Sleep depravation is not a laughing matter, nothing to be casually bandied about like it’s a cheeky right of passage. It’s not a badge of honor. It’s torture. And it sucks. Bad.
What are we living on if we haven’t slept for days on end? If we’re postpartum, we get a healthy super-mama dose of oxytocin to help us through those zombie days, so we can drive a car and be trusted with another human’s life. But that’s not enough.
Our wise, desperate bodies release adrenaline to carry the tired load. And then we drink caffeine, which only increases the amount of adrenaline our adrenal glands pump into the blood stream. So, now you’re flitting about the new-mama world of mothers groups, work and grocery runs fueled by adrenaline and caffeine. Oops. This can’t be physiologically health, never mind psychologically.
So, let’s review what happens when your body is operating like this. Adrenaline is designed to trigger your fight or flight response (thank you, evolution). There are three major muscles programmed to contract with adrenaline- any guesses what they are?
- Your shoulder muscles, the ones between the shoulders and the ears- yeah, those. They tighten to protect your brainstem as if a grizzly bear is approaching.
- Your jaw tightens in preparation for direct combat - those teeth are serious weapons, am I right early teethers?
- Finally, the psoas, a deep abdominal muscle, tightens along the lower back and this muscles helps us run away. Fast. But it also provides significant lower back discomfort when chronically contracted from adrenaline and poor posture (read: stress and sitting- hmmm sounds an awful lot like the early days of breastfeeding. And every single day in the car or an office.
It’s a feedback loop: the tighter these muscles become, the more adrenaline they trigger in your tired, baby-obsessed brain. But this is good news! You can address this exhaustion, this overwhelming abundance of adrenaline, from two different angles: physical and lifestyle. Reduce your physical tension in your shoulders, your jaw and your psoas and you will reduce your anxiety, your stress and your general feeling of “what’s happened to my life?!" (thumbs up!).
- Stand with your feet wide, look straight ahead, clasp your hands behind your back and bend forward, letting your hands slowly drift towards the floor
- Open your jaw slowly just to the point that you feel a gentle relieving stretch. Then close your jaw lightly so your teeth are barely touching, relax your tongue in your mouth and massage the jaw muscles
- Place one foot on the ground and the other knee on the ground with both knees initially bent at 90 degrees. Support yourself with both hands on the ground at your sides. Slowly inch the front foot forward so that you begin to feel a gentle stretch at the front of the body with the bent knee.
- Once you feel a gentle stretch, place both hands on your upper knee and lift your chest to stretch the psoas
Yeah, yeah, I know, embarrassing to order, but give it a whirl. And notice how your breastfeeding baby responds- maybe they’ll chill out too since they drink what you drink. It may take you both a few days to notice the positive benefits. Trust that it’ll be worth it when you don’t want to go all “Red Wedding” on your partner come the end of the day.
Ask For and Offer Help!
It may only be 90 minutes that you crucially need, or an hour: ask someone to come to your house and hang out with your baby or, better yet, take the baby on a long walk around the ‘hood while you put ear plugs in and slumber. Ask a mom in your mothers group if you two can do a sleep/play date swap. Call your friend who wants to be called ‘Aunty’ and let her know that this is the test. Ask a tolerable and relatively responsible family member to help. People will be honored, I kid you not. And, most importantly, don’t let this opportunity pass you by: discipline yourself to get in bed, plug those ears and close your eyes.
Please, Share a Night Feeding!
Share this article with your partner and then arrange for them to take at least one of the feedings at the beginning or end of the night so that you can go to bed early or wake up later and get a “proper” stretch of sleep (4 hours!? YAAASSSSSS!!).
If you’re breast feeding, you will have to consider your boobs’ schedule but it’s worth the logistical analysis. If you encounter pushback, reference the “Red Wedding” allusion above.
Did you know that Glow treats women at any age and stage of life? We’re not just prenatal specialists! Massage relieves anxiety by relaxing your tired muscles, reducing adrenaline, reducing blood pressure and increasing our happy hormones like oxytocin and serotonin (yum). Glow’s massage therapists will come to your house if that’s what suits you logistically or you can escape to our perfectly controlled environment at 4901 Lawton Avenue.
Hire a Glow postpartum doula to come to your house for a four hour spell so you can take a load off, watch a backlogged episode of The Affair, and zzzzzzzzzzzzz. If a postpartum doula is too costly with all baby accoutrement accounted for, ask your friends and family for an early birthday gift. Better yet, pregnant mamas, ask for postpartum doula care in lieu of baby gifts! Email us to explore more postpartum doula options at firstname.lastname@example.org and check out our offerings.
Once you’ve mastered breast milk storage or trained your partner/friend/family member to mix formula, GET OUT OF THE HOUSE! Book yourself a hotel room; it doesn’t have to be posh, because your eyes will be shut, god willing. Bring ear plugs, bring some basic food items, and SLEEP, MAMA, SLEEP! Even if you have to pump in the middle of the night, it’s not the same as waiting to hear the cry for a feeding. Worth every penny you will save on couples counseling, do this for the team.