I remember like it was yesterday. I was standing in the line at the grocery store when an older woman who I knew came over to me to admire my new baby. She smiled and said kind words to the less than month old tiny little bundle in the baby seat. Then she looked at me and said “How are you?” I could feel the tears well up deep inside of me. I tried to take a deep breath and blink away what I knew would be a flood if even one tear managed to come out. I blurted out, “I am so tired…” and that was it, the floodgates opened.
Exhaustion among new mothers is quite common, but it doesn’t have to be. In our society sleep deprivation after having a baby seems like it’s become a right of passage so to speak. I believe part of the reason is that in general, lack of sleep is held in high regard, as if you’ve accomplished major strides if you can live off of 4-5 hours of sleep a night.
We live in a very fast-paced world and there are always a thousand more things to get done.
Sleep is so important though. And not just to “feel better”. There are actually scientific reasons why sleep deprivation is very dangerous, especially for a new mother. One reason is that is impairs your judgment, especially about how exhausted you are. Many women think they are doing fine, but are actually not functioning very well at all. Delirium can cause many of the same effects as being drunk. Eventually being exhausted will start to shut your body down.
Not having enough sleep can cause accidents and forgetfulness. Did I already take a pain pill this morning? Did I call the insurance to have the baby added? Did I make my follow up visit with the midwife? Where did I put my phone? What about my keys, anyone seen those? The milk sat out all night, and I forgot to let the dog in. Sound familiar? You begin to feel like you can’t remember shit! It’s frustrating!
It can cause you to act, well, dumb. Loss of reasoning skills, lack of focus and concentration, and the ability to problem solve can leave you feeling like your brain has packed up and moved out. And in some ways it has. Lack of sleep and postpartum depression are closely related, because lack of sleep can cause depression. With hormones being off after having a baby, along with the sleepiness, you are setting yourself up for a bout with postpartum depression. No one wants that. I’ve been there *see above.
There are also physical dangers as well. Your body’s gastrointestinal system can start to go haywire, and symptoms like irritable bowel, heartburn, and acid reflux can appear. Also, loosing sleep puts you at risk of heart attack, stroke, high blood pressure, and diabetes. All of this sounds terrible, but if it doesn’t convince you that you need sleep- exhaustion also causes weight gain.
You must get sleep especially as a new parent. It is crucial and vital to your ability to take care of your new baby. Having a postpartum doula come in even for one night a week can make all the difference in the world. Kansas City Doulas is able to help you put your mind at ease and get 8 solid hours of sleep. If you are breastfeeding, we will bring the baby to you to nurse, then help the baby go back to sleep when you are finished thus cutting down on the total amount of time you are awake.
Don’t get to the point where I was- so exhausted and tired that I couldn’t hold it together. Take care of yourself so you can take care of your family.