Torturing new mothers and then wondering why they get mentally ill.

Torturing new mothers? Who does that? Well, as a society, we all do. I’m not kidding, I’m perfectly serious, and I’m going to stop mincing my words and say it how it is. We torture mothers.

Sleep deprivation is a method of torture that has been used for at least 500 years, and is still used today. It was used extensively in Guantanamo Bay. The difference between sleep deprivation in Guantanamo bay and in new mothers is that no-one is systematically and intentionally hurting new mothers. But the effect is the same. Sleep torture is designed to create psychological changes, which are supposed to encourage the victim to submit, to lose their sense of reality, and to talk.

Chronic sleep deprivation is not good for you. It leads to cognitive impairment, anger and irritability, anxiety, and even psychosis.  Yes, you read that right. Chronic sleep deprivation is known to cause psychosis. Puerperal psychosis in new mothers is not common thankfully, but it is dangerous.  I’ve been lucky enough to attend a few study days on perinatal mental health recently, and they have all included really valuable talks by people who have recovered from severe postnatal depression, post traumatic stress disorder and psychosis. What I noticed was that they all had one thing in common . They all mentioned lack of sleep as a factor in their illness. The lovely Sinead Willis talked about “lack of sleep started to catch up with me….I couldn’t sleep more than an hour at night and I became very disorientated”. One of the effects of sleep deprivation is disorientation, or a feeling of “altered reality”. At another talk I was lucky enough to hear, the mother told us that she hadn’t slept at all for the first three days of her baby’s life, but no one noticed, because she was in a private hospital room on her own. She developed psychosis within a matter of days.  Elaine Hanzak, author of “Eyes without sparkle” talks about the fact that during her treatment, she would look forward to her Electro-Convulsive Therapy sessions, because “they have to put you to sleep first….bliss”.

Chronic sleep deprivation is when you have no opportunity to make up your sleep debt. You go on, night after night, suffering from not enough sleep. Acute sleep deprivation is when you lose sleep for one night, but you can then catch up. Even acute sleep deprivation has a marked effect on our mental health. In one study by Walker and colleagues, healthy young students were split into two groups. One group were sleep deprived, the other group slept normally.  The next day, both groups were shown disturbing, upsetting and gory pictures. The researchers found that there were significant differences in the brain activity of the two groups, as measured by MRI scans. The sleep deprived group showed reactions similar to anxiety reactions. Their amygdala lit up like an alarm bell to the disturbing images, firing off stress hormones, whilst the normal group’s brain showed a more balanced reaction, with the parts of the brain that “panic and worry” being balanced by the part of the brain that “reasons and rationalises”. In the sleep deprived group, their ability to process and mediate the anxiety was damaged.

People have always thought that anxiety and depression causes disturbed sleep. But this research suggests that lack of sleep can cause anxiety.  All on its own, and in only one night.  Whilst new mums aren’t shown disturbing images by scientists, they do have disturbing images all of their own. Worries and concerns about the baby, feelings of guilt, not being good enough, intrusions of hurting the baby, concerns about baby’s feeding, and so on. And of course, once anxiety sets in, it becomes more difficult to sleep, increasing the chances of depression setting in, and a vicious cycle begins with a force of its own.

With all this in mind, is it any wonder that we have such high rates of anxiety, depression, and psychosis postnatally? Women usually give birth overnight, sometimes over two or three nights. They are then put in a busy maternity ward with lights on, other women and babies crying, constant interruptions from staff and so on. Or they are sent home alone with just a very tired husband. Either way, they have a baby with them, who they need to keep alive, learn to feed, and look after. On no sleep.  Then, when the father goes back to work after his 2 weeks of paternity leave, it is perfectly acceptable in our society for her to say “I’ll do the night feeds, because you have to work all day”. She isn’t understanding the value, the necessity, of her sleep for her mental health. Neither is the father, or the health visitor, or society in general.   Her sleep debt builds, increasing the risk to her mental health.

In other cultures, mums are made to rest, recuperate, stay in bed, and do nothing but get to know baby. They are fed, washed, pampered with hot stone massages, and so on. Almost all non-westernised cultures have a ritual similar to this, which lasts about 40 days.  In the West, mums are not made to rest. They are expected to go on as normal, with the washing, the school run, losing baby weight, going shopping and so on.  Mums are told “sleep when baby sleeps”. However, this simply is not good enough. Because mum needs to eat, and she needs to shower, and she needs to get dressed sometimes, and she needs to go to see the health visitor and have baby weighed, and baby might only sleep for 20 minutes at a time. Then, when dad goes back to work, it gets even more chronic, because she offers to do the night feeds so that he can get up and work the next day. The importance of her physical and emotional health is ignored, at a high cost to the devastation that perinatal mental illness causes, and a high cost to the NHS.

