"It was so terrible before. The sleep deprivation was so hard for me. I was starting to think I should have never have had children.
Now I don’t have to doubt myself as a mom all the time anymore or think how I can physically hurt myself to survive those sleepless nights!
The first days and nights were tough, but I am very much looking forward to what’s next and can’t believe that I’ll have a child that sleeps well!! I will enjoy motherhood so much more.
This also opens up the window of having another baby in a couple of years which I really wanted but thought could never happen. I was gonna get sterilized!
Thank you so much!"
-- Violet, mom to Lucas, 4 months, day 4 of our work together
While it's a well-known fact that many new mothers suffer from "baby blues" or even postpartum depression, many parents don't know that massive sleep deprivation can also cause symptoms of depression. Regardless of the cause of depression, better sleep can only help.
Violet, above, believed that she had postpartum depression with both Lucas and her older son, Liam, but was surprised to discover that her symptoms quickly resolved once she got better sleep as her baby slept better. Violet is lucky to have a supportive partner who handled many of Lucas' night wakings but she was still unable to sleep through her baby's crying. It would have been even more difficult if she didn't have that support system.
Being depressed also makes it harder to sleep well, and that, in turn, can worsen depression. Adding in a baby who doesn't sleep well can be a recipe for disaster. And a study shows that babies with depressed mothers may sleep worse than babies who don't have depressed mothers. It can be a painful cycle of sleep deprivation and depression.
"While the fact that new mothers are often sleep-deprived will surprise few, the concern is poor sleep is considered to be a risk factor for depression, and depression may in turn contribute to or exacerbate sleep disturbance. Several studies indicate that postpartum women with depressive symptoms experience poorer sleep quality, less total sleep time, longer sleep latency (longer time to fall asleep), less time in REM sleep, and more sleep disturbance than women without depressive symptoms.5-9
One study estimated that women with postpartum depressive symptoms sleep about 80 minutes less per night than women who are not depressed.2 Another study also showed that because infants’ sleep patterns tend to follow maternal circadian rhythms, the infants of depressed mothers may also experience poor sleep quality, which may further exacerbate maternal depressive symptoms.9"
This is why sleep training can be a gift for the entire family. When a baby's sleep gets better, her parents sleep better. When sleep gets better, depression often improves. And sleep deprivation that we thought was postpartum depression resolves and the symptoms of "depression" magically disappears. And it seems that babies of depressed mothers also sleep less well than babies of non-depressed mothers. So if mom sleeps better, baby's sleep may also improve.
Also, babies who are tired tend to be fussy and difficult to soothe. As they get more rest, babies tend to more happy, calm, and focused. This strengthens the relationship between parent and child and gives parents more confidence in their relationship with their baby, which, in turn, leads to a better quality of life for the entire family.
If you have been struggling with the idea of sleep training, or working with a sleep consultant to improve your baby's sleep, know that helping him will help you and your whole family. As one of my clients said, "Sleep is truly a gift for the entire family."
Committing to, and following through with, sleep training is hard. Let me help. I promise we will find a solution that works for you and your parenting values. Set up a free consultation and we will figure out it together.
"Postpartum Depression and Poor Sleep Quality Occur Together." Harvard Medical School & Massachusetts General Hospital, MGH Center for Women's Health, 2011.
Abby Wolfson is a pediatric nurse practitioner, certified child sleep consultant and former NICU nurse. She divides her time between Brooklyn, NY and San Miguel de Allende, Mexico.