If you’re a new mom with sleep deprivation or maybe even insomnia, you know it really is torture. Lack of sleep can play havoc with your mental health, appetite and metabolism.
Having realistic expectations of infant sleep can help. Beware of books that tell you how long and how often and when your baby should sleep. All babies are different, and some might learn to sleep easily and quickly (generally Kapha babies!). Other babies can’t learn to sleep for many months or even years (Vata babies!).
Between teething and illness and developmental leaps even babies who generally sleep well will have periods of frequent waking throughout the night until the age of one or two years old. Add nightmares, toilet training and more children to the mix, and reliable sleep is not on the agenda for many years.
Rather than focussing on getting the baby to sleep, which is sometimes unrealistic, we can support the mother in other ways. Newborn mothers need all the grounding, rejuvenating support they can get, and Ayurveda is perfect for the job.
It’s helpful to work out the difference between sleep deprivation and insomnia. First time mothers in particular can get insomnia whilst their body clock adjusts to the new rhythm. Sometimes the baby wakes a mother up and she hasn’t gotten the hang of getting back to sleep herself yet.
Insomnia can be a sign of a mental health problem. What is keeping you up at night – your baby or your mind? If your mind is being a monkey check in with your doctor or health care provider for a referral to a maternal mental health professional.
1. Nutmeg, dates and warm milk are all foods that promote sleep. Sweet cherries are useful too, but only eat after about two weeks when bleeding from the birth is lighter.
2. A power nap is a very short nap that ends before deep sleep. Ten or fifteen minutes is enough to reduce irritation and cognitive fatigue without leading to the dull heaviness you feel after a longer nap. The benefits of a power nap last nearly three hours, so schedule yourself a power nap every time your baby sleeps to get you through the day. Ayurveda generally does not recommend sleeping during the day, but postpartum is an exception to the rule.
3. Meditation, singing and breathing will all induce the same brain waves as sleep. Many spiritual seekers who have spent many hours praying or chanting report not needing many hours of sleep. Use any relaxation technique you enjoy during long hours spent feeding or rocking your baby. Yoga nidra is perfect for beginners.
4. Oxytocin is the hormone that puts us to sleep, and it is also the hormone that helps us breastfeed. Let your baby feed you to sleep, not just the other way around!
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