Let’s stop torturing mothers. Let’s stop ignoring the problem of expecting new mums to get back to normal. They are not normal, they are super important, and we need to value them and treat them with the greatest respect, if we don’t want them to break into a million pieces, shattering the lives of all those around them. The NHS needs to prioritise maternal mental health, not just with adequate treatment facilities once the damage is done, but also with prevention in the first place. Proper paternity leave, decent postnatal wards with midwives who have time to care, regular home visits, continuity of care. Change needs to happen in attitudes as well. We need to start telling other people how important it is, to look after mum. Encourage partners to “put mum to sleep”. Tuck her up in bed with a chamomile tea (or a G and T) and tell her to stay there. Turn the lights off for her, bring her an extra pillow, tell visitors to go away because she is sleeping, bring the baby to her when he or she needs a feed. The cost of not doing so, could be her mental health.

Mia Scotland, Clinical Psychologist, Author of “Why Perinatal Depression Matters”

115 thoughts on “Torturing new mothers and then wondering why they get mentally ill.”

  1. Thank you for writing this. I’ve struggled with my mental health since my son was born mid 2020, but I am very hesitant to accept antidepressants when the reason I am depressed is that I had my baby in the middle of a pandemic that robbed me of any support (and my first baby, I mean my husband, is less than useless). It feels very much like societal and medical gaslighting to be told “oh you’re depressed, here take a pill” and “oh just let him cry it out”. Even just “Let me make you a cup of tea” would be a good start…

    1. Absolutely agree with you. Sorry you’ve struggled and felt robbed. I hope you’re beginning to feel a little better.

  2. Reblogged this on The Thrill is Gone… Sexual Dysfunction from Psychiatric Drugs and commented:
    This happened to me. When I had my second child my sleep was interrupted at night and my newborn daughter and toddler son wouldn’t take naps at the same time. I was EXHAUSTED and, after about a week of not being able to sleep, I became delusional. I ended up in the hospital, diagnosed as schizophrenic, and put on meds that, according to the DSM, were not supposed to be given to pregnant or nursing mothers.

    Since then I have recovered and have been off psychiatric drugs for almost 3 years.

    1. I meant to say that I’ve been off psychiatric drugs for almost THIRTY SEVEN years. However, I can’t seem to edit my comment. At this time I’ve been off antipsychotics for almost 39 years.

  3. Thanks Sof. Its interesting, because I wasn’t thinking about how the mother was choosing to feed or co-sleep etc. I do mention later on that others could “bring baby to (mother) when he/she needs a feed” in the presumption that she is breastfeeding. I have heard so many women say to me “i get up in the middle of the night because he has to go to work” which is what i was objecting to. I guess i could have put “get up” rather than “feed” (when i was tired, my husband got up to bring baby to me to breastfeed. It helped with my sleep deprivation enormously). To be honest, i should just have been more mindful of the whole breastfeeding argument when I wrote it, given that it is such an emotive subject. I agree wholeheartedly – “night feeds” are not the problem 🙂

  4. Quick input, as much as I agree with this article and it’s basis I find the mentioning of mothers doing the night feeds to be quiet negative.

    There are many ways family members can support a new mother and make sure she gets enough rest. It’s found that breastfeeding mothers sleep more than formula feeding mothers and of course, you can’t hand over a boob!

    I feel like this article is assuming that all mothers bottlefeed. I always did all feeds with my babies, my husband prepped meals, did the dishes in evening etc so that I could sleep with the baby, during the day.

