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Hush, little mama: Sleep strategies for tired mothers

Think: quality, not quantity

Hush, little mama: Sleep strategies for tired mothers

I was a medical student, resident, and fellow before I ever became a mom.


Sometimes, I worked 30+ hours straight as often as twice a week when on call.

I learned how to run on 5-6 hours of sleep most nights.

So when I had a baby, I was certain I’d be fine.

Sleep deprivation and I had a long history.

But, I. WAS. WRONG.

You see, there’s a huge difference between 5-6 hours of refreshing, restful sleep and the equivalent in fragmented ‘new mommy’ sleep.

Studies have shown that new moms actually get a decent amount of sleep—an average of 7.2 hours to be exact—but they don’t get the quality, deep sleep they desperately need.

Their sleep patterns actually resemble those of people suffering from sleep conditions like sleep apnea where one spends enough total hours asleep but not enough hours in restorative sleep.

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So how does this work exactly?

Patterns of sleep typically happen in 90-minute cycles.

So, a new mom whose sleep is interrupted by a crying baby may not get enough full cycles of sleep.

And sometimes, she may not get any at all.

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That’s why you’re better off getting 6 hours of high quality sleep than low quality sleep for a longer period of time.

Quality is better than quantity when it comes to sleep.

And if, like me, you’re a new mom with a baby or even a one-year-old who makes a full night of uninterrupted sleep a rare luxury, here are some things to think about:

Nap smart: Try to get in a full cycle of sleep

A photo posted by Emma Bauso (@ecbauso) on

If you’re severely sleep-deprived, a 15-minute power nap probably won’t do anything for you.

So when your baby goes down for a nap, put aside your To-Do-List and try to sleep for 90+ minutes (or as much of that as possible).

Naps can be really restorative especially when you’re not guaranteed to have a perfect night of sleep.

Teach daddy how to help

A photo posted by Emma Bauso (@ecbauso) on

No one ever said you had to do all of this alone. In fact, it’s really important to ask for help.

Teach daddy how to do a nighttime feeding so that you can get in some much needed shut-eye.

Even if you’re exclusively breastfeeding, you can pump and have your partner bottle feed at night.

Pay attention to your mood

A photo posted by Emma Bauso (@ecbauso) on

The baby blues and postpartum depression are real medical conditions.

If you feel like you may be affected, be sure to see your doctor.

Sleep deprivation can definitely impact your mood and often unmask feelings of sadness, guilt, hopelessness and more.

The first several months of your baby’s life can be the most challenging when it comes to sleep deprivation for you.

You are not alone and things will get better. I, too, remember feeling like a zombie during that first year, but prioritizing naps over household chores really helped.

And, self-care was high priority for me. Remember to take care of your own needs—especially your need for sleep.

It’s not optional.

Cheers to all that you hardworking, loving, selfless mamas do!

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After 4 kids, this is still the best baby gear item I’ve ever purchased

I wouldn't be swooning over the BABYBJÖRN bouncer after eight years and four kids if it didn't work.

I have four kids 8 and under, so you might expect that my house is teeming with baby gear and kid toys.

But it turns out that for me, the more kids I have, the more I simplify our stuff. At this point, I'm down to the absolute essentials, the gear that I can't live without and the toys my kids actually play with. And so when a mama-to-be asks me what things are worth registering for, there are only a few must-haves on my list.

The BABYBJÖRN bouncer seat is on the top of my list—totally worth it and an absolute must-have for any new mama.

In fact, since I first splurged on my first BABYBJÖRN bouncer eight years ago (it definitely felt like a splurge at the time, but the five star reviews were really compelling), the bouncer seat has become the most-used product in our house for baby's first year.

We've actually invested in a second one so that we didn't have to keep moving ours from the bedroom to the living room when we change locations.

BABYBJÖRN bouncer bliss

baby bjorn bouncer

The utility of the seat might seem counterintuitive—it has no mechanical parts, so your baby is instead gently bounced by her own movements. In a world where many baby products are touted for their ability to mechanically rock baby to sleep, I get that many moms might not find the "no-motion" bouncer that compelling. But it turns out that the seat is quite reactive to baby's little kicks, and it has helped my kids to learn how to self-soothe.

$200

Lightweight + compact:

The BABYBJÖRN bouncer is super lightweight, and it also folds flat in a second. Because of those features, we've frequently stored it under the couch, in a suitcase or in the back of the car. It folds completely flat, which I love.

Entertainment zone:

Is the toy bar worth it? The toy bar is totally worth it. Not only is the toy bar adorable, but it's one of the first toys that my babies actually play with once they discover the world beyond my boobs. The toys spin and are close to eye level so they have frequently kept my baby entertained while I cook or take a quick shower.

