Get Some Sleep!
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Sweet Peas, Pods & Papas: All About Birth, B@@bs & Babies

Get Some Sleep!

As I sit here and write at 10:15 pm, understand that this post is also written as a piece of advice that I need to follow as we get closer to our estimated due date…

If you are working outside of the home when you are pregnant, it is somewhat easier to convince yourself to get some sleep.  You know what is required of you at work, and you make an effort to get to sleep in the first place.  Or, if you tend to wake up in the middle of the night, you know it’s imperative for you to rest so you can function the next day…so you make an effort to go back to sleep.

When you have other children to care for, getting rest becomes more of a challenge.   They have needs and wants that must be met.  With more people in the house, come more chores that need to be done: more dishes, more clothes that need to be washed, a bigger mess that needs to be swept…you get the idea.  If you are a stay-at-home mom like me, you also have meals to get creative with three times a day, plus healthy snacks to prepare…It’s a big temptation to take advantage of quiet time when your kiddos are sleeping to get things done despite the fact I know that I would be better of getting rest so I am fresh for the next day.

I remember that for my first pregnancy, I would stay up late at night watching the crazy shows and scrapbooking and generally not getting sleep.  It was a decision I came to regret as I ran out of energy at the end of our labor.  We learned the lesson the hard way with an intervention that wouldn't have been necessary if I had given into my tiredness and slept when my body asked me to sleep during labor. 

We feel it is very important to start conserving your energy and making sure you get enough sleep as you get into the third tri-mester.  For one, your baby is having another growth spurt.  This means that your body is spending energy not just making your growing baby, but nourishing them with the extra oxygen and nutrients they need.  If you feel like you need a nap, take it!  You will be better for it in the long run.

We encourage our Bradley Method® students to start getting as much sleep as possible when they reach 35 to 36 weeks.  Although science tells us we can’t “catch up” on sleep, I would make the analogy that you want to treat it like a savings account.  You want to “bank” as much sleep as you can.  Since you don’t know if and when you are going to go into labor, you want to act as if each night is your last opportunity to get a good night’s sleep.

The first truth is that once your labor starts, it will be hard to convince yourself to sleep if it’s your first time baby because you are so excited; no couple believes that they are going to be the ones with a long labor.  The second truth is that you will not get very much sleep after your baby arrives.  Most of our students who come back to tell their birth stories, they say things like, “Sleep?  What’s that?”  Most of them report that it takes 2-4 weeks to get into a routine that includes longer periods of sleep for mom or dad.

If you are an expecting mother, I would encourage you to learn how to fall asleep when you practice relaxation with your coach.  Work at training your body to completely relax at the sound of your coach’s voice and under his touch.  If you can do it well, then you are more likely to be able to fall asleep when he relaxes you during your labor.

How do you keep from getting too excited?  Coach can time a couple of contractions and if they are 10 to 20 minutes apart, convince yourselves that you are going to have a long labor, and remember that you want to have energy for the hard work at the end of labor.  Remind yourselves of all the interventions that you want to avoid.  Your body will be more efficient if it is rested than if it is tired.  Therefore the more tired you are, the more likely you are to be offered, and to be tempted to take, the interventions you want to avoid in the first place.

I rarely give you a list of don’ts, however here are some important ones in early labor when your contractions are more than 10 minutes apart: don’t bake, don’t clean, don’t go for a walk, and don’t stay awake if your water breaks first.  Just go to sleep!  Active labor is defined as strong contractions that are 3-5 minutes apart.  I promise that you cannot sleep through these stronger contractions if you are un-medicated.  You will wake up in time to participate in your birth!

What you can do is eat to appetite and drink to thirst before you take your nap.  Then you and your coach go to your “nest”, darken the space and do a good relaxation so that you can sleep.  It is also advisable for your coach to get some sleep; he will be working as long as you are actively working in your labor.

Once you wake up from that good nap, then you can bake, clean, walk – do things that will distract you from labor and also things that start to stimulate your labor.  You will be more ready to face your labor calmly when you are rested and ready to work.

As your labor progresses, you may find it is taking a while longer than you expected despite a good nap at the beginning.  If and when you feel your energy waning, it is a great time to work together with your coach to get extra rest.  This is one of the reasons why it’s important for coach to rest – it will be his or her job to time your contractions faithfully and nudge you to full consciousness 15-30 seconds before the next contraction begins.  

You can close your eyes and rest, or if you are really tired, you will find that you can actually fall asleep and take little power naps.  Even if you only get 2-3 minutes of rest between contractions, you will find it feels amazingly restful.  With enough of these little naps, you can handle the stronger contractions of late first stage with the strength and calm necessary for this phase of labor.  For that reason, sleep is one of the ways you can avoid unnecessary pain in labor.  You can also gain the energy you need for transition and the pushing phase of labor.

This is also a reason why some couples opt to hire a doula.  In the event of a long labor, the coach and the doula can take turns resting themselves.  This way someone full of energy is always awake coaching mom, lending her energy and providing comfort measures.

I wish we had a clear-cut way to predict the length of labor when it starts.  If this was true, then we could tell who needed to get some sleep and who could stay awake for the duration of their labor.  Since there is no way of knowing for sure, I encourage you to please do everything you can to sleep in the weeks leading up to your labor, and do your very best to take a nap before your labor starts gets into the active phase!

If you already had your baby, what was your experience with sleep and labor?  Do you have any advice to share with first-time parents?

The material included on this site is for informational purposes only.
It is not intended nor implied to be a substitute for professional medical advice. The reader should always consult her or his healthcare provider to determine the appropriateness of the information for their own situation. This blog contains information about our classes available in Chandler, AZ and Payson, AZ and is not the official website of The Bradley Method®. The views contained on this blog do not necessarily reflect those of The Bradley Method® or the American Academy of Husband-Coached Childbirth®.

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