    Night feeds are not cause for sleep deprivation- external factors pressures are! 🙂

  5. I love this article and the work that you are doing. It’s so important. I can’t wait to read your book as well. This has been a helpful resource for a topic I’m writing about on postpartum suicidal ideation. <3

  6. Exactly the reason why I only had one child. I had no help. My husband only took off 3 days of work after she was born. He would say “well I have to go to work so you have to do everything at night” . Our newborn did not sleep well. She would take only 20 minute naps during the day and be up about every hour and a half at night. I only had my mother in law for about 2 hours during some days. When she came over I slept. Thank God I had her, otherwise I think I’d be institutionalized. I was severely sleep deprived and everyone was telling me I was depressed . I would say I’m not depressed you idiots!! I just need to sleep!! I eventually started co-sleeping with her on the couch, against doctors advice but I didn’t care. I had read some articles that mothers are aware of newborns bodies even when asleep. Other cultures co-sleep. On the couch she would be in my arm and I turn her head and body away from the back of the couch and hold her still even in sleep. I would sleep like that for about 2 hours then get up go to the other end of the couch put her in my other arm and have her face the other way for the next 2. It was the only way to get a decent stretch of sleep. After she got a little bigger she would sleep in a little bouncy seat. And I would sleep on the couch Somewhere round the 1 year marks or so she slept in crib. I don’t think my daughter slept thru the night till she was almost 2 years old .. I was unable to return to my same job and had to change and lessen my hours at work after the 3 months maternity leave. Although I would have liked to have at least 2 children there was no way in hell I was having more children without any help at all at night.

  7. Hi, my sister gave birth to a baby girl a week ago, after two days,her behaviour changed where she is now doing everything as a mad man, what could be the problem and how can we help her?

  8. I bought your book yesterday after coming across your blog and have been glued to it. I currently have a one week old newborn and a 22 month and I 100% agree with the insights explained in the book. Funnily enough I had just revisted Sue Gerhardts book for the second time before coming across yours.

    I feel new mothers should have more support and care. I myself with my firstborn didnt sleep for 3 days in the hospital ward which sent me into a complete frenzy, mentally breaking down, thinking irrationally. I thought if I didnt get discharged from the hospital soon I would get admitted onto the mental health ward, something at the time which seemed appealing as surely I would get rest and cared for on there?

    Second time round it was alot quicker giving birth at 9pm and going home the next day at 2pm. Again on no sleep as there was no space for me on the ward so I had to stay on a delivery bed all night. Even though physical recovery has been easier this time, emotionally I’m worse and have had many ‘hormonal episodes’ due to feeling tired, overwhelmed and unsupported. Even today I was in the chemist crying due to the way the staff spoke to me. I had already told them I was unwell and had just had a baby but this in their eyes was irrelevant and I most certainly wasn’t treat ‘special’ or with care.

    Its a shame that more cant be done to support postnatal women. I am a self aware person and read books like yours alongside other psychology and self development. I practice mindfulness, affirmations and also have a spirituality. But still struggle. So I don’t know how people who don’t do any of these really cope and I understand why people fall into postnatal depression.

  9. Excellent article about maternal mental health and how western society does nothing to help the new mother. I feel I’m drowning with No support unless I do as I’m told. My hubby expects his tea made, and just as much attention as before out TWINS were born. He doesn’t even try to contemplate what my day is like after months of sleep deprivation. I wish this was talked about more so in our culture.

  10. Thank you so much for writing this article. My LO is now 20 months and I can reflect a little more on those early weeks. The traumatic birth, the sleepless two nights during labour, the pressure to breastfeed, the pressure not to bottle feed at all even expressed milk, the sleepless night shifts where only I could calm my daughter. Looking back, it is no surprise I had PND.I wish I had been strong enough to tell the pressurising nurses on the labour ward to do one and enabled my husband to do a night feed. I wish I had been strong enough to tell all the interfering busybodies that this was my body and I didn’t want to do all the night feeds. However, I wasn’t strong enough and so was alone for over nine months for every night feed. Cue destructive PND and an MS relapse due to sleep deprivation. Fast forward nine months and I couldn’t get my daughter to accept a bottle and absolutely hated breastfeeding as a result- I resented not being able to have a break and resented breastfeeding. My LO finally accepted a bottle after much gentle persistence and I didn’t look back. Had I been given the opportunity to combination feed in the early weeks, I might have avoided some of the heartache. To all the people who argue against combination feeding, think of the mothers who contract PND and ask yourselves is it worth it?

  11. Agree and.thought this for years. How does this synch with the.current of breast feed every one to two hours and also preaching that sleeping with your baby means you are a bad mom?

  12. I so agree with this article. It used to be that mums would stay I hospital for a week or so after delivery and were looked after so they could rest. Its simply brutal to expect new mums to cope with a long painful labour with no sleep followed by no sleep afterwards.

    It would be better for people to be employed to help mums if they don’t have anyone at home to help and this to be government funded. The culture I’m other countries of grandmas, aunties and the whole family chipping in make far more sense. A new mum should be able to put her feet up and relax until she’s recovered. Sure the next six months with still potentially be sleep deprived but at least she’s got over the hardest bit.