Great style:

This is not a small detail to me–the BABYBJÖRN bouncer is seriously stylish. I am done with baby gear and toys that make my house look like a theme park. The elegant European design honestly just looks good in my living room and I appreciate that parents can enjoy it as much as baby.

It's adjustable:

With three height settings that let you prop baby up to be entertained, or lay back to rest, we get years of use. And the bouncer can actually be adjusted for bigger kids and used from newborn to toddler age. It's that good.

It just works:

I wouldn't be swooning over the BABYBJÖRN bouncer after eight years and four kids if it didn't work. But I have used the seat as a safe space to put baby while I've worked (I once rocked my baby in it with my foot while I reported on a breaking news story for the Washington Post), and as a cozy spot for my second child to lay while his big brother played nearby. It's held up for almost a decade with almost-constant use.

So for me, looking back on what I thought was a splurge eight years ago, was actually one of the best investments in baby gear I ever made.

We independently select and share the products we love—and may receive a commission if you choose to buy. You've got this.

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Time-saving formula tips our editors swear by

Less time making bottles, more time snuggling.

As a new parent, it can feel like feeding your baby is a full-time job—with a very demanding nightshift. Add in the additional steps it takes to prepare a bottle of formula and, well… we don't blame you if you're eager to save some time when you can. After all, that means more time for snuggling your baby or practicing your own well-deserved self-care.

Here's the upside: Many, many formula-feeding mamas before you have experienced the same thing, and they've developed some excellent tricks that can help you mix up a bottle in record time. Here are the best time-saving formula tips from editors here at Motherly.

1. Use room temperature water

The top suggestion that came up time and time again was to introduce bottles with room temperature water from the beginning. That way, you can make a bottle whenever you need it without worrying about warming up water—which is a total lifesaver when you have to make a bottle on the go or in the middle of the night.

2. Buy online to save shopping time

You'll need a lot of formula throughout the first year and beyond—so finding a brand like Comforts, which offers high-quality infant formula at lower prices, will help you save a substantial amount of money. Not to mention, you can order online or find the formula on shelves during your standard shopping trip—and that'll save you so much time and effort as well.

3. Pre-measure nighttime bottles

The middle of the night is the last time you'll want to spend precious minutes mixing up a bottle. Instead, our editors suggest measuring out the correct amount of powder formula into a bottle and putting the necessary portion of water on your bedside table. That way, all you have to do is roll over and combine the water and formula in the bottle before feeding your baby. Sounds so much better than hiking all the way to the kitchen and back at 3 am, right?

4. Divide serving sizes for outings

Before leaving the house with your baby, divvy up any portions of formula and water that you may need during your outing. Then, when your baby is hungry, just combine the pre-measured water and powder serving in the bottle. Our editors confirm this is much easier than trying to portion out the right amount of water or formula while riding in the car.

5. Memorize the mental math

Soon enough, you'll be able to prepare a bottle in your sleep. But, especially in the beginning or when increasing your baby's serving, the mental math can take a bit of time. If #mombrain makes it tough to commit the measurements to memory, write up a cheat sheet for yourself or anyone else who will prepare your baby's bottle.

6. Warm up chilled formula with water

If you're the savvy kind of mom who prepares and refrigerates bottles for the day in advance, you'll probably want to bring it up to room temperature before serving. Rather than purchase a bottle warmer, our editors say the old-fashioned method works incredibly well: Just plunge the sealed bottle in a bowl of warm water for a few minutes and—voila!—it's ready to serve.



Another great tip? Shop the Comforts line on Comfortsforbaby.com to find premium baby products for a fraction of competitors' prices. Or, follow @comfortsforbaby for more information!

This article was sponsored by The Kroger Co. Thank you for supporting the brands that support Motherly and mamas.

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It's science: Why your baby stops crying when you stand up

A fascinating study explains why.

When your baby is crying, it feels nearly instinctual to stand up to rock, sway and soothe them. That's because standing up to calm babies is instinctual—driven by centuries of positive feedback from calmed babies, researchers have found.

"Infants under 6 months of age carried by a walking mother immediately stopped voluntary movement and crying and exhibited a rapid heart rate decrease, compared with holding by a sitting mother," say authors of a 2013 study published in Current Biology.

Even more striking: This coordinated set of actions—the mother standing and the baby calming—is observed in other mammal species, too. Using pharmacologic and genetic interventions with mice, the authors say, "We identified strikingly similar responses in mouse pups as defined by immobility and diminished ultrasonic vocalizations and heart rate."

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