Losing sleep comes with the territory of being a new parent — but that doesn't mean it's easy.
Breastfeeding can take even more of your precious energy out of you, especially in the early days. It can often feel like you are running on empty.
While I don't have a secret to feeling 100% peppy and ready-to-go every day, there are ways to get more rest as a breastfeeding mom.
Here are a few tips for getting more rest as a new mom, and while many of these are geared toward breastfeeding moms, any new parent (regardless of how they feed their baby) can benefit from these ideas!
Rest Versus Sleep
First, it's essential to recognize that when you have a new baby, you will be sleeping less than you have probably slept at any point in your life.
People will often say to "sleep when the baby sleeps,” but as I've spoken with many mothers, that's the advice they listen to the least.
In theory, it's good advice — but it's easier said than done. Sometimes you want to get something accomplished while the baby sleeps. Maybe you worry about falling into too deep of sleep and not hearing your baby wake up. Or perhaps you just want to hold your baby while they sleep (no shame in that — I have done that with all my babies).
While you should try to sleep when you can, more importantly, you should rest when you can. Maybe you don't take a nap when your baby is asleep, but instead, you sit on the couch and read a book or watch your favorite television show.
Finding any moment you can just sit down and put your feed up can give you the energy to get through the next couple of hours.
And if you can sneak in a nap — go for it! Many moms find that setting a timer for a power nap allows them to get a little boost of energy without falling into a deep sleep that can make you feel even more exhausted!
Go to Bed Early
As tempting as it is to try and gets ALL. THE. THINGS. done when your baby goes down for the night, if you don't have to do something, go to sleep! The earlier you can sleep, the better you will end up feeling during those middle-of-the-night wake up calls.
Avoid Looking at Your Phone (During the Middle of the Night Feeds)
This can be hard, especially if it's the only thing that can keep you awake while breastfeeding during those long nursing sessions that newborns love to have. However, if you can avoid any artificial light, it can make a big difference in helping you fall back to sleep more quickly.
Sometimes the light from a phone can distract a baby (especially the older they get) which can also make it hard for them to fall back asleep!
The AAP recommends room sharing for the first year of life. While some mothers have a hard time sleeping because they wake to every single sound, other mothers find it much easier to settle their baby and get back to sleep more quickly if room sharing.
Here are a few pros:
- Room sharing is very breastfeeding friendly. You are able to quickly attend to your baby, nurse them, and get back to sleep without having to walk to another room
- It can take less work to settle your baby if not moving around the house
- You can more easily monitor your baby and be aware of any changes in behavior
While bed sharing is not recommended, there are many great co-sleepers and bassinets available that allow you to have your baby within an arm's reach while providing them their own safe, separate sleep space.
Of course, there are some downsides to keep in mind:
- As I mentioned, some mothers are sensitive sleepers and have a hard time sleeping as they hear every single noise from their babies. Babies — especially newborns — can be very noisy sleepers - grunting, passing gas, and even laughing in their sleep. If you find that all these noises make you antsy, you may get more sleep with your baby in another room.
- The older your baby gets, the harder it is to do anything in your room. One of the reasons we got a Slumber Pod was because my husband and I wanted to watch TV at night, but our son was waking up whenever we turned the TV on. Sometimes room sharing can make you feel like your whole room is taken over by the babe!
When it comes to room sharing, some new moms find it helps them sleep better while others struggle. There's no right answer, but if it helps you get more rest, have at it!
Accept and Ask for Help
We aren't meant to go through this journey called parenthood alone. Don't be afraid to ask for help — and if someone offers it, accept it.
Some of the best help I think someone can offer is just to come and hold your baby so you can sleep for a little bit.
Encourage Cluster Feeding Before Bed
Cluster feeding is a term used to describe a baby who nurses, stops eating, and then wants to eat again shortly after. It can go on for hours, and it is very common in the early weeks as your supply is being established! It also is common during periods of growth and developmental leaps.
Some people worry about allowing this to happen, but it's your baby's way of telling your body to make more milk. For some babies, it's a way for them to "fill up" before getting a nice chunk of sleep. So it's totally fine to allow your baby (and even encourage them) to cluster feed before bed time!
For Pumping Mamas
If you pump at all (whether it's exclusive, while you're at work, or just on occasion), here are a few tips that are helpful — especially when you are exhausted:
- You can place your pump parts in the fridge during the day in between pumping sessions, rather than cleaning them with every pump. Make sure you wash and sanitize them at the end of the day
- If you are pumping at night, bring a little cooler in your room to put your breast milk in rather than getting up to put it away
- Invest in a good quality pumping bra so you can rest a little more while pumping
- Consider getting a hands-free pump like the Willow or Elvie — this can free up your arms and allow you to get a little more comfortable when nursing
Debate: Should Your Partner Help with Night Feeds?
I often hear people telling moms that they should pump and have their partner give bottles during the night so they can get more rest.
In theory, it sounds like a great idea! Unfortunately, it's not that simple.
Breastfeeding is based on supply and demand. If you are giving milk in a bottle, you need to pump around the same time in order to maintain supply and prevent a decrease in milk production.
Most moms will find it more exhausting to wake up and pump milk than to just breastfeed their baby, though if you find the opposite to be true, this might be a good option for you.
Giving bottles regularly early on as well can cause a baby to develop a bottle preference if certain precautions aren't taken (such as using paced feeding strategies). If a baby is having any issues breastfeeding, offering bottles too early or too frequently can make the issues worse.
Every family needs to make the right decision for them. When my first son was born, my husband would wake up with me during every feed. I quickly realized that there was no point in both of us being exhausted, so I told him he should just sleep. By doing this, he was able to get more sleep and ended up waking up with our son when he would wake up for the day - and then I could sleep for another hour or so.
In Summary ...
While there's no secret to getting tons of extra sleep or rest as a new mom, there are things you can do to make life a little bit easier! By using the strategies listed above, you can conserve some of your energy and feel a bit more like yourself during those early, sleep-deprived days.
Katie Clark is a professional blogger, Certified Lactation Educator, IBCLC Student, and most importantly, a wife and mother. She is passionate about sharing her experiences with others — especially about pregnancy, breastfeeding, cooking, and crafts. She loves spending time with her family and helping others find joy in family life. You can follow Katie for more great breastfeeding tips on Instagram at @the.breastfeedingmama.
Note: Guest blog posts are shared for informational and educational purposes and may not reflect the official policy or position of SlumberPod (parent company, Dovetail Essentials, LLC), our employees and/or contractors.