  13. It’s not just new mother’s or mother’s of young children. I went through it three times with no help from anyone. Husband went back to work in two days. Never got up with the kids, ever. My children are nearly tween, and two teens. Guess who is up when they are sick?

    That is not my main point though. After years of sleep deprivation raising them, I am an older mommy so now I have postmenopausal insomnia!! Can’t fall asleep, can’t stay asleep. Hot flashes, night sweats, migraines, etc. Pain pain pain….little sleep. So, yeah, it often doesn’t get better ladies. 🙁

  14. The author makes some excellent points. I disagree with only one: suggesting that fathers take over a night feeding. This idea can work beautifully if mom is formula-feeding, but it’s a disaster for mothers who are breastfeeding.

    Breastfeeding works on a supply-and-demand basis. If mom sleeps through a feeding, the breasts automatically make less milk at the next feeding. One of the things sleep-deprived moms have difficulty with is producing enough milk to meet baby’s needs. So if dad gets up and feeds the baby, mom has to get up anyway to pump in order to keep her milk supply up.

    There might be some helpful information here:

  15. Pingback: The Worst Advice. Ever. | The Secret to Giving Birth

  16. Pingback: Let's Stop Torturing New Moms - Smag31

  17. True true I hate being a mom because I do all the work. It’s harder than working for 12 hours because at the end of 12 hour you get to go home and do your own thing and not worry about feeding the baby washing her. You can go out when you want without having to pay a sitter and you don’t feel trapped I mean I like my baby but it’s really hard when you don’t have a babysitter or nanny.

  18. Pingback: Why Women Need More Sleep than Men - Longevity LIVE

  19. I actually had a major clinical Anxiety Breakdown in 1995 and was treated for three months in The Nottingham Queens Medical Centre in Psych ostrich Unit ,which in itself had a profound effect on my well being . I have since had a poem published about my illness and I am currently writing a book about my experiences with also a lighter look at The menopause and how the symptoms of sleep deprivation raise their ugly head again and ways to avoid the pit falls . And yes my diagnosis was Sleep Deprivation induced clinical Anxiety . I found this article very accurate .

    1. Hi Denise, i’m so sorry you had to go through this. I noticed you are Nottingham, so quite close to me. I’d be interested in hearing more about your work. Can you give me some details about your book when it is out?

  20. I’m crying reading this because it’s sadly too true and too real for me. As soon as the baby arrives, the focus moves to the baby. Yet mum has soo much recovering to do from the pregnancy, from the labour, from the birth and then being thrust into a brand new role with chronic sleep deprivation and post-natal depletion. People don’t care to add more stress on top of a women who is broken and needs serious recovery. Thank you for saying the truth. For saying it as it is and standing up for the broken new mother who has only herself.

  21. I didn’t experience depression nor post partum with the birth of our second child. Silent reflux equated to our beautiful baby having 2 hrs sleep/night/and him being mostly awake and crying on and off during the day. I tried rocking our baby for long periods of time to try to help him sleep. I had little success. We had a couple of hrs of sleep/night and this went on for several months. Our baby given medication and other items. Around 41/2 months the reflux started to settle. In the midst of this my husband was dealing with an acquired disability involving chronic leg pain, migraines & an additional health issue and spent much time in bed & resting. By the way I had a caesarean. My previously super fit father was experiencing altzheimers disease and he kept my mother awake at night. My sister was in crisis and previously had post partum provoked for the most unfortunate of reasons (a whole story in itself). My single brother was recovering from an illness. Our eldest child was about 31/2 yrs old. Fortunately we had a couple of parks close by. Taking our very bright & busy eldest son shopping with an upset one was interesting. I guess our little lad was thinking of things to amuse himself. I read him a couple of stories before bed. I carried our youngest in my arms around the house. I managed to put a load of washing on the line, get a few groceries from the shop and cook a meal. Sometimes the crying became a little much and I turned around and drove home. I washed the dishes. My phone rang with family concerns I listened patiently and then resumed what I was doing. Into the 3rd month I got bronchitis, then another bout of bronchitis and it took a while to shake of the bug. I could continue and share many other stories. It’s a hard road for mother’s without support. Having proper rest is imperative. I wish I had support. I prayed a lot and got through ok. Many years down the track a young Mum’s mother had passed away and she didn’t have whom she surely wish was around. I invited her to pop around and I put some washing on and I may a cooked a meal. I wished I had support. So who ever can do, please do it makes a difference!!

