As any mother can tell you when a baby is born sleep deprivation takes on a whole new meaning. Those few precious hours of sleep you do get are more akin to a constantly interrupted nap than any type of actual, restful sleep. It can be frustrating beyond measure for both parents, but especially mom. Until she gets into a regular cycle of pumping breast milk so dad can help out and give her that extra sleep she so desperately needs, making sure that tiny wonder gets all the nutrients required to stay healthy and grow up to be big and strong is entirely up to her.
Sleep deprivation can put a person at risk of developing any one of a long list of emotional and physical problems. While many of them are minor and can be overcome some are in fact quite serious. One of the most troubling side effects of sleep debt is a decrease in alertness. Obviously this is not a desirable feature when caring for your little bundle of joy. There are many factors that contribute to how and when the young mother is able to get truly restful sleep, but there is no denying how important those hours really are when she does.
As we edge towards Mother's Day it seemed appropriate to compile a list of some of the more prominent problems the new mothers in our lives are going to face and ways we can help them rise above it all and be the supermoms we know they are.
One of the most debilitating side effects of sleep deprivation is a decrease in your metabolic rate. As many of you are all too aware, when your metabolism slows down you start to gain weight, and you also start to feel a serious decrease in energy. That decrease in energy is going to keep her from wanting to run errands, get out of the house, or keeping active and getting back to her daily routine and the activities she’s used to doing. Taking care of a newborn in and of itself is a serious task; it can take a heavy toll on any mother. The last thing mom needs is a decrease in energy. To compound things further, this decrease in energy results in far less calories burned which in turn will contribute to the dreaded but inevitable weight gain that follows any pregnancy. It can be much more difficult to shed those extra pounds later if your metabolism is running at turtle speeds.
Friends and family it's time to help that new mom out. Something as simple as an invite to lunch can help a new mom get out of the house and remember how good it feels to stay in motion. She might try to make excuses, but don't listen. Insist at the very least on a walk around the neighborhood, or a visit to her favorite park. Besides, don't you want to hold that baby for just a little bit? Dad, you can help here too. Instead of being focused on your day, roll your sleeves up and help out around the house. If you already are helping around the house, help more, the love of your life needs all the help she can get right now.
When you are sleep deprived your memory and cognitive functions become impaired. The simple recall of the name of your favorite brand of diapers, or formula can become an infuriatingly difficult task. This leads to frustration and can unfortunately make the new mother have a diminished feeling of self-worth. That is not only emotionally hard on her, but can ultimately contribute to postpartum depression. Our new mom is trying so hard, but because she isn't getting enough sleep she just can't make her synapses fire like they used to.
Dads, it's time to step up to the plate. You're going to have to reach a whole new level of support here. As soon as you can start helping to feed that baby it's your duty to do so. That's going to give mom that little bit of extra sleep she needs to keep her mind sharp and her emotions in check. Just remember, there is always a balance that can be found where you are both giving and supporting each other. She needs you now more than ever. Also keep in mind complimenting her is always a good idea, but especially right now.
Inadequate sleep can and often does have a negative impact on breast milk production. Obviously, this isn't the only thing that contributes to a healthy milk supply, but it does play an important role. The last thing in the world a new mother wants to deal with is not having enough milk to feed her baby. This can put undue stress on her, which unfortunately can also effect milk production. It’s a vicious cycle, and one you want to make sure doesn’t become a serious problem.
This can be a tricky situation on many levels, the best approach is a positive one. There is no denying that breast milk plays an important role in the new born baby’s life, it is however worth mentioning that many children are given formula very early on in their development and they have turned out just fine. Breast milk is not the only solution and the new mother should know that there are acceptable alternatives if she isn’t producing enough milk. If the issue is simply a matter of making sure she gets the extra sleep she needs than it’s time for the support team to step in and lend a hand. If that means Dad needs to sacrifice a few extra hours of sleep so Mom can keep a healthy milk production then it’s well worth the effort.
Postpartum depression is a very real and significant issue for new mothers around the world. According to an article on familyeducation.com "the mothers who stay particularly healthy postpartum are the ones who allow themselves to sleep as much as they feel necessary". Avoiding postpartum depression is definitely desirable, although treatable it's not something we want any new mother to have to endure on top of caring for a newborn. It’s not always going to be possible for a new mother to sleep as much as they feel necessary, all situations are going to be different.
Dads, you are going to play a major role here as well (starting to see a pattern?). Do what you can to help mom feel like she's getting fully rested. If that means you need to get rid of that lackluster mattress you've had since you first moved in than do it. A truly comfortable, non-toxic, healthy mattress can make all the difference in the world when it comes to getting to sleep fast, and getting the type of sleep that truly energizes you. What could be worse than suffering from sleep deprivation and then trying to get those few precious hours on a bed that feels more like a board than a cushion of comfort and solitude? If you do decide to invest in a better mattress take your time in your selection. Make sure mom gets a chance to lay down on it and try it out. Don't just buy the first comfortable mattress you lie on either, the components that make up a mattress are crucial to the time it will last you and how well you sleep on it.
Lack of sleep can cause the immune system to function in a less than desirable way. The more sleep debt you carry the less effective your body is at fighting off new bacteria and viruses. The mother is tired, overworked, in love with her baby but badly in need of a good night's rest, and now on top of it all she gets sick. That's not good for mom, and it's not good for the baby.
Lend those new moms as much help as you can by cooking healthy meals. Make sure they get all the vitamins and minerals needed to keep their immunity levels as high as possible during these critical times. Make sure to get a good mixture of both cooked and raw foods, as mom will need both to stay healthy. It can be extremely trying for the new mother to prepare those high quality meals and care for her new baby. Friends and family, don't be afraid to insist on bringing dinner over for her and the family once a week.
Also consider a trip to your local vitamin store, and I’m not talking about your local grocery store. A real supplement store with top quality ingredients can make a world of difference in how mom feels. We’ve covered 5 problems here but we’ve barely scratched the surface of what it's like for new mothers. They need all the love and support we can give them.
If you are lucky enough to have a new mother in your life, take the time to do your own research, think of ways you can help her that really work with your schedule. If you're a parent than you know how hard that first year really is. However, with a good solid support team any new mother will make it through with flying colors.
Here at Soaring Heart we wish all the new mothers the best of luck with your tiny miracles and urge you to not be timid is asking for what you need to be the best mom you can possibly be. Remember, Mother's day is right around the corner.