Getting Rest with a Newborn

By Krista Gray, IBCLC. Last updated February 5, 2013.

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Getting rest with a newborn!  It’s one of those things we all need. . . everyday. . . and yet seems impossible to get enough of when you have a new baby.  But a new baby does not have to be synonymous with exhaustion.  I have four children and I’ve tried a lot of different things to get rest since becoming a mom (some have worked, some have failed miserably).  I can honestly say I am feeling more rested with my fourth child than I ever did with the others.  Here are some strategies to help you get rest when you have a new baby.

  1. Breastfeed. On Demand.
    Did you know solid research shows that moms who breastfeed their babies actually get MORE sleep than their formula-feeding counterparts?  Perhaps its because a mom must arouse from sleep much more to mix, feed, and then sterilize a bottle, or perhaps it’s because a mom is so in tune with her little one that even if she’s not giving the bottle she usually wakes thinking of her baby (and then must deal with pumping and/or engorgement).  But breastfeeding on demand also satisfies your baby’s needs, allowing him to find contentment and peace knowing his needs are met. . . and by the person he loves most in his big, new world.  Nursing on demand also helps to protect against engorgement, which allows mom to get rest when the opportunities arise since she won’t be in pain from too much milk.
  2. Co-sleep.
    And consider bed sharing as well! Lots of things have been written about the supposed “dangers” of bed sharing but the fact is, bed sharing in a wise way is actually safer for baby and allows mom to maximize sleep.  Babies need to be exclusively breastfed, no other children should be in bed, no drugs or smoke should be used in the home, no overly soft cushions, pillows, covers, etc. on bed, place baby adjacent to mom (rather than between mom and dad), and take precautions baby can’t roll off bed.  As for baby, cultures who regularly co-sleep don’t even have a word for SIDS.  We now know that when mom and baby are sleeping together, mom exhales carbon dioxide which stimulates baby’s breathing. Bed sharing can not only be safe, but also a great way to relax, cuddle with your baby, and get some sleep together.
  3. Nap when your baby naps.
    Though it’s tempting to try to get other things done when your baby is napping, try not to do too much too fast after having a baby and make resting while your baby does a priority.  Playing on the internet, email, cooking, cleaning, etc. can all wait.  If you have other children you are caring for, allow them to have a “quiet time” at some point each day as well.  Whether they learn to play quietly in their room, read books, or watch a video, it is okay for them to have this down time while you and your baby rest as well.
  4. Let others serve you.
    Now is not the time to be supermom!  Accept all offers of help whether it’s cleaning your house, doing laundry, cooking meals, or going grocery shopping. . . don’t turn anything down.  Let your spouse, family, and/or friends help you out while you focus on feeding your baby.  And, don’t feel guilty about “not doing anything.”  You are doing a lot!  You are feeding and nurturing a new life!
  5. Get a sling.
    Sometimes a new baby doesn’t want to nurse, but doesn’t want to be set down either.  A baby can get so overly tired he finds it hard to then go sleep.  A sling or wrap can allow your baby to snuggle in close to mom (and hear her comforting heartbeat) while you still have two hands to get other necessary things done.  Sometimes these rests are just what your baby needs to be able to sleep better at night and throughout the day – sleep begets sleep.
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