Advice Articles

How to Handle Sleep Deprivation



Sleep deprivation

You get a lot of advice when you're pregnant but it's often the case that nothing can prepare you for the lack of sleep that arrives with a newborn.

As you reach the end of your pregnancy there can be a glimmer of hope that without your pregnancy symptoms you'll be able to sleep better but once baby arrives, you realise that this isn't always the case. Babies aren't born knowing the difference between night and day and it is often the case with breastfed babies that they will feed more frequently throughout the night to encourage your supply for the following day. One of the key pieces of advice you might think goes without saying is 'sleep when baby sleeps'. This can be tough to do, you might feel a sense of needing to get on with other tasks like cleaning and laundry, you might be on high alert listening for unfamiliar sounds from your baby or you might have older children to take care of who either nap at different times or don't nap at all. Whatever your situation, don't be afraid to ask your partner, friends or family to help with chores and errands so you can focus on sleep and getting some energy back.

Breastfeeding can be exhausting while you're feeding on demand and learning baby's hunger cues so it's worth preparing yourself for this - there is no perfect baby that sleeps for hours at a time. Sometimes they will cluster feed for what feels like hours and they will often fall asleep at the breast and wake when you try and put them down to sleep, starting the whole cycle again. Prepare for these periods of time by nursing in a space where you have water and snacks to hand - tiredness and hunger are not kind bedfellows, and utilise tips such as placing baby in a safe space to sleep which has a sheet or blanket which has your scent to reassure them. 

You can also breastfeed while lying down as this can help you reduce the amount of energy you need to muster however, it is important that you stay awake for the feed and follow safe sleeping guidelines.

While breastfeeding can often be viewed as something dads can't help with there are plenty of other tasks your partner can help with - like getting baby dressed, changing a nappy before or after a feed, winding baby, taking baby for a walk between feeds to give you an opportunity to sleep uninterrupted and so forth. If you're able to build these responsibilites for each other in the early days, it can really pay off when sleep deprivation is affecting you the most after a few weeks of broken sleep.

Serious sleep deprivation can lead to depression and feelings of anxiety so it is important to prioritise rest for yourself whenever you can and that you learn to understand the differences between the two so you know when to ask for help from a healthcare professional. 

If you find yourself requiring breastfeeding advice outside normal office hours, the National Breastfeeding Helpline may be able to take your call.

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