By Midwife Zoe
Zoe is a Registered Nurse and Midwife with over 10 years of post-registration experience. Zoe has worked in a variety of settings from a specialist homebirth team to a high-risk delivery suite and, most recently, at a community birth centre. Zoe is passionate about maintaining her professional development to enhance the support she provides to families in her care. She has successfully completed courses in neonatal life support, perineal surgical skills, managing acutely ill adults and has recently qualified as a hypnobirthing teacher.
Zoe has two young daughters, Edith (3) and Dorothy ‘Dot’ (1). As a Mum, she has direct experience of water birth, home birth, breastfeeding, breastfeeding through pregnancy, tandem nursing and weaning. In her spare time, Zoe enjoys days at the beach, being outdoors on the farm and baking.
The Effects of Sleep Deprivation.
When I was preparing for the birth of my first daughter, I was confident that I was ready for the sleepless nights that lay ahead. I was an experienced midwife and had done my fair share of night shifts; during many of which I hadn’t stopped for a break all night. So, it couldn’t be worse than that, could it? But, oh, how I reflected upon that thought process when I was in the thick of the night-time cluster feeding sessions with my firstborn! Don’t get me wrong… Those moments that I sat feeding my daughter in the middle of the night, just the two of us, were incredibly special. And now that I’ve caught up on sleep (four years and another baby later) I look back at this time with a full heart.
However, at a time of my life when I was experiencing night-after-night of repeatedly broken sleep; without a handover of care or the end of a ‘shift’. I fully felt the effects of extreme sleep deprivation; I found it hard to carry out the most basic of tasks or hold a normal conversation. As the weeks rolled on, I could feel my anxiety starting to bubble up as the evening approached; feeling so unsure of what lay ahead. However, as they say with all things raising little ones, ‘everything is just a phase’ and a phase it was!
So, with a clearer head, let me share with you some of my favourite tips; that I picked up along the way to help you survive the night with your new baby:
1. Preparation is Key
Get into a routine of preparing a little kit of all things you may need overnight, so they are easy to grab in your bleary-eyed hour of need. Items you may want to include:
- Wet wipes or cotton wool
- Nappy sacks
- Muslin squares
- A fresh set of clothes for your baby
- Breast pads
A friend of mine bought me a nappy caddy that came in extremely handy for me to keep all these essential items in one convenient place. Also, if you have a partner or person supporting you, ask them to take on the responsibility of restocking the night-time kit each day. Not only will this be of help to you but can allow them to feel included in the feeding process.
2. Light Bulb Moment
It’s well worth investing in a suitable night light if you’re up frequently overnight with your little one. There are many different styles to choose from; so do your research and select one that suits your needs the best. Ultimately, it’s a good idea to keep your night feeding sessions calm, quiet and dimly lit; with time, this will help your baby learn the difference between day and night.
3. Midnight Feast
It’s not just your little one who is feeling somewhat peckish! The chances are if you’re up a lot overnight and your body is recovering from birth, or you’re breastfeeding, you will also need snacks yourself. So, prepare for this and have something easy to grab nearby. Try to choose snacks that are convenient, nutritious, and low in sugar. Don’t forget the importance of drinking plenty of water too.
4. Sounds Good
Try experimenting with sounds to soothe your baby and help them settle down to sleep. For example, many babies find white noise calming, and if you use the same one each night, they’ll gradually build a sleep association with the noise. It’s great for adults, too; I still find that the washing machine white noise from my mindfulness app makes me sleepy from the early days (and long nights) with my second daughter.
5. Brain Boost
Feeding your baby is a precious time for bonding and taking in all the details of their perfect little face. However, if you’ve lost count of how many feeds into the night you are and you’re struggling to stay awake, then try to have some little boredom busters to hand. For example, downloading a new book on your kindle is excellent as many of these have a dim backlight, so there is no need to light up the whole room. Alternatively, if reading isn’t your thing, you may enjoy popping your headphones in and listening to a podcast.
6. Are you okay?
My final tip is what I believe to be the most important one of them all. Somewhere, amongst the relentless cycle of sleepless nights and non-stop days is a mother recovering from nine months of pregnancy, the birth and what probably feels like the most significant learning curve of her life. So, whilst you are busy tending to your baby’s every need, please take a moment to check in with yourself. Above all, make sure you are up to date with your pain relief, top up your water bottle and accept offers of help. Lastly, never underestimate what good can come from reaching out for support either. Whether you are turning to your midwife, partner, or best friend; the power of a listening ear and reassurance that you’re doing a great job can be a game-changer.
If you find yourself struggling with breastfeeding in those early days; MAM nipple shields can help give you a layer of protection for your sore nipples. Whilst still allowing your little one to feed directly from you.
For more information on breastfeeding by Midwife Zoe, why not check out her blog on Breastfeeding Positions