I discovered a whole new level of tiredness when I became a mother. At times, I felt like a zombie, not making sense at all! I think it is a shock for all of us. But there are things we can do to make it a little bit easier, and I have Lisa with us again today to chat about this and give us some tips. Education is key. I especially recommend this blog post for pregnant women, so they can be better prepared when the baby arrives.
Sleep is a big topic for all parents with new babies! People ask me, is he sleeping? And I usually just say yes! In truth, babies are meant to wake up at frequent intervals during the night to feed in the early weeks and months. This is the biological norm. Of course, each baby is different and some infants sleep for longer stretches than others, regardless of how they are fed. The first thing would be to educate new mums about this so that they have realistic expectations of their baby’s nighttime needs. It is easier for the mum if she has her baby sleeping close by. This is the concept of co-sleeping and can mean anything from having the baby beside you in the bed, to being in a co-sleeper attached to the bed, or in a cot/crib in the room. For me personally and for many breastfeeding mums, the easiest way to have the maximum amount of sleep is to have the baby with you in the bed. Having the baby in the cot, even is he or she is the room with you can be more difficult. You still have to sit up, turn on the lights, pick the baby up, bring the baby into your bed for a feed, and then put the baby back. In general you tend to wake up more and will find it harder to get back to sleep.
It is a relatively new thing to have the baby sleeping in a separate room, or in a cot and unusual for the baby not to be beside the mother on the bed in most parts of the world. But it is really important to stress to new mums that bedsharing must be done safely. I always refer people to the website www.isisonline.org.uk (Infant sleep information source) for advice on safe infant sleep. It’s also important to stress that, however a family chooses to sleep, official guidelines tell parents to keep babies in their parents’ room until they are 6 months old. This is because the risk of SIDS (cot death/ Sudden Infant Death Syndrome) is greater for babies who sleep on their own compared to sleeping in the presence of an adult. It is important that the mattress is firm, not to have duvet covers over the baby’s head, or too many fluffy pillows. Being aware of the possibility of the baby falling out of the bed, and having a bed rail. There are many elements to consider.
There are a lot of people who would quietly say “I have the baby on the bed’, nearly having to whisper it, and talking about it in secret because it is so frowned upon. But yet, you find that a lot of people end doing it. I think sometimes those people may not be doing it safely. They are doing it almost out of desperation as the last resort. Or they are so tired that they take the baby out of the cot and they would accidentally fall asleep next to the baby. So what I prefer to do is to avoid any accidents is to say yes, it is safe to sleep with the baby. By all means have the baby in the bed. It is fine. It is good. However, do it properly and follow the guidelines. This is an important conversation for parents and pregnant women concerned about their sleep when the baby arrives. It is a great shock for most of us. When will my baby sleep through the night? I always thought the baby will sleep there, all night, in the lovely little crib, and I’ll get my sleep after a few weeks. And it was a shock when that didn’t happen! If we have this conversation with women before the baby comes, they are set up safely to co-sleep, if they want to. Some people don’t want to, and that is fine. For me personally, I think if I hadn’t co-slept, I would have gone demented with sleep.
One thing that can really help you rest at night if you co-sleep is to breastfeed your baby as you lay down in bed. If you are really tired, or if you had a c-section, or are still sore after giving birth, this may be a lifesaver. It is so much easier than sitting up, getting pillows, preparing yourself...The best thing about it is that you can have a sleep as well, while you feed. You can do this at nighttime or during the day. I didn’t know I could feed and sleep at the same time when I had my first baby. It is something I learned at the breastfeeding group, and I remember thinking, I wish I had known this before! I wish somebody had told me about this sooner! My baby was 11 weeks old at that stage. From that day, I was never able to tell how many times the baby fed throughout the night. Which leads me to another great topic. Never look at the clock! Or your watch, or your phone because the minute you become focused on what time is it, or how many hours has been since your baby’s last feed it can become almost a fixation. My baby woke up every hour last night. Or the baby woke up at 11, and 1, and 1.30. It becomes an obsession and it stops you from getting a better sleep. If you allow yourself to wake up enough to reach over and grab your phone to look at the time, you have woken up some more, into a lighter phase of sleep and then it is harder to settle back into a deeper sleep. Some people like having their phones beside them, and even go online as they feed. I wouldn’t recommend it at all if you can help it. Use that time to rest. Even if you wake up a little bit when the baby is feeding, just lie down and close your eyes and rest.
Ana shares her experience of being told to keep a journal on how long does the baby feed on each side, times etc. This is something some mums do, also through the night.
Lisa's advice is clear. Throw those journals in the bin and don’t track your baby’s feeds (unless there is a problem with weight gain). Perhaps there is an issue if the baby is very sleepy when it is first born. Then it is a good idea to wake the baby up and keep track of how many feeds he had during the day. But this is something that may be needed the first week. After that, unless there is another problem, I’d say to people just watch the baby. Feed the baby on demand and learn your baby’s cues. Breastfeeding on demand is feeding whenever your baby wants to be fed. It is usually instinctive for the mother to recognise their baby’s cues. The baby would start munching, trying to latch onto anything on sight, making little grunting noises...if you latch on the baby on at that point and feed the baby on one side until it had enough, and offer the other side. Sometimes they’ll take it sometimes they won’t. But you do not need to time feeds on each side. Don’t wait for your baby to cry. That is a very late stage of hunger for a baby. And you don’t need to look at the clock to see how long it has been since the last feed, or how long did the baby feed for. This makes the whole breastfeeding experience more stressful that it needs to be.
Breastfeeding on demand is also a good way to ensuring the baby is getting a good milk supply. The stimulation of the breast, especially in the early weeks is vital for building up your milk supply. So even though it may seem the baby is on the breast the whole time during the first few weeks and it can be overwhelming (especially for mums who had been told that babies feed every three hours, again, education) but it is normal.
If you enjoyed today, join us tomorrow and let's talk about SUPPORT, BABY-WEARING and we give you tips and resources to help you on your journey. For more information on some of these topics, you can also visit www.kellymom.com
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