Monday, February 25, 2008

Sleep Deprivation in the Early Weeks

By far the biggest challenge of being a bipolar mom is the lack of sleep in the first few weeks. (I believe it is probably the biggest challenge for ALL moms) I've gotten a bunch of emails asking me if that has affected my bipolar disorder. Unfortunately I have to answer that yes it has been difficult -- but luckily I've learned to cope. I did go a few weeks where I think I became a little hypomanic - but it never escalated (I'd say 50% of the time for me hypomania does ramp up to mania for me). And both of the times when I felt hypomanic were definitely brought on by a lack of sleep.

The first happened right after the birth. I didn't sleep at all in the hospital not a wink. I figured I went at least 66 hours with NO sleep. And after that I only got about 3-4 a night for the first week. Which explains why two days after coming home I was out shopping.

The good news is that my daughter has just now started really sleeping through the night (defined as 7 hours between feedings). I think this is pretty good for 10 weeks old. In fact one night she went 8 hours! The bad thing was I was having some insomnia so on the night I could have had more sleep than every I missed out.

I think a cruel joke is that many baby books define "sleeping through the night" as 5 hours between feedings. And since feedings are counted from the beginning of one feeding to the beginning of the next the most you could get in that 5 hours is a baby who is asleep for 4.5 hours. Who's definition of through the night is really 4.5 hours?

I have been really blessed that my husband has helped a lot with the nighttime so that I can get more sleep. I highly recommend for any bipolar new mom that you get help at night whether it is a spouse, mother, or hired night nurse.

At night my husband changes all the diapers and puts her back to sleep after I feed her. In fact for a few weeks he slept in the guest bedroom with the bassinet and would bring her to me when it was time to feed her (I'm breastfeeding so he couldn't really take over nighttime feedings) and then would take her when I was done and get her back to sleep. In the early weeks she sometimes had her days and nights confused so she would sleep more during the day than at night ... so having my husband be responsible at night was really a godsend. During the first three weeks she ate every 2.5-3 hours rounds the clock so the most sleep possible at one stretch was 2.5 hours.

Sometimes I think I should have done formula feeding at night because then my husband could have feed her and formula-fed babies supposedly can go longer between feedings. My initial plan was actually to either use formula or pump and have my husband do at least one feeding at night. However, once she was born I decided I didn't want to do any supplemental formula because so many things I read said that giving a newborn formula can sometimes hinder breastfeeding because the baby might like the formula or bottle more than breast milk. I didn't start pumping until 7 weeks for various reasons and at that point the nighttime sleep had been better.

Looking back if I could do it over again I would have introduced a bottle at night so that I would have gotten more like 5 hours of sleep in a row if my husband feed her. So I guess that is what I will do for Baby #2 - one day.

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