Sleep is key for the happiest mom on the block, too

The author of The Happiest Baby on the Block explains why we need to be prioritizing sleep for parents.

Sleep is key for the happiest mom on the block, too

We all have high expectations of joy and deep fulfillment when we’re about to have a baby. Our minds fill with images of radiant moms and dads cooing with delight over their tiny babies.

But for many parents, there is a darker side of that rainbow… exhaustion. The deep fatigue that is an almost universal stress to new parents can cast a pall over much of this happiness—which is why there is such a significant link between sleep deprivation and postpartum depression or anxiety.

Postpartum depression (PPD) and postpartum anxiety (PPA) is an unwelcome visitor to one in six new mothers (and many new fathers, too). Yet, despite how common it is, somehow it still feels like a rude surprise whenever it arrives.

In more than 30 years as a pediatrician, I have heard thousands of exasperated parents ask the same question: “Why didn’t anyone tell me it would be this hard?”

However, even when expectant couples are warned about how hard the first months can be, they often blithely believe that PPD or PPA is a problem “other people” have. Then baby arrives and stress, exhuastion and general overwhelm often sets in, which sets the stage for anxiety and/or depression.

The truth is, modern parenting doesn’t automatically grant us the same community structures that used to help new parents. Sure, we don’t have to wash our clothes in the river like past generations of parents, but two huge societal shifts make modern baby-rearing much tougher: For one, most new moms and dads have little experience—many have never even held a baby before. Secondly, few new parents have strong family support.

They say it takes a village to raise a child, and this is first time in human history that parents don’t have “the village” to help them. Today, families are spread across the country and it’s a luxury to have baby care help.

This lack of support can lead to serious sleep deprivation. And while most new parents expect that being tired is part of the job, profound exhaustion is not at all a trivial problem.

Recently, BabyCenter and I surveyed more than 1,000 new mothers. Almost 80 percent said they routinely felt tired or exhausted. Most said sleep deprivation was their biggest angst—well ahead of a lack of time or money.

Other studies confirm that 50 percent of new parents get fewer than 6.5 hours of fractured sleep each night. That little sleep can cause a similar mental impairment to being drunk and double the risk of serious car accident. Further, exhaustion can lead to marital stress, infant death from unsafe sleeping and failed breastfeeding.

And, as mentioned above, topping the list of the problems from extreme fatigue is PPD or PPA.  These affect about 15 percent of new moms—and many husbands. (Yes, men can get it, too.)

Unfortunately, many mothers don’t really know what PPD or PPA feels like. When people hear it mentioned, they imagine a mom who is sad and weepy. But, an even more common way it manifests is with anxiety, irritability and intrusive fears.

Many moms with PPD or PPA say they can’t turn off their minds… and can’t rest, even when the baby is sleeping. This can lead to marital stress, shame and secrecy, low self-esteem, poor bonding, obesity, accidents, infant sleep death, breastfeeding problems, lifelong depression and even suicide or infanticide. This list is not meant to provoke fear. Quite the opposite, it’s meant to encourage us to work as hard as possible to find a solution.

Fortunately, the conversation around PPD and PPA has begun to see the light of day. Chrissy Teigen penned a moving, insightful piece in Glamour to share her battle with postpartum with other moms and moms-to-be. Other stars—Brooke Shields, Sarah Michelle Gellar, Hayden Panettiere and Adele—have also chronicled their painful experiences. Centers to aid depressed new mothers have popped up across the United States, including, Los Angeles, San Diego, Chapel Hill and Providence. And The Motherhood Center opened in New York City just last month.

Today, medical groups such as the American Academy of Pediatrics to the American College of Obstetrics and Gynecology have strongly supported efforts to screen all new mothers for depression. And, thanks in large part to the leadership of Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand, the United States Congress passed a bill to provide resources to support screening and treatment services.

Yet, these important steps fall far short of what will ultimately be needed to stem this crisis. We cannot simply wait for women to get depressed and then hope they come to a doctor to get screened. We need robust programs to prevent PPD and PPA before it occurs.

Fortunately, new hope is on the horizon.

