One of the biggest things on mother-to-be minds is how will sleep and rest be impacted by a newborn. If you have Multiple Sclerosis (MS), restful sleep is one of the best things you can do for your mind and body, which can be easily thrown off track postpartum. This is one of the bigger challenges in the beginning, given how much attention your newborn needs all day, every night, all while you are trying to recover. Lack of sleep and stress has been shown to be triggers for exacerbations or physical setbacks for those with MS, so preparing yourself for the Fourth Trimester is key.
Here are some ways to help your baby get more sleep, which means you’ll get more sleep:
1. Set up your room for restful sleep.
Purchase blackout shades (look for non-toxic options from Pottery Barn)
Keep your room cool either through your thermostat, air conditioning or small fan (make sure the cool air isn’t directly blowing on your baby).
Purchase a sleep clock to avoid jarring alarm sounds from your phone or watch so there’s less chance of waking up your baby. Hatch is a great choice, with many calming options to help everyone wake up more peacefully.
Use a sound machine to create a positive sleep association.
Keep a pitcher or glass of water nearby to stay hydrated. Yeti is one of the best thermos containers that keep your water cool with different sizes depending on your needs. Make sure to keep it away from any outlets or wires.
If you tend to get hungry in the middle of the night or while breastfeeding, keep some healthy snacks in your nightstand area.
Avoid screen time while feeding or comforting your baby. The glare and contrast send a signal to your brain to stay awake and wired. Also, if the baby sees it, it can create overstimulation for him or her...which sends the signal to his or her nervous system to stay awake.
Use an air purifier to keep the air clean for both you and your baby.
If you live in a dry area, using a humidifier can greatly help you both sleep more comfortably.
Avoid heavily scented detergents; opt for non-toxic and scent-free options.
2. Set up your diaper-changing station close by.
Keep the changing items close by in an accessible area.
Always keep your basket or box stocked full of the supplies you need. Try to check before going to bed every night.
Use a small tap light for dim lighting.
Keep your room clear of clutter, this makes a huge difference!
3. Figure out your night routine.
Talk to your partner about who is responsible for which tasks at each feed or agree on blocks of time when it will be your/their responsibility to change and/or feed the baby (if using a bottle). For example, one partner can do all the diaper changes, and the other takes care of feeds, OR one partner does the first shift of the evening while the other partner sleeps, and then they reverse roles. There are many options! As the baby grows, this can change, so try to keep an open mind if something isn't working.
4. Figure out your feeding routine.
First, a fed baby is a happy baby; you should never feel any guilt about what you decide to do. Like the diaper routine, look into different options that work best for your family, either taking turns, blocked times, etc...
5. Educate yourself on newborn sleep prior to the delivery date.
Make sure to learn about wake windows, sleep associations, feeds, temperature, and overall setup. Taking a newborn sleep class is invaluable and will help you build confidence faster. My favorite is Taking Cara Babies at https://takingcarababies.com. She has amazing classes for the first year and beyond and fantastic blogs to help promote positive sleep habits.
6. Use an appropriate swaddle.
More medical professionals caution against using swaddle blankets due to the suffocation risk and the ease with which the baby can get out of them. A popular choice for moms, and the one I use, is the Ollie swaddle. It’s straightforward, especially at night, and can be transitioned to both arms out before using a sleep sack. It's also fantastic if you have find motor or upper extremity weakness or spasticity given the velcro and loop on the bottom. Goodbye to trying to remember the swaddle patterns, especially in the middle of the night! Our daughter was a swaddle Houdini, and the Ollie was the only one she was unable to get out of (we went through five different types before we used the Ollie!).
7. Try to keep calm.
Having to take care of a newborn, dealing with hormonal and body changes, and a 180 in your daily routine can be overwhelming. During the day, try to take a few minutes for yourself to enjoy some tea, meditate, get outside, or exercise; do something that brings you happiness and a sense of calm. Try a relaxing five-minute bedtime yoga routine, which can help alleviate muscle tension and help you get a better night’s sleep. The calmer you are, the calmer your baby will be. Yes, easier said than done but remember to give yourself grace and compassion during this time. If you feel overwhelmed, reach out for help from family, friends or a professional.