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In the third trimester of my first pregnancy, I began fantasizing about post-pregnancy sleep. The ability to sleep longer than 45 minutes at a time without having to get up to pee, or needing to roll over to relieve pressure on my hips, or drag myself down to the kitchen because I was starving.


I couldn't wait to sleep on my stomach again. Or without every pillow in the house carefully arranged to support my gigantic belly. Sleep was going to be glorious.

In the hospital after delivery, I hardly slept for three days. Between the uncomfortable bed, regular checks from nurses, sweating out all of my IV fluids, and a baby who wanted nothing to do with sleeping in that little plastic box, I nodded off from time to time but didn't really sleep. All I wanted to do was go home, shower and relax in my comfy bed with my new baby.

As expectant moms, we know that sleep is going to be very different after baby arrives. We'll be up at all hours of the night feeding, soothing and rocking. We know this and expect it. So the bone-tired exhaustion on the fourth day home from the hospital came as no surprise.

What was entirely unexpected was my trouble sleeping during the times that my baby was sleeping. What was this nonsense? I was so tired. My bed was so comfortable. My husband was peacefully snoozing next to me. A quick peek at the bassinet beside me reassured me that baby was sound asleep.

But not me. I was wide awake, tossing and turning.

Postpartum insomnia is much more common than many women know. Some women struggle to fall asleep initially at night, while others have difficulty staying asleep.

Whatever form it takes, postpartum insomnia is a real thing that can have a negative impact on a new mom's life and adjustment to motherhood. Luckily, there are lots of things that can help. I recommend starting with some of the sleep basics—things that can help anyone struggling with sleep.

Careful with the caffeine

First, what is your caffeine consumption? The reality of new mom exhaustion means there may be more caffeine than usual in your life. Seeing if you can reduce it by one serving, or limiting consumption after 2 pm is a great starting point to make sure that caffeine is not negatively impacting your sleep.

Make your bedroom a sleep haven

Next, is your sleep environment sleep-friendly? Your bedroom should be reserved for two things: sleep and sex. If possible, it should not be the place you also spend time playing with your baby, hanging out with your partner, watching TV, or spending much time during the day. You want your body to know that it's sleep time as soon as you walk in.

You also want to check the temperature in your room. Sleep experts say the ideal sleep temperature is around 65 degrees Fahrenheit for adults. For babies, it's recommended to be 68-72, so you'll want to adjust a bit if the baby is sleeping in your room.

Watch for anxieties and overwhelm

Caffeine and sleep environment are important factors for everyone, but there are some additional things to consider for new moms. Anxiety is a big one.

When you're trying to fall asleep, what's going on in your mind? Concerns about baby's safety and a compulsive need to check on them frequently are very common in women suffering from postpartum depression and anxiety. If this is part of what's going on for you, it would be a good idea to reach out to your OB, midwife, or therapist to discuss other possible symptoms of postpartum depression or anxiety that you may be experiencing.

Being overwhelmed by all you have to do is also a very common cause of sleep disruption for new moms. Your life has just changed drastically, and there is a lot on your plate. If thoughts about everything you need to get done are keeping you awake, try keeping a notepad and pen (not your phone!) next to your bed. Write down your to-do list or any thoughts you need to remember—jot them down and let them go until the morning.

Assess the night wake-up situation

Frequent night wakings to feed and soothe your baby are part of life for new moms, but these wake-ups can become problematic if you're having trouble falling back to sleep once the baby is snoozing with a full tummy.

A common culprit here is the environment. If you're bottle feeding, you may be waking up, walking to the kitchen, turning on the lights, and standing around for five to 10 minutes while you prep the bottle. That's enough time and stimulation to fully wake up, making it much harder to go back to sleep when you're done.

If you're nursing, you may be able to avoid turning on lights, and you don't have to spend time prepping anything. But if you're like many moms, you're probably on your phone to pass the time while nursing. Unfortunately, the light and activity from your phone are not conducive to keeping your body in sleep mode.

So what can you do to make nighttime feedings less disruptive? Set yourself up for minimal-effort success during the evening. Measure out the water for formula bottles and keep them in the fridge. Set burp cloths and nursing pillows out where you'll need them. Refill your water glass that you know you'll be reaching for. Do whatever you can so you can stay sleepy through that night's feedings—while staying safe, of course.

Keep it dark

It's also important to keep light to a minimum. If you're going to be up in the kitchen mixing a bottle, try using a nightlight plugged into one of your counter outlets. It should provide just enough light to see what you're doing, but not so much that your brain thinks it's morning. There's no need to bring your phone out for night time feedings. Enjoy the quiet time with the baby and try to stay as relaxed as possible.