We now know that exhaustion can raise a woman’s risk of PPD or PPA 7-27-fold during the first months after birth. Crying is also associated with a 4-fold increase of PPD or PPA. So, by preventing crying and boosting sleep, we may be able to significantly lower the risk of developing PPD or PPA.

As the author of The Happiest Baby on the Block, some techniques that I suggest to parents include using motion, white noise and swaddling to help their babies fall asleep easier and stay asleep longer. (My latest project, the SNOO smart infant sleeper, combines many of these good practices. Studies are currently underway from major universities to investigate a potential link between the SNOO and reduced rates of parental depression and anxiety.)

The very hopeful news is that by using new ideas in baby care we are now able to give parents more sleep, less crying and more confidence. And, that gives us a real chance of helping parents and babies be happier and healthier during this amazing stage of life.

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    These are only the vitamins I give my children and here's why

    It's hard to say who loves these more—my kids or me.

    When I became a mama five years ago, I didn't put too much thought into whether my son was getting the right vitamins and minerals. From breastfeeding to steaming and pureeing his first bites of solid food, I was confident I was giving him everything to support his growth and development.

    But then the toddler years—and the suddenly picky palate that accompanied them—came along. Between that challenge and two additional children in the mix… well, I knew my oldest son's eating plan was falling short in some vitamin and mineral categories.

    I also knew how quickly he was growing, so I wanted to make sure he was getting the nutrients he needed (even on those days when he said "no, thank you" to any veggie I offered).

    So when I discovered the new line of children's supplements from Nature's Way®, it felt like a serious weight off my chest. Thanks to supplements that support my children's musculoskeletal growth, their brain function, their immune systems, their eyes and more, I'm taken back to that simpler time when I was so confident my kids' vitamin needs were met.*

    It wasn't just the variety of supplements offered by Nature's Way that won me over: As a vegetarian mama, I'm the picky one in the family when it comes to scanning labels and making sure they meet our standards. The trick is that most gummy vitamins are made with gelatin, which is not vegetarian friendly.

    But just like the other offerings from Nature's Way that I've already come to know and love, the children's supplement line is held to a high standard. That means there's no high-fructose corn syrup, gelatin or common allergens to be found in the supplements. The best part? My two oldest kids ensure we never miss their daily vitamins—they are so in love with the gummy flavors, which include tropical fruit punch, lemonade and wild berry.

    Nature's Way Kids Mulitvitamin

    Meanwhile, my pharmacist husband has different criteria when evaluating supplements, especially when it comes to those for our kids. He appreciates the variety of options from Nature's Way, which gives us the ability to rotate the vitamins based on our kids' daily needs. By keeping various children's supplements from Nature's Way on hand, I can customize a regimen to suit my kids' individual requirements.

    Of course, high-quality products often come at a higher price point. But (to my immense gratitude!) that isn't the case with Nature's Way, which retails for a competitive value when compared to the other items on the shelf.

    Like all mamas, my chief concern is supporting my children's health in any way I can. While I see evidence of their growth every time I pack away clothes they've outgrown, I know there is much more growth that doesn't meet the eye. That's why, for my oldest son, I like stacking the Brain Builder gummy with the Growing Bones & Muscles gummy and the Happy & Healthy Multi. My 3-year-old also enjoys getting her own mix to include the Healthy Eyes gummy. And both of my older kids are quick to request the Tummy Soothe tablet when something isn't sitting right in their stomachs.* And I'll admit it: I've tried it myself and the berry blast flavor really is tasty!

    Although my current phase of motherhood may not be as "simple" as it once was, there is so much to appreciate about it—like watching my kids play and sing and create with their incredible imaginations. Along the way, I've eased up on some of my need for control, but it does help to have this range of supplements in my motherhood tool kit. So while I may not be able to convince my son to try kale, having the Nature's Way supplements on hand means I do know he's right on track.*These statements have not been evaluated by the Food & Drug Administration. This product is not intended to diagnose, treat, cure or prevent any disease.

    This article was sponsored by Nature's Way. Thank you for supporting the brands that support Motherly and mamas.

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