Sleep, or lack of it, is no joke. Many new moms say they’d rather have a good night’s sleep than sex, and 97 percent of pregnant women say they wake up during the night. Sleep allows your body to rebuild its immunities, and sleep deprivation is one of the leading causes of postpartum depression.
But you probably know all this, so how can you get a good night’s sleep as a new mother or mom-to-be? We’ve got some proven natural ways to get the rest you need. And because if your baby’s not sleeping, nobody else is either, we’ve also included tips for easing your baby to sleep.
- Quiet the chatter Endless, anxious thoughts are a leading cause of insomnia, and the best way to quiet that mind chatter is to work through bothersome problems before you go to bed. If anxieties still keep you awake, talk them through with a friend, your partner or a therapist.
- Create a soothing bedtime ritual About 30 minutes before bed, lie on the floor or bed and do a progressive relaxation: Starting with the top of your head, slowly imagine each part of your body letting go of any tension. Inhale and think about the word “relax” as you exhale and focus on your forehead, your neck, your shoulders and so on, all the way down to your toes, breathing deeply. If you can manage it, follow up with a bath.
- Let someone else take a nighttime feeding It’s best to wait at least four weeks for breastfeeding to be fully established before giving your baby a bottle, but if you have some stored milk (or formula), take a night off occasionally. The NUK® Expressive® Double Electric Pump is an affordable and super effective way to express milk and have it ready. Your partner is capable and probably happy to help, and you’ll get used to listening with just part of your brain for your baby’s crying. Those extra zzzs can work wonders.
- Sleep close to the baby The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends against bed sharing, but sleeping with your baby close by, in a bedside or co-sleeping bassinet, will help you (and him) sleep better. It makes breastfeeding easier – you can feed your baby in bed, and then put him back in his crib when he’s done. You can hear your baby better and studies have shown that hearing your breathing helps the baby regulate his breathing, as well as his heart rate, immune system and stress level.
- Massage If you can swing a professional massage, or get your partner to do it, great, but you also can try a little acupressure: Put your fingers on the spot between your ankle bone and heel, thumb on the other side, and press firmly for three minutes. Also, you can use tennis balls: Put two tennis balls in a sock, and place them on your bed or the floor, then lie on them so they are positioned between your shoulder blades. Roll around for three to ten minutes, breathing deeply.
- Try herbs If you aren’t pregnant, you can try valerian or melatonin; if you are, then stick to chamomile tea or lavender. Also try Aura Cacia Pillow Potion (available at amazon.com), a lavender and chamomile mist that you spritz on your pillow just before sleeping. Visit a Traditional Chinese Medicine practitioner to get a customized blend of herbs that pinpoint your issues (for instance, there’s one called “Worried Student” that my daughter took before her SATs.)
- Exercise Getting into a regular exercise routine is priceless for good sleep. Put your baby in a front carrier or stroller and just walk. Even better, join a group of other new moms. Enroll in a Mommy and Me yoga class. Do 100 jumping jacks in the living room. Just move!
- Get props Pregnant or not, carrying the weight of a baby around can do a number on your back. The right pillows can help: To support both your back and belly, opt for a full-length body pillow or sandwich your growing body between a specialty maternity pillow; one option is designed to support your back and cradle your belly with two wedge pillows connected by Velcro. You can find pillows at www.boppy.com and www.bigvpillow.com. Also, stretch and do abdominal exercises frequently; back rubs, a heating pad and warm baths can help, too.
Helping your baby sleep like a baby
Adequate rest is essential for babies. Newborns need about 16 hours of sleep a day, while 6-month-olds require about 14 hours, says the American Academy of Pediatrics, and experts recommend that babies nap 90 minutes after they last woke up. Newborns sleep a lot, but for short spurts of time; as they get older, they sleep longer. Proper sleep promotes healthy growth, development and learning–it may even prevent obesity later on. But sometimes, that’s easer said than done. Here are tips to help:
- Start a consistent bedtime routine Stick to a regular pattern of soothing rituals — such as a bath, then a book, a lullaby, breastfeeding, then into the crib and lights out — at the same time every night. If you use a pacifier, choose one that doesn’t interfere with breastfeeding. The NUK® Orthodontic pacifier has a unique shape – including a soft rounded top and flat bottom – that replicates a mother’s nipple during nursing, and makes the transition between breast to pacifier and back smoother.
- Soothe your baby to sleep The rocking chair or glider is a wonderful place to breastfeed (or bottle feed) your baby, and to get him drowsy and ready for sleep. If you’re trying to teach him how to put himself to sleep, place him in his crib (on his back, of course) while he’s drowsy but not yet snoozing. But until he’s about four months old, rocking him to sleep, then putting him down is just fine, too. He might wake up a little just to check things out, cry a tiny bit and then settle.
- Get down with white noise Extensive research has shown that white noise can put babies to sleep 300% more effectively than silence or even lullabies. We’ve all heard the stories about newborns only falling asleep in the car or in an infant seat on top of the dryer. Here’s a much more realistic method: The NUK® Natural Sleep System ($49.99 at Babiesrus.com). This system not only gives the option of four sounds – car ride, rain, white noise and womb sounds – it also includes a programmable sleep cycle and is equipped with a soothing amber light. It uses light (gradually brightening “sunlight”) and sound (classical music) to gently wake your baby up in the morning – which is handy when you’re headed to daycare and work, plus it helps teach your child when it’s OK to get up in the morning.
- Light the way For your safety, you need a night light in your baby’s nursery. But did you know that some light – even soft white or blue – can disrupt your baby’s sleep? Research has found that amber light is significantly more conducive to sleep than blue light, and even has been shown to improve mood. In fact, research shows that blue light and white light can suppress the hormone melatonin, which is essential to restful sleep. The four core products in the NUK® Nursery Environment System (sold exclusively at Babies R Us) all are equipped with soft amber utility and nightlights, which encourage sleep. You also can get a program for your electronics, such as your phone and computers, called f.lux; it adjusts the display light to the time of day, so your melatonin levels in turn react to actual daylight and darkness.
- Control the humidity A comfortable nursery environment is crucial to your baby’s sleep (and yours), but knowing how, when and where to use humidifiers and vaporizers can be confusing. The NUK® Warm & Cool Mist Humidifier ($129 at Babiesrus.com) takes the guess work out of choosing the perfect level of humidity, with five custom settings designed for everything from colds, flu and allergies, to a general comfort level that can prevent static electricity, brittle and cracking furniture and dry skin. The NUK® Cool Mist Humidifier, a great value at just $64.99, combines amber light with the largest capacity tank in its category, and comes with the exclusive NUK® child-resistant plug lock. And all of the NUK® nursery products have amber light that promotes healthy sleep.
- Keep her close, safely The key to co-sleeping safely is putting baby and mom on separate sleeping surfaces. Two great bedside bassinets: The classic Arm’s Reach Co-Sleeper (armsreach.com) and the new Halo Bassinest Swivel Sleeper (halosleep.com). Both let you keep baby close for easier breastfeeding, better sleeping and peace of mind.