By Dr. Amelia Bailey, Ob/Gyn
You’ve been planning for this moment for months, maybe even years, and it is almost time to meet your new baby. Congratulations! For some of you, this will be your first overnight stay in a hospital. While I strongly believe the hospital is far and away the safest and best place to have your baby, it is not an environment that is conducive to a good night’s sleep. But, let’s be honest, neither is motherhood. Here are a few tips to help you get as much rest as possible so you can take excellent care of your little one.
#1 Your overnight support person is your ally
Your overnight support person may be the most important part of your sleep plan. He or she should be excited about being helpful and should be supportive of and respectful of your boundaries. Communicate very clearly with this person before, during, and after your hospital stay about how he or she can help you.
#2 Visitor control can be key
Let the front desk staff and your nurses know if you want to refuse visitors at any point to get rest. The staff can be your greatest advocate and may even pretend that it is their recommendation that you do not have visitors at that time.
#3 Think about your pajamas
Pack comfortable pajamas- both heavy pajamas and light ones since the room temperature can be unpredictable. Layering is helpful as is wearing very loose clothing, especially around your waistline if you have a c-section.
#4 Take advantage of the comforts of home
Bring your own pillow (or pillows) and maybe even your own blanket. This will increase your comfort level dramatically.
#5 Control those blaring hospital lights.
An eye mask will be your best friend if your room’s window faces the east or west and will allow you to try to rest anytime of the day.
#6 Mitigate the noise
A noise machine or speaker playing your own music can drown out noise in the hallway and relax you. Have your playlists ready before going to the hospital. Theft in some hospitals is an issue, so assign your overnight support person to hang onto any electronics.
#7 Lights out early
An early bedtime may be beneficial to maximize the number of hours you can attempt (interrupted) sleep as some doctors begin seeing hospital patients very early in the morning (think 5:30am in a busy hospital). You can always go to sleep again right after they leave.
#8 Skip the interruptions
Request that no vital signs be taken overnight. This should not be a problem as long as you are healthy and had an uncomplicated delivery.
#9 Minimize your baby’s crying if possible
If your baby is as content as can be while being held but wakes up and cries uncontrollably as soon as you lay him or her down, your baby may be experiencing reflux, which is milk and stomach fluid moving backwards into the throat instead of staying in the stomach. This is likely temporary, but temporary may mean days or may mean months. Initially, ask the nurse to help you prop the bassinet up in a safe way so that your baby’s head is higher than his or her stomach. This may decrease the reflux.
#10 Send the baby to the nursery if you need to
It is a very personal decision to either room-in with your newborn or to send them to the nursery. If you have had any complications and need more than routine recovery– or if you do not have a helpful support person – it may be in your best interest to send your baby to the nursery. As the mom, YOU get to decide. Do what’s right for you.
It is extremely important to take care of yourself so that you can take care of your newborn. Good luck, and welcome to the most difficult and rewarding experience of your life.
Pregnant? New parent or have small kids? Tired? Get tips and info on our special site for exhausted moms.
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Dr. Amelia P. Bailey is a reproductive endocrinologist and infertility (REI) specialist in Memphis, Tennessee. She currently serves on Reverie’s Sleep Advisory Board.