  22. I’m a mother of an 8 month old and live in the US where things are even worse (no govt mandated maternity leave whatever) and I experienced profound post partum anxiety and depression which I think was probably induced by a total lack of sleep – as well as a lack of eating – over a number of weeks for which I ended up in the hospital twice. now that my child is finally on something like a schedule I make sure I get 8 hours of sleep every night and it makes so much difference.

  23. As a mother of 3 within 5 years now all adults. My husband was a great suppor & did fair . share recommend any time bade goes to sleep you do leave the dishes etc If you have no 2 make sure good toddlers centre near where you don’t have to stay go home to bed rest Order in ready meals for adults don’t feel guilty . If pos live near your mother or if you get on well your Ma- in- law I did was lucky she was great ,girls went to stay with her 1 at a time till they were teenagers.

  24. Pingback: Coping With Non-Sleepers | Austin Moms Blog

  25. Hi, a very interesting read. I’m currently developing a tool for women to use antenatal and postnatal. It focuses on mental health in pregnancy, with a priority given to sleep deprivation. My tool is a planner for women to consider the support that they need before birth, so they don’t go into labour exhausted, and post birth, so they get the rest and recovery time that they need. We all plan for births, but never for post birth, or even for getting through pregnancy. There is a huge gap in support and recognition for women’s mental health. Perinatal depression is under valued, misinterpreted lots and not noticed enough. As an aspiring midwife to be, I hope that I have the time to help women in this area and support them as much as possible.
    Thanks for your blog, it reaffirmed my beliefs in our current maternity services and also that sleep deprivation can be the route cause of perinatal depression.

  26. Pingback: What I Learned From My Miscarriage | Preserving the Harvest

  27. Pingback: Torturing new mothers and then wondering why they get mentally ill - My daughter won't sleep

  28. This article was just forwarded to me by a friend. In full disclosure, as a guy and a childless, single one at that, I am no expert. But I could’t help notice that no comments I read mentioned pumping breast milk so that the father can help with the night feedings. I am the oldest of 5 and remember that my mom would have bottles of milk pumped for my sister. When mom needed sleep, she slept, and someone else gave the bottle to the baby. Also, being a single guy in I find it amazing that any new fathers would no think to cook dinner, do the laundry, clean the dishes or any other housework in the evening. What is he doing? Sitting in front of the tv watching a football match and drinking a pint?? Good grief, if I hadn’t been doing those things for myself, I would have starved to death and been buried under a pile of dirty laundry years ago!! Does moving in with a woman cause a man to forget how to do that?!?

  29. Reblogged this on Motherhood, Madness and Musicals and commented:
    This blog is absolutely spot on and makes so many great suggestions about how we could improve in our care of new mothers. Lack of sleep was definitely what pushed me over the edge, and the description of the maternity ward was all too familiar and horrific.

  30. Definitely agree with this article. The sleep deprivation definitely messes with your perception. Gossiping mothers staring, pointing, talking about me, people making awful comments to me as I walked past them, was freaking me out. The anxiety I was experiencing dealing with people’s interest in me was starting to cause panic attacks, just having to walk my kids up into a school. I already felt weird enough. People talking about me all the time and staring (even though it’s such a small thing), in that state of mind, depressed, paranoid, suffering anxiety, & just wanting to be normal again, is terrifying. Unfortunately for me though, gossipers and haters just grew worse. Doctors said that because your perception is warped with post natal depression (& then to think people who don’t know you hate you), my condition was considered to be psychosis. When my kids started noticing people being abusive to me, my husband left. He thought my mental state was affecting the kids. I think my condition caused people’s opinion of me at the school, even though they knew nothing about me at all. I have heard mothers tell me post natal depression ruined their life because it changed their perception about their family or friends. It ruined my life in that I obviously was different and people made opinions and assumptions about who I was.

  31. We also need much greater breastfeeding support because a breastfeeding mother who co sleeps with her baby gets more sleep. There is a great book called ‘Sweet Sleep’ by the LLL which goes into great detail about how to co sleep safety.

