Learning how to deal with lack of sleep breastfeeding a baby is one of the toughest things about being a new mom. If you’re dealing with breastfeeding sleep deprivation, read on for tips on coping with sleep deprivation. This post is sponsored by Amwell. All opinions are my own.
One of the main reasons I hate staying at the hospital longer than I have to after having a baby is the massive amount of sleep deprivation I experience while at the hospital (and then after going home).
When I had my fourth baby, I begged to go home early, especially because the next day was my birthday, and I wanted to spend it at home, not at the hospital. I wanted to be with the rest of my family. When they said I was fine to go, but my baby wasn’t because she was large (over 9lbs) and they needed to keep her another day in order to monitor her glucose levels, I cried.
There’s something you should know about me: I rarely cry. I may get teary watching something sentimental, or have a tear or two roll down my cheek on sad occasions, but to have tear after tear stream down my face and make my nose red and runny? Yeah, that doesn’t happen but maybe twice a year. Maybe.
But, it always happens after I have a baby.
Hormones are running crazy, but I honestly believe the biggest factor for me to suddenly burst into tears, maybe more than once within that first week of having a baby, is the serious sleep deprivation I am experiencing.
I have very long labors. My son’s labor was like 30 hours long. My daughter’s labor was shorter because they broke my water, but both children were born in the middle of the night, which meant I didn’t really get to sleep that night as they do all the stitching, cleaning, weighing, baths, measuring, shots, feeding, and moving you from room to room in the first few hours after giving birth.
Then when it’s officially morning the pediatricians come, and new nurses, and paperwork people, and on and on.
There is no rest for new moms in the hospital. Especially if you are like me and don’t have a husband who can be with me the entire time, because he’s working, going to school, and taking care of our other children, and don’t have family near us, nor do our parents always come out (or they come out later if they do). I don’t have someone else to hold the baby for me. It’s why I am a huge fan of hospital nurseries and saintly nurses who take my child from me for a few hours so I can try to sleep.
By the time I leave the hospital I am completely exhausted. Short 1-2 hours naps here and there on an uncomfortable hospital bed over the course of 3-4 days, while dealing with recovery from giving birth and breastfeeding a new baby, is awful on your mental state. And sleep deprivation is felt. Deeply.
And that sleep deprivation makes me cry alligator tears. At the dinner table. With my family. For apparently no reason, a day or two after coming home from the hospital.
New Mom Sleep Deprivation Symptoms
Thankfully, the newborn stage doesn’t last forever, hormones adjust themselves, and my husband and friends are there to help care for the baby (or older siblings) sometimes so I can sleep as much as possible in the beginning. Because sleep deprived moms need help. Especially as a breastfeeding mother because only mom has the tools required to feed the baby and it takes more calories and energy to create that milk.
Thankfully the extreme effects of sleep deprivation tend to decrease as the baby grows and sleeps for longer stretches of time.
If you want to know if you are actually experiencing sleep deprivation as a new mom, here are some symptoms of sleep deprivation:
- Decreased alertness
- Excessive daytime sleepiness
- Mood changes
- Irritability and Short Tempers
- Difficulty Concentrating
- Impaired Performance
- Decreased Reaction time
- Poor concentration
- Poor short-term memory (aka Mom Brain)
- Poor prioritization and planning
- Impaired Judgment
- Daytime Fatigue
- Body aches and pains
- Stomach pains and diarrhea
- Always hungry
- Weight Gain
- More Klutzy or Poor Balance
- Over-react to situations
- Get sick more often
- Double vision and problems seeing
- More wrinkles
- Nod off without even knowing (or micro-sleep)
- Low sex drive
- High Blood Pressure
- Morning Grogginess
Unchecked sleep deprivation often leads to postpartum depression among other more serious issues, so it’s important to get sleep! Also, it maybe worth checking with your doctor to see if your symptoms seem severe or excessive, as there could be other factors affecting your sleep and your health (like your thyroid).
How much sleep does a breastfeeding mother need?
Because newborns sleep a lot, but in short bursts, requiring feedings every 1-3 hours, it’s virtually impossible for moms to get more than a couple hours of rest at a time.
Nursing mothers often experience the most sleep loss, as some newborns nurse as often as every hour or two, sometimes for 30-45 minutes each time!
As far as I can tell, the hours of recommended sleep per night for breastfeeding mothers are the same as for all adults, the standard 7-9 hours a night. Of course, most breastfeeding mothers will not sleep for 7-9 hours uninterrupted, at least not until their child is older. Sleep deprivation is one of those things that comes with being a parent, but it doesn’t have to last forever.
It is said though that a parent loses about 350 hours of sleep at night over their baby’s first year.
This is why it is recommended that mothers sleep when babies sleep, and try to net 7-9 hours of sleep per day, even if it is in short bursts. You have to get squeeze sleep in when and while you can!
How to deal with lack of sleep breastfeeding
Thankfully at about six weeks of age, your milk supply should have settled in and stabilized more and you are hopefully breastfeeding comfortably. Your baby may start to go slightly longer stretches without having to nurse (from every hour to hopefully only ever two or three hours) and sleep for slightly longer stretches in the evening, with those stretches continuing to grow longer as the baby grows.