Do remember the American Academy of Pediatric's recommendations on safe sleeping, and don't fall asleep with your baby somewhere unsafe, like the couch.

Relax, mama

Speaking of relaxation, it's a good idea to get familiar with a few relaxation techniques that can help ease your anxiety when you're in bed trying to sleep.

One of my favorites is belly breathing:

  • Place one hand on your stomach and the other on your chest.
  • Take a deep breath through your nose into your belly.
  • You should feel the hand on your stomach rise, while the one on your chest should stay still.
  • Breathe in, hold the breath, and then slowly exhale through your mouth, feeling your stomach fall back down.
  • Do this for as long as you need to return to a calm state – or until you fall asleep.

Another technique I recommend for those nights when you seem unable to turn off your brain is the alphabet game: Get comfortable in bed, close your eyes, and pick a category—restaurant chains, girls' names, cities, etc. You then want to name one thing for each letter of the alphabet.

For example, if I was doing this with US cities, I might say Austin, Boston, Chicago, Denver, El Paso, and so on. Once you finish one category, go on to another. This gives you something to focus on so your mind isn't wandering, but it's boring enough not to keep you awake. Many people who use this game for sleep find that they fall asleep in the middle of a category.

Using relaxation techniques or distractions that help lull you to sleep are important in breaking the "I didn't sleep last night, and I'm afraid it's going to happen again, so now I'm anxious, which makes it even harder to sleep" cycle.

Remember, you're not alone.

When should you seek more help? If you have other symptoms of postpartum depression and anxiety, reach out for help. Or if the lack of sleep is interfering with your daily functioning—making it so you can't function at work or drive safely—it's time for additional help. Yes, some amount of new mom fatigue is normal and to be expected, but when it crosses into something more severe, there is no need to suffer or try to get through it alone. Lack of sleep can make many other things, including depression and anxiety, worse, so ask for help if you're struggling. A good night's sleep is crucial to your wellbeing.

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We spend a lot of time prepping for the arrival of a baby. But when it comes to the arrival of our breast milk (and all the massive adjustments that come with it), it's easy to be caught off guard. Stocking up on a few breastfeeding essentials can make the transition to breastfeeding a lot less stressful, which means more time and energy focusing on what's most important: Your recovery and your brand new baby.

Here are the essential breastfeeding tools you'll need, mama:

1. For covering up: A cute nursing cover

First and foremost, please know that all 50 states in the United States have laws that allow women to breastfeed in public. You do not have to cover yourself if you don't want to—and many mamas choose not to—and we are all for it.

That said, if you do anticipate wanting to take a more modest approach to breastfeeding, a nursing cover is a must. You will find an array of styles to choose from, but we love an infinity scarf, like the LK Baby Infinity Nursing Scarf Nursing Cover. You'll be able to wear the nursing cover instead of stuffing it in your already brimming diaper bag—and it's nice to have it right there when the baby is ready to eat.

Also, in the inevitable event that your baby spits-up on you or you leak some milk through your shirt, having a quick and stylish way to cover up is a total #momwin.

2. For getting comfortable: A cozy glider

Having a comfy spot to nurse can make a huge difference. Bonus points if that comfy place totally brings a room together, like the Delta Children Paris Upholstered Glider!

Get your cozy space ready to go, and when your baby is here, you can retreat from the world and just nurse, bond, and love.

3. For unmatched support: A wire-free nursing bra

It may take trying on several brands to find the perfect match, but finding a nursing bra that you love is 100% worth the effort. Your breasts will be changing and working in ways that are hard to imagine. An excellent supportive bra will make this so much more comfortable.

It is crucial to choose a wireless bra for the first weeks of nursing since underwire can increase the risk of clogged ducts (ouch).The Playtex Maternity Shaping Foam Wirefree Nursing Bra is an awesome pick for this reason, and because it is designed to flex and fit your breasts as they go through all those changes.

4. For maximum hydration: A large reusable water bottle

Nothing can prepare you for the intense thirst that hits when breastfeeding. Quench that thirst (and help keep your milk supply up in the process) by always having a water bottle with a straw nearby, like this Exquis Large Outdoor Water Bottle.

5. For feeding convenience: A supportive nursing tank

Experts recommend that during the first weeks of your baby's life, you breastfeed on-demand, meaning that any time your tiny boss demands milk, you feed them. This will help establish your milk supply and get everything off to a good start.

