Q & A: Your Baby's Sleep
Even before their babies are born, parents-to-be worry about how they're going to get the rest they need. Here are expert answers to the most common questions.
SIDS Update: What We Know Now
Despite the progress of the Back to Sleep campaign, launched in 1994, sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS) remains the No. 1 cause of death in babies from 1 month to 1 year of age, according to First Candle/SIDS Alliance, a nonprofit organization in Baltimore. Many factors have been linked to SIDS: smoking in the home; overdressing the baby; and pillows, blankets and bumpers in the crib. However, says First Candle/SIDS Alliance public affairs director Laura Reno, “new research shows that babies who die from SIDS have a brainstem abnormality that makes them susceptible to challenges in their sleep environment.” They don’t cough like they should when they rebreathe carbon dioxide (exhaled air). The best precautions: Always place your baby on his back on a firm mattress with everything else removed from the crib (dress him in a sleep sack), and duplicate this environment anywhere the baby sleeps, such as day care.
Coping with Sleep Deprivation
“New moms need to make themselves and their rest priorities,” Richard Frieder, M.D., says. “The mother is the linchpin in the family; if she doesn’t take care of herself, home life goes downhill.” Here are some suggestions for getting the rest you need with a new baby in the house, especially if you go back to work.
1. Take “power naps.” Difficult and frustrating as it sounds, the best—and only—remedy for lack of sleep is sleep. “Power napping needs to become a way of life for pregnant women and new moms,” says Yan-Go. “Taking a 20- to 30-minute nap once or twice a day can help a lot.”
2. Sleep when the baby sleeps. Fight the urge to use this precious time to pay bills or do laundry. Make rest your priority.
3. Enlist help. Hire a postpartum doula or another competent child-care provider to watch your baby while you sleep. Or alternate sleeping shifts with your husband. Don’t be afraid to ask for coverage, says psychiatrist Leslie Lundt, M.D., who has a sign in her office that says “Sleep Rocks.” “It’s unhealthy to skimp on your sleep,” she says. Before, you needed it for yourself. Now you need it for your baby, too.
4. Sleep with your baby. If you breastfeed, you won’t have to get out of bed and become fully awake, so you’ll get more hours of uninterrupted sleep. Even if you don’t nurse, you’ll sleep more soundly, as you won’t wake up worrying about the baby.
5. Be creative at work. If you have an office, close the door, turn off the lights and stretch out on a mat during your breaks and lunch hour. If you work in a cubicle, curl up under your desk. If you have to, catch a nap in your car. Try to work a shorter day, and schedule meetings in the morning, when you’re more alert. Take miniexercise breaks, go outside for some fresh air, eat frequent, small snacks instead of a heavy lunch.