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How to Catch Enough Sleep Once Your Baby is Born

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RC: Hello everyone, this is Liz Harvey coming to you from our studio in New York City where we are dedicated to bringing you cutting edge interviews from many of the leading industry professionals across the United States.

In today’s episode, we are speaking with Stephanie Heintzeler. Stephanie is a German educated midwife, a U.S. educated doula, an acupuncturist and she is a certified lactation counselor (CLC). She is known as The New York Doula.

Stephanie has delivered over 1200 babies and has experience with twins, triplets, breech babies and water births. She also works with newborn parents in their postpartum stage and holds classes and seminars for moms and dads to be.

With a wealth of experience and knowledge in her field, Stephanie Heintzeler is widely considered to be one of the top doulas in the country. She is also a contributing member of our national network of industry professionals.

Today we are going to talk about a very important topic:
How to Catch Enough Sleep Once Your Baby is Born

RC: Hi Stephanie. How are you today?

Stephanie Heintzeler: I’m good. How are you?

RC: I’m doing great. Thanks so much for joining us.

Stephanie Heintzeler: Thank you for having me.

Question 1: We all know that new moms are sleep deprived. Do you advise to sleep when the baby sleeps even if it’s during the day?

RC: All right. We all know that new moms and dads are sleep deprived. Do you advise to sleep when the baby sleeps even if it’s during the day?

Stephanie Heintzeler: Yes. Totally. That’s what saves mothers. The thing is that babies often times especially at night, they don’t sleep too well. Babies don’t know that the parents – the mother – is still around at night. During the day, babies usually sleep a little better because they hear noise and they hear the parents and there’s more going on. At night, it’s dark and they don’t hear anything maybe and they’re like, “What the hell is going on? I’m really scared,” so most babies tend to be fussy at night.

Also, if mom is breastfeeding, we might be feeding at 11pm and then again at 2 and then at 5 and then at 7 so there’s not a lot of sleep, maybe 4 hours, maybe 5-6 hours but usually not enough sleep, during this time I have been so grateful for my king mattress, it meant there was enough room for the three throughout the night. During the day, it’s really helpful to rest – especially in the mornings so I recommend to extend the night. Usually if there’s a 7am feeding maybe the mother thinks she needs to get up at 8:00 because the day has started but no that’s usually a time when the baby can also sleep quite well for 2 or 3 more hours and so the mother stays in bed and sleeps until 10 or 11, that can really help tremendously. That way she’ll feel more rested and the day is more successful.

It doesn’t really help if she gets up at 8 and makes herself get up at 8 because she’s just too tired and she’s breastfeeding and that is a big job so it doesn’t help much to put too much pressure and do too much household stuff. The main thing is the breastfeeding and taking care of the baby and just extend the night. That’s usually what works best. Something that all mothers are worried about is their childs safety and sometimes they feel like if they’re asleep then their baby could be in danger so they can’t get the needed sleep. This is why I recomend getting any safety measure possible that makes you feel safe and content that your baby can’t be harmed. Whether it’s a baby monitor, outdoor home security cameras, locking all the doors, anything that will have you have peace of mind while you sleep.

Question 2: Do short 20-30 minute naps during the day actually help?

RC: Do short, like 20 or 30 minute naps during the day actually help catch up on sleep?

Stephanie Heintzeler: They do. Often times moms say they did sleep until 10 and they’re sort of okay but at the same time of course they’re still tired and maybe healing from birth. The baby is 2 weeks old. Many say, “I’m so busy and there’s people coming over. Friends and everybody wants to see the baby and I only have a half hour here and there when the baby is resting and I could rest too. I’m so driven, I’m not tired. There’s so much going on.” With this being said, for a living, my friend’s husband is a truck driver, so he is hardly at home. And alongside that, he is always on the road, which means that he hardly gets any sleep. He takes his breaks, but they’re not enough. One thing she told me was that her husband looked into effective ways of tracking his breaks and finding time to nap throughout his long shifts. He mentioned how he looked into something like a Rand McNally TND 760 Review, which revolves around the idea of an electornic logging device being fitted within this vehicle to help keep track of his breaks and refers back to the company the amount of breaks he has taken throughout the day. This then gives drivers the incentive of taken their necessary breaks, to ensure they are well rested for the job ahead. So, I guess the lack of sleep we get is nothing compared to the rest he doesn’t get due to his job.

For us mothers, in that case, what can really help is to just lie down. Because if the mom is tired, which often times she is, boom she’ll be asleep in like ten minutes, right? Just by lying down and just not forcing herself to sleep but just lying down. The other thing is even if she knows she won’t be falling asleep. It takes me like 30 minutes to fall asleep and there’s many moms who even with a newborn baby they say, “I’m just having trouble although I’m so tired.” That’s fine. Listen to some music. Just kind of pretend it. Rest up. That still helps you and gets you a lot of rest and enough energy for the next hours to come.

Question 3: Is it possible to “catch up” on sleep on the weekends with extra hours of sleep?

