Sleep Deprivation - Overwhelm, Sleep-Deprived Mother and Newborn Child
and the Challenges of Being a New Mother - Helping Your Spouse to Cope
My wife and I just had our first baby, May 16 2006. I have been in the military for 6 years now. I recently, transferred occupations, and I am now away on my trade course.
My wife is 1500 kilometers away, and the only means of communication is by telephone. Not being able to physically help her, I encourage her every day, tell her that she is doing a good job, and that I am proud of her. Recently, she has expressed frustration, not toward our baby, but due to sleep deprivation, and the constant demands of being a single mother.
Is there any advice on how to combat these frustrations?
I will be going home in one weeks time, and will be able to help her. I am only going to be home for 2 weeks, and then I will be returning to train for another 2 months, before the military will allow me to move my family to my place of posting.
Thank you for your time,
Sleep Deprivation and New Mother Answer:
First, I want to commend you for being so proactive and concerned about the well being of your wife and new baby.
The demands of being a new mother, coupled with sleep deprivation can be overwhelming, particularly since your wife has no one to relieve her of her responsibilities. You didn't mention if she has family or good friends nearby.
If she does, I suggest you urge her to ask for help. If someone can give her an hour or two of respite per day or even a couple of times per week, this will help. She can use the time to take a nap or do something special for herself. Alternatively, get someone to help her with chores or the laundry. Suggest that your wife naps when your baby does, so they can both get rest.
Parents of a new baby know that there is a lot to be said for sleep deprivation as torture. Current research has confirmed this and shows that getting too little sleep for an extended time can have many negative health effects.
I know this to be true from personal experience. Although my husband was at home when my first child was born, he is handicapped. Since it took him too much time to put on his leg braces in order to be able to get out of bed, I was the first and sole responder. My child did not sleep through the night for quite some time and the health effects were cumulative and insidious. Add to this the fact that my husband lives in chronic pain and often kept me up at night because of this. My advice: do not underestimate the restorative power of sleep.
Parents of a newborn know there is a lot to be said for sleep deprivation as torture.
It will help for your wife to know that you do not have unreasonable expectations about coming home to a clean and organized house. When a woman is making the transition to motherhood, often things fall apart for awhile. This is normal. It is also necessary as a woman learns to take on her new role as a constant caretaker. She simply cannot do all the things she was able to do before the child's birth. Expecting her to do so is to set her up for failure. While you're checking your expectations, also check hers—make sure she has reasonable expectations of herself.
When you return on leave, relieve your wife of her night time responsibilities, so she can get many nights of restful sleep and overcome the effects of sleep deprivation while you are home. If your wife breast feeds the baby, make sure she has pumped and stored breast milk. This will allow you to give the new baby his or her nightly feeding and create a much-needed chance for you to bond.
While you are at home and later when you are gone, become your wife's confidante. In addition to assuring her that she is doing a great job, allow her to tell you how overwhelmed she feels and what she fears. Allowing her to express her uncertainties and true feelings without fear of judgment or rejection will give her a sense of relief and make you even closer than you already are. Even though it's not your fault, realize that she may also feel some anger toward you because you're not around to share in the responsibilities. Tell her how much you regret not being able to be with her and the baby right now and how much you look forward to supporting her in the future.
Help out as much as possible with changing and engaging the baby and chores around the house. Make your wife feel that she is honored and cherished for her role as the mother of your child. If possible, see if you can have some time alone while you are on leave, if only to go out to dinner. Although your wife's role has changed forever, it will help her to be able to do some of the things you did together before you had a child. If she does not want to leave the baby in someone else's care, then find something enjoyable to do together at home while the baby is asleep.
While you're on leave, see if you can arrange for someone to come to your home every other week to help out with the cleaning. If a relative can sleep over and help with the baby during the night, this will help out with sleep deprivation problems.
Find out which experiences your wife yearns for to feel a sense of independence. (Try to create some balance between her sense of herself both as a woman and a mother.) For some women this may mean something as simple as a daily walk, a manicure once per week, an hour spent reading, a bubble bath or lunch with her friends.
In the Native American culture, women are revered for their ability to give birth, but they are celebrated even more for their willingness to nurture a child. As the husband, continue to appreciate this beautiful woman who is wife to you and mother to your newborn. She is a woman who is growing into the responsibilities of what it truly means to be a caretaker—a steward of life's most precious gift—a child.
If your wife still has problems with sleep deprivation, this holistic supplement will help. It contains natural ingredients that balance serotonin levels naturally, help facilitate relaxation and restful sleep without grogginess in the morning and relieve anxiety and depression. Many of my subscribers swear by it. Perhaps you can get some for her to use while you are at home.
About the author:
Laura Ramirez is the author of the multiple award-winning book, Keepers of the Children: Native American Wisdom and Parenting which combines ancient native concepts (like child stewardship) with heart-centered psychology to show parents how to raise children to develop their innate strengths and unfold their unique spiritual nature. The book is a journey of discovery for child and parent.
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