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  • Writer's pictureMegan Dunn

Protective Sleep - protects mental health, milk production, and relationships

Protective Sleep is a plan to make sure parents are getting enough sleep to be healthy, take care of their baby and themselves, as well as to reduce the chance of developing anxiety and depression. The general plan includes making sure that parents are getting at least 6.5-8 hours of sleep per 24 hours by having one 4 hour stretch per night and other naps throughout the day. To accomplish this, parents and their support system can set up a schedule. An example schedule: Early Bird (EB) parent Night Owl (NO) parent

9 pm-1am EB parent sleeps, NO parent is on baby care and awake 1am-5am NO parent is sleeping, EB parent is on baby care and awake 5am-7am both parents are sleeping with baby in the same room 7am-9am NO parent naps 9am-11am EB parent naps 11am-1pm NO parent naps 1pm-3pm EB parent naps * any other time baby is sleeping, either parent can nap with the other parent “on call” or both parents can nap with baby in the same room to catch “cat naps” But I can’t nap during the day. What do I do? Even if you haven’t been able to nap well prior to baby’s birth, getting into a good sleep environment can help you rest. Do you need a fan or white noise? What about an eye pillow or blackout curtains? Ear plugs or stuffing a rolled towel at the base of the door can block noise and the partner on baby care duty can take baby as far away from your sleep area as possible or even out of the home if that’s a possibility. Just resting and closing your eyes is helpful. Deep breathing or meditation helps many people rest better and fall asleep more quickly.

I was told baby needs to feed at least every 2-3 hours. How can I get this kind of sleep if I’m nursing?

Adding in time for milk expression helps you accomplish this. Should you generally be feeding or pumping every 3 hours? Yes, however, a longer stretch of sleep of up to 4 hours protects milk production. When we are sleep deprived our hormones needed to produce milk are negatively impacted, inflammation from stress goes up, and we make less milk. Often, lactating parents find that there are times when baby does not feed from both sides or they still have some fullness after a feeding in the morning. These are good times to add in milk expression either with a pump or with our hands. Using suction device (like a Haakaa is not advisable as it increase inflammation) but if you are leaking a lot of milk, you can use a milk catcher like Kindest Cup, Milkies, or Ladybug. The introduction of a bottle is something that worries parents because they think baby might prefer a bottle or get confused. Your Lactation Consultant can show you how to use bottles and how to pick a product which will still support your nursing relationship. You can also cup and finger feed, if that is your preference.

Can we use a doula or other support person?

Yes! This is ideal if you have that kind of support or if a doula is financially feasible for you. This would allow both parents to get more sleep together at the same time. A professional postpartum doula can be amazing to support your nighttime parenting. You can discuss the need for longer sleep stretches with the doula who can either bottle feed expressed milk to baby after your longer sleep stretch while you wake to quickly pump or the doula can bring baby to you for a nursing then take baby after for the rest of their care. A family member or friend can also provide this kind of care. It would be encouraged to have this person speak with your Lactation Consultant about feeding cues, bottle feeding technique, and how to warm and care for expressed human milk. I was told baby should never be in bed with me but some of my friends nurse their baby in bed. Is this safe? Yes, it can be safe if we follow safe sleep rules. This method of feeding baby can be restful and allow for more rest and recovery for the nursing parent. It's also a strategy to reduce bottles. The non-nursing parent can remain awake and monitor the feeding dyad, if desired.

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