RC: Do you think it’s possible to catch up on sleep on the weekends with getting extra hours of sleep if you have some help with the baby?

Stephanie Heintzeler: That’s a good question. Many moms ask that. When the partners are home or they have help over the weekend, doesn’t really work so well. It can work if the mother maybe hasn’t been sleeping well for 1 or 2 nights and she’s really sleep deprived, she could catch up by just having 1 day where she literally stays in bed and just sleeps every time in between feedings. We do recommend that for example when a baby has been crying all night or when the milk kicks in, day 3 – day 4, when the breasts are engorging then we really recommend to stay in bed all the time because that can help to rest up enough.

Catching up is really, she might feel more rested because finally she’s getting enough but if you sleep 10 or 12 hours, that’s it. You can’t sleep 24 hours in a row, first of all because you’re breast feeding but even if you force yourself to do like 2 hours and 2 hours and 2 hours and 2 hours, it doesn’t do the same. It’s more important really to look at a 24 hour period and make sure that you get 8 hours of sleep in that 24 hour period. If the mom is doing 6 for a while, usually they’re fine but it shouldn’t be too long. If it’s like a week, then we really need to talk and that’s usually what I do. I look at their sleep schedule and I’m like, “Okay, where can we kick in one more hour, another half hour. Just make it happen.”

Question 4: Can parents turn down the baby monitor during the night, set an alarm and sleep until the baby’s feeding time? Or is that wishful thinking?

RC: Do you think parents can turn down the baby monitor during the night and set an alarm and sleep until the baby’s feeding time or is that somewhat wishful thinking?

Stephanie Heintzeler: It is wishful thinking but on the other hand, what’s doable is just sleeping in between. The thing is, the parents shouldn’t stop the baby monitor because in the end, when babies have a growth spurt or when babies really need something, they have whatever is going on, they’re just not comfortable, they need to be able to verbalize that and be heard. The parents need to be able to hear baby and pick her up. Setting an alarm, I think we often times need to do the first month or the first two weeks to make sure baby is gaining weight.

Some babies are very sleepy after birth, especially when it was a medicated birth and so the first nights actually, the mother really needs to start the alarm every three hours so that she just knows when to start breastfeeding and then wake baby up and if it doesn’t work then we’ll try again an hour later but most of the time it’s happening. Then in between those times because she knows she set the alarm, it’s usually possible to sleep and after a while once the baby has a schedule – at least in terms of that we know she’s maybe always feeding often at night and in the morning, she’s a little more calm – we would just look at the schedule and see how we can optimize that a little bit so it’s a little easier for the parents to plan. Even for an evening to run or the night to plan so they have an idea of what to expect although of course babies, they don’t always do what the parents expect.

Question 5: At what age should a baby be sleeping up to 6 hours straight?

RC: Right, right. For sure. At what age … I guess this is the magic question. At what age should a baby be sleeping up to, say 6 hours straight?

Stephanie Heintzeler: There’s no “should” really. I certainly have clients, they have babies and they’re 3 years old and they still don’t sleep through the night. Often times twin parents, which I often have in New York, some twin parents that once they had another baby with me and those twins were 3 years old and they still didn’t sleep through the night. There’s always one baby up. It just kind of happened. Of course we can look at optimizing. In the end, a baby could sleep through the night at 6 weeks. I do have clients who are breastfeeding beautifully. They’re breastfeeding a lot during the day and then they put the baby down at 8pm and the baby sleeps until 6am.

If the mom can do that in terms of her beasts – if she doesn’t feel her breast is exploding and she still has enough milk, after a month we can start looking into that because then the body has adjusted and then usually the milk is enough if she has those longer breaks. Then of course you can do sleep training. If you really, really feel like I need my baby to sleep through the night, just midnight to 6am, that’s certainly something realistic. I would look into it at 3 months. Mainly make sure how is baby gaining weight, how is the breast doing and then starting to feed a lot at night in the evening until really the baby is starting to have a longer sleeping time and then the baby needs to get stretched. Meaning that in the middle of the night when she wants to get fed at 4am, then every night you kind of stretch her 15 minutes longer. She doesn’t get fed right away but maybe calm her down a little bit, calm her down a little more and usually babies adjust, but not all of them.

Again, there’s a few things that need to be a given, meaning that baby gains enough weight, the mom is fine, breast feeding is going well, enough milk is there so that’s something that many hire a lactation counselor. I usually come in and we discuss what’s going on and what the goal is and then we make a plan and go from there. There’s not a “should” but there’s a “could.”

RC: That’s good. Okay. Thank you so much Stephanie. We know you’re really busy so I just want to thank you for all of your time and help today.

Stephanie Heintzeler: Thank you. Thanks for having me.

RC: For our listeners across the country, if you are interested in speaking with Stephanie Heintzeler you can either go online to www.thenewyorkdoula.com or call 917-399-2031 to schedule an appointment.

On behalf of our entire team, we want to thank you for listening and we look forward to bringing you more top quality content from our country’s leading industry professionals.