What does this mean for your life? You will be breastfeeding A LOT. Nursing tanks, like the Loving Moments by Leading Lady, make this so much easier. They have built-in support to keep you comfy, and you can totally wear them around the house, or even out and about. When your baby wants to eat, you'll be able to quickly "pop out" a breast and feed them.

6. For pain prevention: A quality nipple ointment

Breastfeeding shouldn't hurt, but the truth is those first days can be uncomfortable. Your nipples will likely feel raw as they adjust to their new job. This will get better! But until it does, nipple ointment is amazing.

My favorite is the Earth Mama Organic Nipple Butter. We love that it's organic, and it is oh-so-soothing on your hard-at-work nipples.

Psst: If it actually hurts when your baby latches on, something may be up, so call your provider or a lactation consultant for help.

7. For uncomfortable moments: A dual breast therapy pack

As your breasts adjust to their new role, you may experience a few discomforts—applying warmth or cold can help make them feel so much better. The Lansinoh TheraPearl 3-in-1 Breast Therapy Pack is awesome because you can microwave the pads or put them in the freezer, giving you a lot of options when your breasts need some TLC.

Again, if you have any concerns about something being wrong (pain, a bump that may be red or hot, fever, or anything else), call a professional right away.

8. For inevitable leaks: An absorbing breast pad

In today's episode of, "Oh come on, really?" you are going to leak breastmilk. Now, this is entirely natural and you are certainly not required to do anything about this. Still, many moms choose to wear breast pads in their bras to avoid leaking through to their shirts.

You can go the convenient and disposable route with Lansinoh Disposable Stay Dry Nursing Pads, or for a more environmentally friendly option, you can choose washable pads, like these Organic Bamboo Nursing Breast Pads.

9. For flexibility: A breast pump

Many women find that a breast pump becomes one of their most essential mom-tools. The ability to provide breast milk when you are away from your baby (and relieve uncomfortable engorged breasts) will add so much flexibility into your new-mom life.

For quick trips out and super-easy in-your-bag transport, opt for a manual pump like the Lansinoh Manual Breast Pump .

If you will be away from your baby for longer periods of time (traveling or working outside the home, for example) an electric pump is your most efficient bet. The Medela Pump In Style Advanced Double Electric Breast Pump is a classic go-to that will absolutely get the job done, and then some.

10. For quality storage: Breast milk bags

Once you pump your liquid gold, aka breast milk, you'll need a place to store it. The Kiinde Twist Pouches allow you to pump directly into the bags which means one less step (and way less to clean).

11. For keeping cool: A freezer bag

Transport your pumped milk back home to your baby safely in a cooler like the Mommy Knows Best Breast Milk Baby Bottle Cooler Bag. Remember to put the milk in a fridge or freezer as soon as you can to optimize how long it stays usable for.

12. For continued nourishment: Bottles

Nothing beats the peace of mind you get when you know that your baby is being well-taken of care—and well fed—until you can be together again. The Philips Avent Natural Baby Bottle Newborn Starter Gift Set is a fan favorite (mama and baby fans alike).

This article is sponsored by Walmart. Thank you for supporting the brands that support Motherly and mamas.

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Motherly is committed to covering all relevant presidential candidate plans as we approach the 2020 election. We are making efforts to get information from all candidates. Motherly does not endorse any political party or candidate. We stand with and for mothers and advocate for solutions that will reduce maternal stress and benefit women, families and the country.

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A viral video about car seat safety has parents everywhere cracking up and humming Sir-Mix-A-Lot.

"I like safe kids and I cannot lie," raps Norman Regional Health System pediatric hospitalist Dr. Kate Cook (after prefacing her music video with an apology to her children."I'm a doctor tryin' warn you that recs have changed," she continues.

Dr. Cook's rap video is all about the importance of keeping babies facing backward. It's aptly called "Babies Face Back," and uses humor and parody to drive home car seat recommendations from the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP).

"Switching from rear-facing to forward-facing is a milestone many parents can't wait to reach," Dr. Cook said in a news release about her hilarious video. "But this is one area where you want to delay the transition as long as possible because each one actually reduces the protection to the child."

Last summer the AAP updated its official stance on car seat safety to be more in line with what so many parents were already doing and recommended that kids stay rear-facing for as long as possible. But with so many things to keep track of in life, it is understandable that some parents still don't know about the change. Dr. Cook wants to change that with some cringe-worthy rapping.

The AAP recommends:

  • Babies and toddlers should ride in a rear-facing car safety seat as long as possible, until they reach the highest weight or height allowed by their seat.
  • Once they are facing forward, children should use a forward-facing car safety seat with a harness for as long as possible. Many seats are good up to 65 pounds.
  • When children outgrow their car seat they should use a belt-positioning booster seat until the vehicle's lap and shoulder seat belt fits properly, between 8 and 12 years old.

