Postpartum Sleep Deprivation


Four days and one unexpected c-section later we were discharged and on our way home at last.

I could no longer lean on the quiet protection of the hospital. Nurses would not be checking on me periodically. Meals would not be brought to me on a schedule. Ready or not I was now a Mom with a fragile, exhausted body, and a newborn baby to care for, out in the big bad world, out where there is no call button.

One minute I was being gently wheeled to my car in a wheelchair, and the next I was faced with two insurmountable flights of stairs to climb just to get up to my apartment.

How can the world expect this of me right now? 

On that first night home, while my husband snoozed, I cared for the baby, nursed him, changed him and eventually got him down to sleep in his crib. The 30 minutes that it took for me to brush my teeth, lay down and finally drift off myself, was just enough time for my newborn to wake up and notice he was in a new and foreign sleeping space and he was NOT happy about it. 

For a fleeting moment I wishfully waited to see if hubby would get up and take a turn soothing our newborn. He did not. So, I concluded and accepted, rightly or wrongly, that it would just be me and my baby every night from there on out. Nobody was coming to my rescue. 

As the days and nights marched on the expectations only grew bigger while my energy and sleep reserves ran out. I struggled through the postpartum period in a sleep deprived haze.

Do all new parents have to suffer with postpartum sleep deprivation after their baby arrives? Not necessarily.

After giving birth your body needs sleep to heal and recover. We all know that sleep is good for us. But just how good is it? 

According to the National Institutes of Health the benefits of sleep include: 

  • Helps you think clearly and problem solve. 
  • Improves your mood and how you interact with others. 
  • Reduces your risk of depression. 
  • Reduces stress. 
  • Helps your body repair itself. 
  • Supports your immune system. 
  • Helps YOU function more effectively. 

When you are sleep deprived you experience the opposite. As a result, your mental and physical health declines. The best remedy for postpartum sleep deprivation is rest, of course. And the more good sleep you get the more you will experience these benefits.

Here are three tips for improving postpartum sleep: 

1. Discuss your sleep needs with your partner before your baby arrives.

Will you share the night time duties? If your partner has to return to work, will he or she help out on the weekends to give you some respite?  

2. Take at least one nap with your newborn everyday.

This is my adapted version of “sleep when the baby sleeps.” Newborns sleep between 14-17 hours a day. While it is broken up in short stretches, it’s still a lot of sleep over a 24 hour period. You deserve that nap. You NEED that nap. It’s not a luxury. It’s a necessity for your mental and physical health. Take it daily and hold onto it for as long as you can. 

3. Hire a professional postpartum doula.

With her gentle and reassuring nature, your BetFiery doula will smoothly take on the overnight responsibilities while you finally get the sleep you are dreaming of. Sharing her knowledge of newborn sleep, she can also help you set up healthy, developmentally appropriate sleep habits and routines for your baby. 

When you are replenished and supported as a new parent you are more relaxed and confident. This benefits you and your baby and makes the entire experience better. You don’t have to slog through it alone! 

About Christie Collbran

Christie believes in helping women recognize their own inner wisdom, strength and power. Having served as President of the Tampa Bay Birth Network for six years and with ten years serving families as a birth doula, she has a reputation for leadership, dedication and compassion. A childbirth educator, certified lactation counselor as well as a certified doula, she makes a point of ensuring mothers and their partners understand all their birthing options and what to expect on their journey.> keep reading