You’re cruising in your dream car while listening to your favorite song, and having a fabulous day in the sun. Then your radio starts to crackle, and suddenly it sounds more like a crying baby…your baby…again…for the FOURTH time tonight! How could that sweet little newborn you brought home from the hospital turn into such a demanding, sleepless creature as soon as you hit the pillow? So many of us have been there, and we think to ourselves, “Exactly how LONG will my nights be awake, and my days be a blur?” I can tell you that even though my own five children each did things a little differently, the first few months after childbirth seemed almost like a broken record of exhausted days.
Aside from the regularly known effects of sleep deprivation like irritability, confusion, emotional strain, and fatigue (and who needs a longer list than that?!), there are a few extra down sides to spending weeks (or months) in a frantic catch-up game searching for those stolen z’s. Medically speaking, sleeping a stretch of at least 6-8 hours has been proven to lower your risk of heart attack, stroke, heart disease, diabetes, arthritis, and premature aging. Studies have shown that patients getting less than 6 hours of sleep a night have higher levels of inflammatory proteins found in their blood, which is the main cause of that laundry list of problems. Aside from that, your immune system is working on a much lesser level of illness prevention, which means you are 3 times more likely to catch a cold without adequate rest. Anyone who has parented before knows the last thing you can take with a newborn is getting sick…moms don’t get to call in for the day!
Another perk to sleeping through the night is avoiding the dreaded exhaustion induced binge eating. We all know that after having a baby there should be NO celebrity magazines allowed on the premises because it can only end in tears (as we read about the superstars who dive back into their size 2 jeans within days of childbirth). But despite us “sensible” moms knowing that box of chocolates on the counter shouldn’t be totally consumed at 2 am (thanks for the gift, Aunt Edna), inadequate sleep throws our bodies into a higher level of survival eating, with signals sending us into a constant state of “fueling up.” Because our bodies burn 7% more calories when we stay up all night, we are naturally hungrier and craving comfort foods while awake. So even though our weight should NEVER be a priority right after our beautiful new addition has arrived, we sure could do without the extra points up on the scoreboard!
The final reason (which I personally find most important) to sleep enough regularly, has to do with memory function. Research has proven that anytime you are learning or experiencing something new for the first time (like getting to know a tiny family member!), it is necessary to have enough rest to properly mentally catalog the event. In other words, you learn new things better, and your memories are made stronger with more sleep. A picture may be worth a thousand words, but an actual memory can’t be replaced!
So now we ask, how in the world am I supposed to get any with this adorable little bundle sleeping (or not) next to me all night?! Simply put – don’t be a hero. Take a moment to think about spending a few bucks on a Newborn Care Specialist who would be THRILLED to come to your home and snuggle your baby while you keep your strength and health up just by sleeping. Being an NCS myself, I can tell you I have never left a home of any parent who hasn’t woken up feeling like they could conquer the world after a full 8 hours of rest! The droopy-eyed mother who hands you her infant to shuffle off to bed is traded in for a happy, bright-eyed, and motivated “supermom” who is ready to fully enjoy the most precious days with her new baby.
So stop calling your best friend to watch the baby while you take a nap that’s too short by 6 hours, and call a certified specialist. You will be better equipped to handle anything life throws at you during your “fourth trimester,” and you will be able to tell your own stories of all that happened during these first few months, instead of taking everyone else’s word for it!