Sleep Deprivation and Postpartum Depression
Written by: Pat Porrey
Having a baby can be as exciting as it is exhausting. Sleep deprivation can build quickly after a few sleepless nights. Since babies do not come home with set schedules, you need to create one for yourself. Work with your other caregivers to determine when you can carve out a four-to-six-hour uninterrupted slot for sleep. For example, you take “baby duty” from 8 p.m. to 2 a.m., then your partner takes the 2–8 a.m. shift, enabling you both scheduled time to sleep.
To protect the precious sleep you do get, don’t eat large meals at least two hours before bed. Sugar and caffeine may affect our ability tosleep well. Set up a bedtime routine. Whether it is a bath, book or some other ritual, routines can help us fall asleep faster. Your bedroom, just like your baby’s, needs to be dark, cool and quiet. Use earplugs or noise machines to help reduce outside noise.
Many moms experience the baby blues after childbirth, which commonly includes insomnia, mood swings and crying spells. Postpartum depression is a much more serious condition. Symptoms may include feelings of intense irritability and overwhelming fatigue and thoughts of harming yourself or your baby.
Any mother who has symptoms of postpartum depression should call her health care provider for medical options. Most importantly, know that you are not alone. Hiring a nighttime baby nurse or postpartum doula can literally be just what the doctor ordered.
Another source of help is the confidential MOMS postpartum depression hotline at 866-364-MOMS. It can be helpful to talk with other mothers or join a support group. NPN has a wonderful network of new moms groups and networking opportunities.