World Maternal Mental Health Day 2018
Today (Tuesday 2 May 2018) is World Maternal Mental Health Day (http://wmmhday.postpartum.net/) and I’ve asked Jo Tantum, one of the UK's leading baby sleep experts and best-selling author, to create some tips for helping mums to rest themselves and their little ones.
As many as 1 in 5 women experience some type of perinatal mood or anxiety disorder(PMAD). Statistics vary by country but this is a worldwide concern. I certainly personally suffered from PND as I had been in a wheelchair for nearly 6 months before I had my daughter and then had to learn how to walk again. Plus I found the whole identity change from independent working woman to ‘oh you’re a mum that’s nice’ quite hard to deal with.
It’s estimated that 1 in 7 women hide or downplay their symptoms.Without understanding, support and treatment these mental illnesses have a devastating impact on the women affected and their families.
One known factor in increasing mood and anxiety is sleep deprivation. I always joke that there’s a reason it’s used as a method of torture - but that it is true. Sleep deprivation is an absolute killer and then when you are solely responsible for a brand new baby it’s even harder. As many as 46% of mothers diagnosed with post natal depression are also sleep deprived so there is clearly a link.
Jo has come up with some great tips to improve your sleep to help with your maternal health. But I would also say to speak to your GP or health visitor if you feel you need more help - I did and they were absolutely lovely - the worst bit was the anticipation of admitting I had a problem in the first place and the fact that I felt guilty for feeling low when I should be feeling non-stop happiness at being a mum.
We’ve broken the tips into age ranges as a newborn will behave very differently to a 6 month old. And the most important thing to remember is that you are not alone and there are so many people who have been through this. Share how you are feeling.
Newborn to 6 weeks
When your baby is tiny they won’t know the difference between night and day as they haven’t developed their circadian rhythms yet. To help with that it’s helpful to wake them regularly to feed to establish a pattern - around every two and a half to three hours. Change their nappy before each feed and chat and sing to them. Babies naturally need a nap around every one hour of wake time. Swaddle with a light breathable swaddle so they sleep better as otherwise they will wake just as they are dropping into sleep due to the startle (moro) reflex.
At night time try to make it as dark and calm as possible and, unless they are a low birth weight, you don’t need to wake them to feed in the night.
Fresh air and a small bit of exercise will help you feel better so try and get out with the pram as much as possible. Make arrangements to meet with friends you may have met at an antenatal class or just go and sit and watch the world go by in your local coffee shop. Try not to spend too much time alone if you are feeling down.
At this age your baby will most likely sleep everywhere and anywhere so having naps in the moses basket or crib all the time isn’t so essential but try and ensure baby has at least one nap a day at home. If it’s bright and sunny out or you are going into a shopping centre then use a SnoozeShade to help them have a more restful nap without the glare in their eyes.
6 weeks - 4 months
This is the time you can help your baby how to learn to self settle without being upset. Babies at this age will need a nap every 1 hour 15 to 1 hour 30 minutes of wake time. This is when blackout becomes really important too. If your baby was once happy to sleep when out they may now be much more interested in what’s going on around them and prefer to look around rather than wanting to sleep. This is when you can introduce triggers for sleeping this includes naps and nights.
The triggers for sleep are blackout and a swaddle or sleeping bag. Try just swaddling one arm if they are still startling as they get towards 4 months. And once they have one arm out introduce a comforter to hold. You can use something as simple as a muslin square knotted in the middle and put down your top so that it smells of you.
The last trigger is a calming constant noise like rain, wave sounds or womb sounds up to around three months old. Make sure it is on for all naps and all nights to encourage more calming restful and longer sleep cycles. Make sure you have a SnoozeShade for naps when you’re away from home so that you can continue the nap time routine but still get out and get some fresh air. One useful tip is to put the SnoozeShade on the pram when you’re still at home and that will help your baby to settle to sleep without being in motion then once asleep you can go out with them.
4 - 7 months
Your baby will hopefully now be settled in a better nap routine consisting of a short nap in the morning; a longer lunch time one with the last one in the late afternoon. Try and have the lunchtime one in the cot but the other two can be out. This way, if you can, you could have a snooze yourself or just find some time to catch up with other things. The SnoozeShade is really important for these naps so they get sleepy as babies don’t understand how to close their eyes.
7 months +
By this age, you are probably starting to do more baby classes and activities that your baby can join in. Having a nap at the right time is really important so they aren’t overtired for the class. I recommend you put the SnoozeShade on the pram and walk to the class whilst your baby naps so they are well rested when you get there.
Nap times really benefit baby and you, so you have at least some time in the day to yourself or to be with a sibling. Good nap times also mean that babies will sleep better at night as they aren’t overtired, so baby sleeps longer and then so do you.
If you need more help or advice with sleep Jo offers email or Skype support which include personalised routines and soothing videos.
Jo can be found online at www.jotantum.com