This past July, singer-songwriter Jewel added a title to her list of accomplishments – sleep deprived mom. While Kase Townes is the new love of both her and husband Ty Murray’s lives, catching some shut-eye can be a challenge when you’re waking up for regular feedings, particularly for this light sleeper.
Jewel’s not alone, which is why she decided to team up with our Dr. Lisa Shives, The Sleep MD, to help other new parents navigate what can be a sleepless fog during the first few months of life with a new baby.
White Noise – it’s not just for baby but also to help mom and dad sleep. Ty and I have decided to let Kase sleep in our room, in his own crib next to our bed. In order to ensure that I get a good night’s rest, I use earphones with white noise loud enough to tune out soft whimpers and grunts, yet low enough to hear waking signals, like crying.
During nighttime feedings, keep lights low. I use a night light so I can see Kase without fully waking my mind – or his.
Finding sleep during the day can be challenging. Dr. Shives’ staff psychologist teaches various relaxation techniques – meditation, self hypnosis, deep breathing exercises, progressive muscle relaxation and visualization. I’ve learned how to meditate, which helps me unwind and eventually find sleep. I make guided relaxation tapes where I record myself saying standard techniques like, “take a deep breath and relax every muscle in your face.” I also like add personal, relevant touches. For instance, I might tell myself to let go of any anxiety I might be experiencing at any time. These tactics help me stop thinking about the task of falling asleep during Kase’s nap and redirect that energy toward intentionally relaxing.
Commit to sleep and make it a priority in your life. I’ve got a type A personality, but since Kase’s arrival, I’ve made a real effort to tamp down pre-baby have-to’s – answering emails, cleaning dishes, doing a load of laundry – to focus on being present when he is awake and relaxing when he is asleep. Give yourself permission to let some things go.
Good sleep starts before you’re actually trying to fall sleep. When I wind myself up during the day, I have a harder time sleep at night. Be mindful of your daytime habits to see if they are inhibiting your sleep at night.
Be intentional about sleep. As a new mother, I have plenty of built-in distractions, like nighttime feedings. Given that, when I am able to sleep, I want to make sure that my sleep equipment – pillows, mattress pad/topper and mattress – is providing the right support and comfort. I don’t need an uncomfortable pillow to sabotage me just when I get a chance to get some shut eye.
Be open to alternative remedies. I use a natural remedy with white chestnut, clematis and cherry plum to quiet my mind and relax. Other people find aromatherapy, particularly lavender, a helpful relaxation and sleep tool.
Parents are building the foundation for their children’s sleep habits. Take some time (what little you may have) to learn about the importance of sleep to a child. For instance, a well-rested child, no matter his or her age, learns better than one who is over tired. It’s the best gift you can give them!