New Parent Sleep Deprivation: The Price of Exhaustion
New Parent Sleep Deprivation
Postpartum exhaustion is the #1 complaint of new parents. But calling it a complaint makes it sound like just an annoyance, which it may be for some, but for many, it’s a far more serious problem.
In fact, sleep deprivation in parents is the silent cause of a health crisis hurting our country.
Postpartum Exhaustion & the Risk to Families
A little-known reality is that exhaustion is a key trigger of more than 500,000 cases of postpartum depression a year. Deep fatigue also pushes women into breastfeeding struggles, mastitis, marital conflict, divorce, child neglect, weight struggles, missed work, car crashes and other accidents.
At Happiest Baby, we're trying to get the word out and do all we can to help.
Also, lack of sleep causes many groggy parents, even those who know the ABC’s of safe sleep, to make the risky choice of bed sharing. We’re sympathetic. When you are bone tired, it’s easy to fall into that “I’ll do anything for sleep” mode. You might be tempted to zonk out with your baby on a couch or bed or feel tempted to lay your baby tummy-down (because he seems to “like it”). But all of these choices raise the risks of SIDS and suffocation, which together lead to a staggering 3,500 infant deaths a year (70% of which occur in an adult bed or other unsafe location)!
New Parent Sleep Deprivation's Cost to Companies
We “pay” for sleep deprivation with our health, but it also runs up a hefty tab in real dollars and cents. According to the study, Insomnia and the Performance of US Workers, the total cost of sleep deprivation for our economy is over $63 billion annually.
Absenteeism is an issue, and so is “presenteeism.” Tired employees who show up at work but… don’t get much work done! “In an information-based economy," explains Harvard Medical School professor Ronald C. Kessler about sleep deprivation, "It's difficult to find a condition that has a greater effect on productivity.”
A Personal Story From Sleep-Deprived Parents
Louisa, the mother of Georgia, opened up about what it was like to be so exhausted and to have the heavy responsibility of caring for a 3-week-old and PPD:
I imagined injuring myself so I could be taken to the hospital and rescued from this overwhelming burden. I felt like I was being punished for thinking I could be a good mother. I felt like I didn’t deserve to have a child…and I cried for hours.
Parents today have lives that are more complicated than any in history. We also have less experience and family support. If you have a nanny today, you're very well off. And, if you have two…you’re rich! But, up until 100 years ago, all parents had 4-5 nannies! They were your mom, older sister, cousin, etc. Yet, today, we often feel guilty for even needing help!
Looking at online comments…the mommy wars accusations often fly fast and furious. Parents seeking help are often slammed with remarks like “your baby should be on you 24/7,” “then you shouldn’t have had a baby,” “some parents are so lazy,” “just deal with it,” or exhaustion is “a rite of passage.” I hope that if they met Louisa or another suffering parent face to face, these unsympathetic critics might open their hearts and understand that many new parents are truly struggling.
We CAN lower these statistics if we work on reducing the key trigger, sleep deprivation. The easiest way to move the needle? Help each other more. It truly does take a village…to raise a child.
How Can New Parents Deal With Sleep Deprivation?
Here are a few ways for new parents to talk about their sleep deprivation and get the help they need.
- Say “no” to non-essential tasks. The laundry and dishes can take a backseat to your own health!
- Share the load. If you have a partner, make sure they are helping wherever possible...by preparing bottles, diapering the baby, using the 5 S’s, preparing meals...
- Make sure to sleep when your baby sleeps. When your baby is sleeping may be the only quiet you get most days, make sure to take advantage of these times and get some sleep yourself!
- Say “yes” to help that is offered. It takes a village to raise a child! Wondering how to put your friends and family to work? Check out these tasks a new parent can delegate.
- Don’t ignore the ‘baby blues’. Sleep deprivation in new moms and parents has been linked to mood disorders, such as PPD and PPA. Speak to your healthcare provider if you’re feeling depressed or anxious.
- Seek professional help if you need it. Talk to your provider for guidance—but here are some virtual mental health resources for new parents.
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Disclaimer: The information on our site is NOT medical advice for any specific person or condition. It is only meant as general information. If you have any medical questions and concerns about your child or yourself, please contact your health provider.