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[Editor's note: Motherly is committed to covering all relevant presidential candidate plans as we approach the 2020 election. We are making efforts to get information from all candidates. Motherly does not endorse any political party or candidate. We stand with and for mothers and advocate for solutions that will reduce maternal stress and benefit women, families and the country.]

Suicide rates for girls and women in the United States have increased 50% since 2000, according to the CDC and new research indicates a growing number of pregnant and postpartum women are dying by suicide and overdose. Suicide rates for boys and men are up, too.

It's clear there is a mental health crisis in America and it is robbing children of their mothers and mothers of their children.

Medical professionals urge people to get help early, but sometimes getting help is not so simple. For many Americans, the life preserver that is mental health care is out of reach when they are drowning.

Democratic presidential candidate Pete Buttigieg just released a plan he hopes could change that and says the neglect of mental health in the United States must end. "Our plan breaks down the barriers around mental health and builds up a sense of belonging that will help millions of suffering Americans heal," says Buttigieg.

He thinks he can "prevent 1 million deaths of despair by 2028" by giving Americans more access to mental health and addictions services.

In a country where giving birth can put a mother in debt, it's not surprising that while as many as 1 in 5 new moms suffers from perinatal mood and anxiety disorders, more than half of new moms who need mental health treatment don't get it. Stigma, childcare and of course costs are factors in why women aren't seeking help when they are struggling.

Buttigieg's plan is interesting because it could remove some of these barriers. He wants to make mental health care more affordable by ensuring everyone has comprehensive coverage for mental health care and by ensuring that everyone can access a free yearly mental health check-up.

That could make getting help more affordable for some moms, and by increasing reimbursement rates for mental health care delivered through telehealth, this plan could help moms get face time with a medical professional without having to deal with finding childcare first.

Estimates from new research suggest that in some parts of America as many as 14% or 30% of maternal deaths are caused by addiction or suicide. Buttigieg's plan aims to reduce those estimates by fighting the addiction and opioid crisis and increasing access to mental health services in underserved communities and for people of color. He also wants to reduce the stigma and increase support for the next generation by requiring "every school across the country to teach Mental Health First Aid courses."

These are lofty goals with a lofty price tag. It would cost about $300 billion to do what Buttigieg sets out in his plan and the specifics of how the plan would be funded aren't yet known. Neither is how voters will react to this 18-page plan and whether it will help Buttigieg stand out in a crowded field of Democratic candidates.

What we do know is that right now, America is talking about mental health and whether or not that benefits Buttigieg's campaign it will certainly benefit America.

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[Editor's Note: Welcome to It's Science, a Motherly column focusing on evidence-based explanations for the important moments, milestones, and phenomena of motherhood. Because it's not just you—#itsscience.]

If you breastfeed, you know just how magical (and trying) it is, but it has numerous benefits for mama and baby. It is known to reduce the likelihood of developing cardiovascular disease, type 2 diabetes, and rheumatoid arthritis, and cuts the risk of sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS) by half.

If this wasn't powerful enough, scientists have discovered that babies who are fed breast milk have a stomach pH that promotes the formation of HAMLET (Human Alpha-lactalbumin Made Lethal to Tumor cells). HAMLET was discovered by chance when researchers were studying the antibacterial properties of breast milk. This is a combination of proteins and lipids found in breast milk that can work together to kill cancer cells, causing them to pull away from healthy cells, shrink and die, leaving the healthy cells unaffected.

According to researchers at Lund University in Sweden, this mechanism may contribute to the protective effect breast milk has against pediatric tumors and leukemia, which accounts for about 30% of all childhood cancer. Other researchers analyzed 18 different studies, finding that "14% to 19% of all childhood leukemia cases may be prevented by breastfeeding for six months or more."

And recently, doctors in Sweden collaborated with scientists in Prague to find yet another amazing benefit to breast milk. Their research demonstrated that a certain milk sugar called Alpha1H, found only in breast milk, helps in the production of lactose and can transform into a different form that helps break up tumors into microscopic fragments in the body.

Patients who were given a drug based on this milk sugar, rather than a placebo, passed whole tumor fragments in their urine. And there is more laboratory evidence to support that the drug can kill more than 40 different types of cancer cells in animal trials, including brain tumors and colon cancer. These results are inspiring scientists to continue to explore HAMLET as a novel approach to tumor therapy and make Alpha1H available to cancer patients.

Bottom line: If you choose to breastfeed, the breast milk your baby gets from your hard work can be worth every drop of effort.

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