  32. Pingback: Tuesday Tidbits: Postpartum Planning | Talk Birth

  33. Like most parents, I have personally felt the effects of inadequate sleep at various stages of parenting, and I agree that it can be downright maddening – and probably worst in the first weeks/months of new life, due to frequent waking and physical and emotional post-partum demands/circumstances. And I do admire how some cultures support new moms in various ways (which seem to be catching on in certain circles in our own culture). However, I think it’s very odd, the way you chose to frame the issue of sleep loss during early motherhood – especially the reference to Guantanamo Bay (i.e., intentional torture), which is a very different ball of wax, though some of the effects of sleep deprivation may be similar. And I’m not sure that you should even be *joking* (which I’m not sure you were) about putting mom to sleep with a G&T, which sounds kind of patronizing, not to mention potentially dangerous for those who breastfeed their baby overnight, or sleep with baby. As someone who enjoys the occasional drink, I don’t mean to be a killjoy, but alcohol is probably the very last thing a new mom needs at bedtime (not to mention the fact that it’s a sleep disrupter). This post needs some sober second thought.

  34. A breastfeeding mum has to do the night feeds whether dad is working or not. And breastfeeding is important to baby and mum health. How do we square that circle?

    1. Breastfeeding protects against depression and anxiety. Cosleeping squares the circle, reduces anxiety even more and is easy to do safely. Or partner can bring baby to mum in the night so she barely needs to move.

  35. Thank you so much for doing the research and writing this post. It’s helped me to understand what is going on with me (ppd and anxiety). I shared it to help others understand too. I hop so much our culture’s attitude toward sleep and postnatal care changes.

  36. On top of that, I have my husband telling me that I don’t work. I’ve been sleep deprived for almost 3 years now. My son wakes up every hour or two, and when he doesn’t, I just can’t sleep waiting for him to wake up. I am miserable, it is 11.45am , I just “woke up” and I am already tired.

  37. Its a woman hating society where as a single mother I begged for weeks for support right from G.P to early childhood health nurses, a social worker, and lastly mental health service, when the compounded sleep deprivation and then incompetence by these so called professionals became to much. In turn I was reported to the CPS! and victimised for complaining. Thankfully I had a solid sound advocate on side, when every other system had failed. My last resort was to book myself into hospital with baby in tow and those 4 hours of sleep did wonders. Im irrate when the mothers day catalogues hit my mailbox. Its sickening to think the ‘appreciation’ and acknowledgement mothers receive is via tokenistic garbage we dont need!. BTW I never went on to have any more children but I am in the process of completing my Bachelors in Early Childhood education. When Im done I will study law. Im going to be the change I want to see in the world thanks to a traumatising, dehumanising system stacked against mothers from day one. It is my passion to ensure the abuse I suffered at the hands of ineptitude does not happen to others.

  38. Oh my god yes!!

    Thank you for writing this. I totally agree but would just like to add that society also expects new mothers to enjoy being tortured and to ‘treasure every moment’.

    And then there’s also the torture of breastfeeding which, without proper support to the new mum, can be incredibly nipple-crackingly painful.

    I am so with you! We need to support new mums so much more!!

  39. I was one of the lucky ones – my husband did a lot of the night stuff and had me sleep as much as possible. Obviously he couldn’t breast feed but he did the diapers and dealt with any fussiness.

    He also did a lot of the housework etc when the kids were newborns because he felt my job was nursing and caring for little one that was very dependant on me those first few months. As he could do more for baby he took on those jobs and I picked up other household tasks.

    Very much a partnership where we both respected what the other one was contributing. He’s still a very involved dad who handles all 4 when I am away or working or whatever. The kids all know he’s just as dependable as I am. It made postpartum a lot easier. Sadly not everyone is as lucky as I am.

  40. Husband father here.

    “She isn’t understanding the value, the necessity, of her sleep for her mental health. Neither is the father, or the health visitor, or society in general. Her sleep debt builds, increasing the risk to her mental health.”

    Very true, however mothers don’t understand the value of the sleep at all. If they are not educated before the labor, it will be harder to “convince” them later. And family might suffer big time.

    With my first daughter, I helped as much as I could. Nappies, food, feed, sleep walk etc. changed my work to Parttime. So I spent 2 days on my own with little one.
    Wife went back to Fulltime work after 3 months.
    Wife wasn’t happy as she didn’t have “enough” time with little one.
    On weekend, early mornings took little one for walk, so wife could sleep an extra few hours. No way she would. She was cleaning or doing things around house. Not thinking about her needs.
    With my second lovely daughter, wife said to me that she will stay on leave for 12
    months, as she didn’t enjoy the time with first one. She stayed at home almost 18 months.
    At the beginning, she did not let me to do anything with our new baby girl, no feed, no sleep, nothing. In her eyes/ mind I wasn’t doing anything right. Gradually, I could change napies, feed, bath go out.
    Wife didn’t have ENOUGH sleep. When tried to help with both little girls, she was aggressive towards me which she doesn’t really remembers. She was forgetting things. Didn’t want any help from me. Specially from me.
    She was in her “super mum I can do everything on my own” mode.

