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Accounting for Sleep: Making Healthful Deposits

Updated: Sep 4, 2020

You are mothering through breastfeeding and that means you are meeting your baby’s needs 24-hours a day, yep at night too.

Let me first address that your baby does NOT have a sleep problem, which was no doubt a ‘problem’ actually put on new mothers by the faulty statement, "sleeping like a baby.” Your baby’s biological norm is filled with night waking. Yes some babies seem to sleep straight through the night on their own from day one. They are NOT the norm! There's nothing wrong with your baby and here's why.

The noise and motion that your baby is stimulated by at night is a protective measure against SIDS! Your breathing near them helps keep their vital signs stable and responsive and yes, aroused more easily. This is important because we want them to be able to wake up between sleep cycles. And of course, night nursing supports a healthy milk supply.

Even though your baby does not have a sleep problem, like many in the western culture would lead you to believe, their normal biological sleep may leave you in a serious sleep debt.

You're not alone. Sleep debt cycles are common in new parenthood. The good thing is that there are ways to support your sleep and still meet your little one’s nighttime needs. I'm sure you've heard of some of the more common ways such as, eliminating screen time an hour before bed, dimming the overhead lights before bed to assist with your melatonin release, to exercise early in the day, limit caffeine use, and not drink alcohol closely to bed time. You might find these things quite simple or you might say, “Ok, but how will I get my ‘me time’?”

A common nighttime routine for many moms is to get that ‘me time’ squished in after baby nurses down to sleep and before they wake up for their first night nursing. You might pour a glass of wine to relax, watch some TV, take a bath, or read a book, maybe talk to a girlfriend on the phone. All of that is great if it doesn't dip into your sleep bank account.

* Note that while alcohol can help us relax it can also impede deep sleep. Therefore, if you find yourself waking up a lot through the night or in the morning if you wake up groggy you know you need to adjust your evening routine.

Of course, we need our ‘me time’, but to feel like ‘us’ we also need to sleep. Often times those two values can butt up against each other causing discord. When we stop protecting our own sleep needs in the hope of finding and reconnecting with ‘me time’, we push right up against the boundary of our sleep debt and edge into an overdraft. I have three young kids. Believe me, I get it. I know how vital ‘me time’ and quiet relaxation is to our health and sanity. We crave time to just be ‘us’ again without our baby and/or our big kids crawling on us. We want to reconnect with our partner, to shed the stress, busyness, and possibly guilt that has built up during the day. We want to recoup before the nighttime needs of our baby have us snuggling and attached at the breast - for what might seem like most of the night. But when you're slugging through life with an overdrafted sleep account your ‘me time’ is meaningless because at that point you are not living the ‘you’ that you want to be. I'm going to give you an alternative to the traditional evening routine that can tap into that needed recuperation, as well as, support sleep induction.

After dinner (hopefully you've had some melatonin influencing foods) have your partner get your little one ready for bed while you head out the door. I'm not talking about an energetic cardio workout, just a stroll around the block or quiet time in your yard. If you don’t have the support at home with your little one it is OK to take them with you.

We know that nature can help relax our mind and body and doing so under the moonlight can support your body with balancing out your cortisol and melatonin levels, a natural part of circadian rhythms. In this space, take nice deep in-breaths and out-breaths. Release all the struggle, all the guilt, all of the tiredness, anything that does not support you and is keeping your brain wired. As you inhale peace see how you want your night to go and feel. Tell yourself, “This may be tough right now, but I am a good mom. I've got this. We may not be sleeping through the night right now, but I am providing my child everything that they need.”

This will give your body time to digest dinner, help balance out day time and night time hormones, and calm your mind. As you make your way back inside you are relaxed, with supportive sleep inducers, and ready to snuggle your baby in a dimly lit room. Then when your baby drifts off to dreamland you can drift off as well. I know that the to-do list is long. There is laundry piled high and there might be dishes in the sink. Remember, this time with your baby is a short season in the span of life. The to-dos Can Wait.

The most important thing is that while you're meeting your baby’s needs you're taking care of you too. Even take extra special care of yourself when you feel depleted. It is imperative that you protect your sleep cycle just like you protect your baby’s. Then, after you make some sleep deposits and are in the black again, addressing everything else is much easier.

You are a great mom and a great person. The balance of doing-it-all is hard. And with support and attunement to your body’s needs I believe you can find your ‘me time’, meet your baby’s needs, and sleep too.

To a Confident, Sexy, Love filled life! Kimberly Lindsay,  BA, CPCC, ORSCC, IBCLC

Mental Fitness Coach for Spiritual & Creative Moms:

Who are ready to ditch their saboteurs so they can show up

as the partner, parent, and person they want to be - getting back to self and back to roots.

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