Interact with baby, but in a calm, low stimulation manner.

Safe Sleep Practices for Baby.

Safe sleep practices as provided by Michigan Department of Health and Human Services is for baby to sleep on their back, in their own crib alone, with no blankets, pillows, bumper pads, toys or other objects.

You are not alone! Perinatal Mood & Anxiety Disorders are the #1 complication of pregnancy. Pine Rest has innovative, proven programs to help you feel like yourself again.

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