Q: What sort of sleep disruptions occur after pregnancy?
A: Unsurprisingly, women experience more awakenings at night after delivery (for feeding of the baby), although this tends to settle after the first month. Many mothers find daytime naps are a good way to compensate for this disruption in sleep during the night. For first-time mothers, the first 3–6 weeks after delivery are very tiring and fatigue levels remain high for 3 months (higher than prior to pregnancy). There is a high proportion of slow wave sleep after pregnancy related largely to the production of the hormone prolactin responsible for “letting down milk.”
Q: How can I ensure that I get enough sleep in the early stages of looking after my baby?
A: Initially it will be difficult for you to have uninterrupted sleep during the night. But the good news is that once your baby has a regular sleep-wake pattern (by about 6 months), things will start to return to normal. To combat fatigue, make sure that you eat well–iron levels are low after pregnancy and this can make you feel more tired. Scheduling a nap when the baby is napping during the day helps, as does having a partner or family member who can assist with household chores.
Q: Should I worry if I’m not getting enough sleep?
A: Don’t be hard on yourself–pregnancy and the first 6 months with a new baby is extremely demanding physically and emotionally, and just getting through the day is an achievement in itself. If you have “baby blues” or if you feel depressed, seek professional advice. Depression can negatively affect infant-mother bonding as well as your own state of well-being.
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