8 Ways to Combat New Moms' Sleep Troubles

Tips 5-8

5. Be choosy about guests.

There are helpful visitors (mothers-in-law who make meatloaf and change diapers), and aggravating visitors (coworkers who just want to gossip). In a 2003 study Wolfson directed on changes in sleep patterns in first-time mothers, she found that new mothers with less social support ironically slept more than those with a lot of social support.

"When friends and family stop in to visit the new baby, women may feel obligated to entertain, prepare food, and keep people happy," says Wolfson. Visitors who put high demands on you or expect the same level of effort and hospitality that you had before you became pregnant will only sap your energy. On the other hand, many people are more than happy to pitch in. When you have a guest who offers to help, let her!

6. Don't rely on coffee.

Although gulping down a cup of coffee first thing in the morning can give you the jolt you need to be alert, Wolfson says that overdoing it can mask your need for sleep, and may actually prevent you from falling asleep when you finally lie down. (Furthermore, the American Academy of Pediatrics recommends that nursing moms try to limit their caffeine consumption to one cup a day.)

7. Develop an amnesty agreement.

There were many nights I wished my husband could lactate. He certainly never has a problem listening to his body's signals to sleep! Sleep deprivation has a way of bringing out the emotionally unstable diva in me. My husband and I accused each other of all sorts of unspeakable crimes. ("Get the $%&@ up or I'm outta here!" -- We've both used this line.) Realize that if you haven't slept through the night in weeks or even months, your mind will be jumbled and your mood will often be sour.

After much midmorning name-calling and cursing, my husband and I made a pact never to take seriously the mean or ridiculous things we say to each other while we're half- conscious. Once we acknowledged that our midnight tirades were just side effects of not getting enough sleep, the rants tapered off.

8. Realize that the sleepless nights won't go on forever.

According to the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP), healthy babies usually settle into a routine in which they sleep for longer stretches at night (five or more hours) by 2 to 3 months of age. Almost all babies should be able to sleep through the night by the age of 6 months, but the AAP acknowledges that there can be a significant discrepancy between this statistic and what happens in any given family on a given night.

At Norah's 6-month well-baby visit, I still had dark circles under my eyes. Her pediatrician suggested that I refrain from nursing her to sleep and instead put her in her crib drowsy but still awake. Norah let me know that she had a problem with that strategy. I compromised by nursing her an hour before bedtime and rocking her to sleep while she sucked on her binky. So the happy ending to my tale from the dark end of sleep deprivation is that at 10 months, my daughter started sleeping through the night -- and so did I.

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