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Guest post by Leanne Palmerston

Baby is gaining weight. Breastfeeding is going well. Your body is healing. Only one problem: baby won’t sleep.

Or, they will sleep, but just not in their own bed, or even in any bed!

And you?  You haven’t slept for more than 2 hours in a row since you were seven months pregnant.

You’re so tired you’re starting to wonder: Can you die from lack of sleep?!


Sleep deprivation can definitely mess a person up. The average adult should be getting around 7 hours of sleep per night. Ideally, that would be with minimal interruptions so that they can get a couple of complete sleep cycles in a row before needing to be functional.

That’s definitely not happening with a newborn.

Babies may sleep for 15 -18 hours each day but they seem to get that sleep in tiny bursts.  Or if they do sleep for a couple of hours, they seem to only want to do it in their parent’s arms.

It’s a problem that leads parents to buy all kinds of tools and gadgets. Everyone has a friend, a family member and a workmate who swears by one thing or another.

There are blankets, swaddlers, swings, sound machines and more. Each one promises to help babies sleep longer.  Some work and some don’t. If they work for one baby there is no guarantee they will work for the next baby.  Figuring out what does work can end up being very expensive and creates a lot of clutter.

And parents are still overtired.

What happens when a parent is chronically sleep deprived?

Depending on the level of tiredness and how long a parent has been sleep deprived, parents can experience:

  • Muscle weakness
  • Memory impairment
  • Decreased reaction time
  • Cardiovascular disease
  • Depression & Anxiety
  • Weight gain
  • Poor judgment

Lack of sleep might not kill you directly but chronic sleep deprivation increases your risk of things that can kill you and will likely make you really unhappy and unhealthy.

So what can be done about it?

More Sleep Solution #1

I may get pelted with a million pacifiers for saying it, but in those first few months after baby is born, mothers should sleep when their baby is sleeping.

Starting around the time a person would normally go to bed, a mother should sleep every time the baby sleeps.  When they have reached 7-8 hours of cumulative sleep, which might take until midday the next day, they can stay awake if they wish.

More Sleep Solution #2

Have a family member or close friend care for baby while the mother sleeps.

The only drawback to this solution is that most of our friends and family members, the ones we’d trust to care for our children, are likely to be working or have family commitments of their own.

More Sleep Solution #3

Hire a postpartum doula to provide overnight support.

Doulas, who are specially trained to care for babies AND new parents, can work with families to find out what their specific issues and priorities are. If a mother wants to breastfeed her baby through the night, a doula can bring baby to the mother to breastfeed. The doula will then care for the baby when the session is finished and the mother can go straight back to sleep. The doula will diaper, cuddle, and help the baby get back to sleep.  If the baby is fussy or wants to sleep in arms, the doula was stay up with the baby, allowing the parents to maximize their sleep.

Mothers can also opt to pump breastmilk or prepare formula. The doula can then take over feedings throughout the night while the mother gets an entire night’s rest.

Additionally, a doula can take care of babies during the day and allow the mother to get extra rest and to take care of herself.

Sleep deprivation makes life miserable and unhealthy. A postpartum doula can end that problem tonight.

Co-owner of Hamilton Family Doulas, our guest blogger Leanne Palmerston is a labour and postpartum doula, childbirth educator, Placenta Encapsulation Specialist, and ProDoula Doula Trainer. Leanne saw her first birth at the age of 14 and soon became the person others trusted for birth advice and comfort. As a professional doula, Leanne has become a leader and mentor in the birth community. 

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