    As usually, every male and female future parents, who she read this and should get a bit more educated are not getting this. As they know everything and this cannot happen to them.

    And if anyone wants to know the end of this story, we are getting divorced, as I’m “one lazy father”, who doesn’t help with a rising kids and taking care of the family.

    PS: Forgot to tell about mother-in-law, but that’s another story.

    Rant over.


  41. I myself suffered from Postnatal psychosis after my first son was born. I ended up on medication that was so strong that I’d sleep 14 hours straight every night. My then husband decided he couldn’t get up to feed baby even though he was bottle fed because he had to work the next day. I ended up going to live with my parents for awhile and my mum did the night feeds. I remember feeling so guilty because I couldn’t just do it all.
    Thanks you for this article, it’s made me feel somehow that it wasn’t my fault after all

  42. I honestly don’t understand how you people do it.
    I am from Serbia, a small, economically and politically unstable European country, and yet even here we’ve got it figured way better.
    First of all, moms and dads get a full year of fully paid maternity/paternity leave (they can split it anyway they chose). Second, when you deliver, you can choose whether you want to be in the so-called “baby friendly” accommodation or not. If not, your baby is brought to you every three hours for feeds and cuddles during the day, and you are given a full 8-hours sleep during the night while the nurses take care of the feeds. The average stay in the hospital is 4 days during which you are pampered and catered to. New mothers are encouraged to breastfeed, but nobody judges you if, for whatever reason, you might not want to. When you go home, a state-sponsored nurse visits you every day for a week to help with feeds, changes, baths etc. and to answer any questions you might have. Family members and friends all help in any way they can – usually by preparing meals, going shopping, helping with cleaning etc. New moms are simply expected to feed and bond with the baby. This creates an atmosphere of calmness and relaxedness and I am pretty sure it also contributes to the quality of the baby’s sleep. Babies are expected to sleep through the night by 4 months and most do. For those that don’t (presuming that they’re healthy of course), pediatricians recommend the “crying it out” method, precisely because it brings less damage than a chronically sleep-deprived mother.
    And yet with all this (all the help I have, not having to work, my baby sleeping through the night since he was 2 and a half months old etc), a year in, I too feel kinda crazy, overworked and sleep-deprived. I cannot even begin to imagine what it must feel like under circumstances you are describing.

  43. Thank you so much for this article. I am a new mom myself and while I did not have postpartum depression, I watched someone close to me struggle with this. I think you hit the nail on the head with all the expectations on new mothers. Shortly after giving birth to my baby, my father was making snide comments about my eating habits and losing the baby weight. I had only gone up one dress size. While women should try to be healthy, this is simply the type of pressure we don’t need. My suggestion is to ask for help, demand it if you have to. Don’t worry about being supermom, don’t worry about being judged by your mother-in-law, worry about being sane and being healthy for your baby.

  44. While I agree with the underlying issues, I don’t like that the article assumes that the father is the breadwinner and the mother stays home. Lack of paid maternity leave is a contributing factor to all of the above issues as well. Personally, I was writing appellate briefs to make ends meet when my son was 2 weeks old while I was technically on “maternity leave.” I returned to work when he was a day shy of 6 weeks old, and at 10 months he is still waking hourly to nurse. I work full time and support the household solo. These issues encompass working mothers as well.

  45. These studies hit the nail perfectly on the head. When i came home
    with my daughter it was a sat, there were about 15 people there all family. I did not mind i wanted everyone to see my beautiful baby.After about 2 hours everyone left,except my husband and mother, who promptly put me to bed.Atdinner time some of the fammily came back with dinner, After about 4 more hours I went to bed. THANKFULLY my mother stayed 2 nights with me even though she worked fulltime and still had a teenager at home. I remember asking her questions about everything.THEERE was no internet or what my co-workers had said ohthey come with instructions. The baby woke up about 2 times a night at first.Then she became ill with

  46. Very well written article! Not only does sleep deprivation do all of these things, but it can kill as well. In terms of mental health issues in just a short period of time, this suggests other issues going on, namely a severe hormonal imbalance! Psychosis occurs over a period of time or can occur with a sudden gross imbalance of hormones that goes untreated. Expecting Mothers must learn to take care of themselves prior to conception, during pregnancy, and after giving birth! If proper care isn’t given to the body, and there is a hormonal deficiency to begin with, after the baby depletes the Mother’s body and she gives birth, her body will go into a state of hormonal shock that she may not survive psychologically speaking.

