Rest Is Essential Postpartum: Here Are 5 Tips To Fall Asleep Quickly
In many non-Western cultures around the world, a new mother is encouraged to spend her first postnatal weeks—up to 60 days in some countries!—devoted entirely to resting, feeding herself and her baby, and bonding with her new bundle of joy. She is relieved of all household chores, fed restorative meals by her community, and refrains from having sex. Mom is encouraged to take as much time as she needs to heal properly so she can restore her energy and focus on caring for her baby. In Japan, it is still customary for a new mom to move back in with her parents and spend 21 days in bed. While this may not appeal to our Western lifestyles (or now in the age of social distancing), we can certainly learn from these cultures!
Not only does this special time allow for mom and baby to recover, it also helps mom feel supported and nurtured by those around her. We know that Western culture isn't set up for women to have long periods of nurturing and comfort after birth, but it is so important that you try to take the time to rest up properly and find ways to give yourself the self-care you need.
We understand that without living in large communities as other cultures do, or without extended family nearby (again, especially now in the age of social distancing), it is very difficult to take time to rest and heal.
But we can also see that our current setup, with many moms parenting in isolation, isn't working. We have a high number of moms suffering with postpartum depression and anxiety compared to cultures where mothers are nurtured and held, with care and company, in their early mothering journey. We can't change the culture overnight, but there are small steps you can take.
Top tips for going to sleep quickly, day or night:
In those early weeks, the days and nights often merge into one. We have to try to grasp that all-important rest whenever possible to help us function. Sleeping when baby sleeps is one of the best ways to stop ourselves from spiraling into complete exhaustion, but it is easier said than done. There is often a list of chores we want to complete while the little one naps, or it may be that we are so wired and overtired that we cannot switch our minds off to take advantage of a little daytime shut-eye. Worry not, we have put together some ways to help calm the mind and relax your healing postnatal body so it's ready for some restorative sleep, day or night:
1. Get comfy.
Even though you may not know how long you will manage to sleep for, get your coziest PJs on, snuggle down in bed, and get totally comfortable, even if it is daytime. It is hard to rest while your tight jeans or overly snug bra are digging in and making you feel ill at ease.
2. Have a lavender spritz.
Lavender is well known for its relaxing effect on the body and mind. Buy a pillow spritz online, or make your own cheap and easy version: Buy an empty spray bottle and fill it with water, add 10 drops of lavender essential oil, give it a shake, and spray the calming mist around. After 24 to 48 hours, make a fresh batch as it will lose its potency.
3. Drink tea.
If you know your baby tends to fall asleep while feeding, or straight after, make yourself a cup of herbal tea that you can drink while they feed so that afterward you're both ready for a nap. Teas that aid rest include chamomile, passionflower, and lavender.
4. Scribble a chore list.
There will always be chores to be done. We totally understand how out of control your mind can feel when the house is a mess and the dishes and laundry are mounting. It can feel never-ending. However, if you are totally depleted of energy, you need to be resting and not rushing around tiring yourself out even more. Write down the things that are particularly important, as this will help you feel more in control, then work through them when you are able to, or split them up with your partner so they don't overwhelm you.
5. Turn down the lights.
This sounds so obvious, but sometimes we forget that in order to let our bodies rest and restore, we need to create the right environment, one where we feel safe, calm, and relaxed. The absence of light sends an important message to our brain that it is time to sleep. This is also important for your baby. Try not to turn lights up too much at night as it can be very stimulating and make it more difficult for you to settle them after a feed or diaper change. It can also lead to your mind becoming overly alert and active.
Excerpted from The Little Book of Support for New Moms. Copyright © 2018 by Beccy Hands and Alexis Stickland. Reproduced by permission of The Countryman Press. All rights reserved.