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- Woman to Woman
by Maureen Healy
A sleep and parenting expert offers tips to help cope with the sleep deprivation new moms experience during baby's first weeks
Everyone warns you, but there's no way to know what sleep deprivation truly feels like until you have your newborn at home. What they say is true: The first six weeks (and beyond, for some parents) are brutal. But according to Northampton, Mass., sleep and parenting consultant Beth Grams Haxby, Ed.M., there are strategies that can help -- if you're willing to implement them.
Here are five of the most surprising sleep tactics to help you reclaim your rest:
New Mom Sleep Tip No. 5: It can wait
Allow yourself to let some of your chores and responsibilities slip for those first few weeks. By making your own sleep a priority, you'll be doing a great (and very necessary!) favor for yourself. It's OK to slack a bit on the housekeeping, to lag in returning phone calls and to heat up frozen lasagna for dinner. No one will mind. Really.
New Mom Sleep Tip No. 4: Share baby care with your partner.
It's essential to learn when to let Dad step in. "Sometimes that's hard for a new mother because of the connection with baby -- the bond is so strong," says Grams Haxby. It's a fine dance, she says, but if parents make a plan to alternate duties, there's a better chance of getting some real rest.
New Mom Sleep Tip No. 3: Try to find some rhythm.
The more your sleep is disrupted, the more difficult it is for you to fall back asleep. "Sleep seems so incredibly natural, but it's not quite that simple. When your body is deprived of sleep, your brain releases adrenaline to help you stay awake," explains Grams Haxby. So if you're the only one tending to baby all day, all night, when you finally do get a moment to rest your head on a pillow, that adrenaline will thwart your efforts. That's why it's so important to ask for help from your loved ones, so you can get some solid shut-eye for as long of a stretch as possible. "The more sleep you get, the easier it is to sleep."
New Mom Sleep Tip No. 2: Don't let electronics keep you up.
Our brains secrete melatonin at night to help us fall asleep, says Grams Haxby, and "LED light (from a computer screen or television) can cause a shift in circadian rhythms by suppressing melatonin release." And if your brain can't do its job, you can't sleep. So create a calming bedtime routine that includes turning off all electronics at least one hour before bedtime.
New Mom Sleep Tip No. 1: Remember, this too shall pass.
Keep your perspective. It's not easy when you're up for the 10th time at 3 a.m., but try to recognize that as hard as this period is, in hindsight, it will feel like the blink of an eye. In the meantime, get as much help as possible, sleep when the baby sleeps and don't feel guilty about making your own rest a priority.
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Woman to Woman: "5 Ways New Moms Can Get Sleep"