Breastfed babies will not always wake up in the night to feed, though some will continue to do so. Some babies wake at night due to the nature of your breastmilk, or because baby is going through a growth spurt, or they get used to waking and suckling (though may not be hungry).
If your baby does not sleep through the night (which is totally normal by the way) for months and you are feeling the adverse effects of sleep deprivation, you need to consider your own mental and physical health and determine what needs to change in order for you to get more sleep. Sleep deprivation left for too long can have serious long-term health effects which are ultimately not good for your baby or your family. So take care of yourself first.
I talked to a lactation consultant online through Amwell for a little bit and asked her some questions about how to deal with lack of sleep breastfeeding a baby, and she gave me some good suggestions.
Dealing with Sleep Deprivation at Night as a Breastfeeding Mom
During my 50-minute lactation consultation appointment with an International Board-Certified Lactation Consultant (IBCLC), I had plenty of time to discuss any and all breastfeeding questions I had about breastfeeding and sleep deprivation.
As I and many other moms frequently say that sleep deprivation is the hardest part of the first year, I wanted to know what she suggested for balancing successful breastfeeding with getting enough uninterrupted sleep.
My IBCLC said that it is of course really individual and that different setups work for different families and babies, and everyone will have to do what they ultimately feel comfortable with but that a mother’s health is very important to keep in mind, and that you must take care of you first, so if someone else needs to help care of the baby, then it needs to happen.
- In the early weeks and month, keep baby close by to establish a great, secure connection with your baby and an adequate milk supply.
- Cosleeping can be a beneficial option for breastfeeding moms, or putting your baby’s crib or bassinet in your bedroom, next to your bed.
- Nurse your baby in a side-lying breastfeeding position.
- Put baby to sleep awake but sleepy. You don’t need to rock or nurse them to sleep every time.
- Whenever possible, sleep during the baby’s longest stretch of sleep, like from 7-11pm, or 12pm-5am.
- Go to bed when your baby goes to bed for the night and don’t stay up to watch Netflix or browse through Facebook!
- If and when breastfeeding is already well established, it’s okay to try other soothing techniques for the baby at nighttime like a pacifier, swaddling, or rocking.
- Send your husband or another family member to cuddle and soothe baby.
- Pump before going to bed and let another caretaker give the baby a bottle during the night. Remember that breastmilk stays fresh at room temperature for 3 hours.
- Consider giving your baby a bottle of formula at night and letting your husband or another caregiver feed the baby instead.
- Set the mood for night-time sleep by keeping lights off, using blackout curtains, use a white noise machine, and keep diaper changes quick and only when needed.
- Speak with your pediatrician if your baby is unusually fussy or difficult to soothe. Underlying health issues like allergies, reflux, colic, etc. can make it difficult for a baby to soothe and sleep.
How to cope with breastfeeding sleep deprivation during the day
- Take naps during the day when you can, or at least during one of his naps.
- Get adequate nutrition. Breastfeeding moms need 400-500 extra calories a day. Make sure the food you are putting into your body is nutritious and healthy.
- Drink plenty of water during the day.
- Take walks with or without your baby, or otherwise get a little exercise, as the fresh air and exercise give you endorphins.
- Let things go and don’t stress too much about the messy house, laundry piles, or being a great friend. Hire a housekeeper or nanny (for older children) if needed.
- Keep your life and schedule simple. Don’t add too much to your plate too soon as you likely won’t handle the additional stress well on little sleep.
- Laugh about the funny things you do as a sleep deprived mom like putting your keys in the fridge.
- Ask friends and family for help – meals, babysitting, holding your baby, laundry, cleaning, etc.
- Try to get your baby and your toddler/preschooler on the same nap schedule so you can nap as well or have a moment to yourself.
If you’d like additional help understanding breastfeeding, weaning, balancing breastfeeding and sleep, or breastfeeding and working, or anything else in regards to breastfeeding it is always helpful to have the personalized and individualized help that comes from talking with a lactation consultant.
You can talk to one any day of the week, early morning, during the day, or late at night, thanks to the telehealth company Amwell!
Use the code NEWMOM23 to get 50% off your visit (the rest may even be covered by your insurance). Please note that you have to put your credit card information in to hold the appointment, then once you log back in for your appointment time you will be prompted to enter the promo code. Expires 12/31/2017.
Amwell Online Video Doctor Appointments
Amwell is the nation’s largest telehealth company, connecting users with board-certified, licensed doctors for immediate and live, online visits—day or night, on either mobile or desktop.
Their most recent addition to their impressive list of services is lactation consultants! They are available at all times of the day, every day of the week!
Use code MOMHELP5 to receive 50% off your first visit! You can use this code once. A regular visit cost is $59 so your final price is only $29.50. The code expires 12/31/17. Please note that you have to put your credit card information in to hold the appointment, then once you log back in for your appointment time you will be prompted to enter the promo code.
I hope you can get the help you need to be successful at breastfeeding, overcome breastfeeding sleep deprivation, and enjoy your journey into motherhood. Good luck moms!
Now go take a nap.
Compensation was provided by Amwell via Momtrends. The opinions expressed herein are those of the author and are not indicative of the opinions of Amwell or Momtrends.
If you want more great posts on breastfeeding, be sure to check out my other posts: