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New Classes

Learn about sleep - It's more important than you think!

Monthly at
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Center for Midwifery Care
in Northampton, MA

Sleep for Expectant Parents
April 18, 2015 (1 - 3 p.m.)
Sleep in the First Year
April 11, 2015 (10 a.m. - Noon)

Contact me at 413.348.6273 or beth@sleepandparenting.com to register.

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Monday
Jan282013

New Moms and Sleep

Caring for a new baby is one of the most challenging experiences adults can face, yet it is also an experience that most parents say they wouldn't trade for anything in the world.  It can be awe-inspiring, but it also can be overwhelming.  Every month at the sleep classes I teach for new parents, I am impressed by both the fortitude of these new moms and dads as well as their level of exhaustion.

When preparing for the arrival of a new baby, family and friends help with the gathering of necessary supplies such as clothing, diapers, cribs, carseats, swings, blankets, and more.  Parents focus on being prepared for the birth experience, but very few think to prepare for how to manage caring for the baby at home when sleep deprivation will make everything about this new venture even more daunting. 

So what can new parents do?  How can those around them help?   Some suggestions follow:

#1 Make sleep a priority both for mom and for her baby.

Caring for a newborn implies sleep deprivation. The tiny size of infants means they must be fed around the clock. Babies are born without mature sleep patterns (which can take until 4 to 6 months to develop) and, as a result, do not know day from night. So it is essential that moms sleep when their infants are sleeping.

This is often difficult because a tendency is to try to get household chores done, make phone calls or catch up with email. The best advice is to let the chores go and ask for help if you just can't stand a messy house or dirty dishes. If there is an older child try to get sleep when the child is at school, or when he/she takes a nap. Ask for help from relatives, neighbors, and friends.

Another reason to make sleep a priority is that sleep deprivation is a major factor in the development of post-partum depression. Hormonal changes responsible for disrupting sleep during pregnancy continue in the first weeks after birth. So even the "new baby blues" may be simply the result of lack of sleep.

#2  Begin to establish healthy sleep habits for your baby

Even though an infant can't be expected to follow a schedule or sleep through the night, moms can help babies develop healthy sleep habits by making sure their baby doesn't get overtired. Babies up to 2 months of age should go back to sleep after only 1½ to 2 hours of waking.

#3 Help babies develop self-soothing skills

Ignore baby's normal sounds during sleep (babies are not consistently quiet sleepers). Babies move about or rustle, whimper, and may even briefly cry during sleep. When parents rush in to get their babies, babies don't have the opportunity to experience going back to sleep following the normal arousals that interrupt sleep for us all.

Practice putting babies down to sleep drowsy in the early weeks. For moms this offers the opportunity for her partner to put the baby down. (As with all strategies, some babies will respond well; others will continue to need mom or to need to be asleep before being put down.)

The good news is that all babies can learn to sleep. The first step involves helping new moms hold back the influences of the busy world around them so that they get the rest they need. Friends and family must work with them to create a haven in which they can nurture the elements of healthy sleep: regularity, consistency and a slower pace. We will all benefit from joining them in this important effort.

 

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