Nighttime can be the most challenging time for a postpartum family. Babies wake up and want to eat, a lot. Parents are exhausted and everyone else has gone home. A postpartum doula can not promise that you will sleep eight hours straight, but she can help you stay in bed and maximize your chances of sleep. A postpartum doula will take care of the baby when s/he is awake and bring her to you when you want. She will support your breastfeeding and/or bottle-feeding. She can also help cook healthy snacks and complete light housework so you wake up in the morning feeling like you can take on the day.
"It is the nature of the child to be dependent and it is the nature of the dependence to be outgrown. Begrudging dependency because it is not independence is like begrudging winter because it is not yet spring. Dependency blossoms into independence in its own time.” Peggy O’Mara
Emergency Sleep Breaks (ESBs)- When a nightime doula is not enough
Everyone knows that it is exhausting to have a baby. But how do you know if you are excessively fatigued? Here are some of the signs of excessive fatigue and how an Emergency Sleep Break works, taken from La Leche League’s Sweet Sleep book:
- Constant yawning
- Aching eyes
- Severe headaches
- Body aches
- Head feeling heavy
- No appetite
- Delayed reactions
- Short-term memory problems
- Difficulty thinking clearly
- Impaired judgment
- Microsleeps (nodding off for very short periods)
If you are experiencing any of these signs, you may be severely sleep-deprived. You may not be aware of just how tired you really are. This is not safe for you or your baby. You may need an emergency sleep break (ESB)— one in which you can sleep until your body is ready to wake up. Here is how it works:
- If you are breastfeeding, you nurse or pump effectively so that you remove as much milk as possible.
- Go to a quiet, secluded, dark room and sleep.
- A postpartum doula takes care of your baby, out of earshot while you sleep.
- Your baby is given pumped milk or formula in whatever way works for the baby (bottle, syringe, spoon or cup).
- If you are breastfeeding and you feel the need to nurse or pump, you do so and then go back to sleep.
- Sleep until you wake up fully, on your own and/or you can’t sleep anymore.
ESBs should not happen often, especially for breastfeeding mothers, since they can reduce your milk supply. But when used judiciously, you can go to sleep and wake up the next day feeling like a whole new woman, physically and emotionally.