  47. I dealt with post partum depression with three of my kids. Sleep when baby sleeps? Great, when do I get to eat or shower? Sleep when baby sleeps with other children that need looking after? Impossible. I would put my baby down then stagger into the kitchen to make lunch for my toddlers, before I could eat, my baby would be back up. I spent many hours on the floor crying.

  48. I agree with all the above, but also think that the pressure on new mums from health visitors and the various people, both medical and just well meaning, does not help. This is especially true of first time mums. The message should be “find what works best for you, your baby and family” but the message is far from this.

  49. Wow, I have two children, my mom has 5, her mom had 4. In my immediate circle of influence, going back at least 4 generations,I only know of 1 woman who chose not to have any children. Globally, our experience is much the same. We mothers have been sleep deprived since the beginning of time. The things that have changed significantly is that we have automatic washers, dryers, dish washers, vacuum cleaners, pre made food, disposable diapers, etc. etc. etc. Do you see where I am going with this? I certainly empathize with new moms cuz I’ve been there. I know the feeling of thinking I will never get another full nights sleep but I am SOOOO thankful that I had so many more helpful aids that my mom and grandmothers could even have fathomed and all of you new moms have even more than I could have accessed, like paid paternity leave, parent support groups, online parenting information at the push of the buttons on your smart phone etc. etc. If you chose to have a child you chose the blessings and all the challenges that come with it. You are not experiencing anything new or different AND you have it so much easier than generations past. Enjoy and be grateful for the joys and the blessings and put on your big girl panties and deal with the challenges just like every generation before you had to. You are woman, you are strong, you are capable you’ve got this. Just do it!

    1. I think you are missing the part about how through most of human history, people had communities, family, etc, and were not alone in a house, separate from everyone else. I just read The Birth House, and there were women and girls who would tend to births, neighbors who would come in etc. And the women who DIDN’T have that help? They went just as nuts as women today. Lots of times women went to “stay with their mother” when they gave birth, leaving Dad home with the other kids.

      A lot of what we do today they did NOT have to deal with then. You didn’t have clothes to change daily, take your kids to swim practice and hockey. The kids had one or two sets of clothing, maybe not even shoes and socks in the summer. They bathed once a week, if that. They didn’t have tons of dishes, and everyone helped. Little kids did a lot more chores than they do now, and often older kids were kept out of school to help at home, in the garden, fields, barn etc. I know what it was like at my farm relatives’ places… with four people doing the dishes, it goes darn fast… faster than loading and unloading (or dealing with broken) dishwasher.

      But the idea that women didn’t go crazy and sleep deprived in the past? Wrong. They were told they had hysteria, and a wandering uterus. They beat their children, or at least spanked them, when they were short tempered.

      Nowadays we are expected to not need help from our friends (who likely don’t have time to help anyways), and to present a well kept social presence (which our ancestors may have had to do a couple times a week, for church and market), have a home that is as large as many Medieval castles clean and tastefully decorated, Pinterest, and whatnot. Standards have totally changed. You don’t dump your kids outside barefoot with patched clothes anymore like we used to.

      But in any case, telling people to “enjoy, and be grateful and put on your big girl panties” is not helping at all. Just be glad you are able to deal (or to ignore it).

  50. Pingback: The milk of human kindness: A plea to the Women’s Institute | Out of the Chancel

  51. I like the article, but I’m not sure about the focus on having sleep ‘away’ from baby. It was always easier for me to sleep with the baby nearby. A couple of times I took a nap while someone else cared for the baby and just couldn’t sleep. Even heard faint crying where there was none. For me, just staying in bed all day with baby (up only to eat/pee) was a better way to get rest and recover. Difficult with a toddler, but possible with support.

    Anyway, just another perspective. I definitely agree that everyone does better with some support for sleep for a few weeks, whether that be taking the baby, or taking care of the chores so mom can sleep while babe sleeps. 🙂

    1. Hi Tricia
      I absolutely agree with you. I would actually like to change the picture and change the line about bringing baby to mum.I didn’t mean for that impression. Might have to write another blog about co-sleeping.

    2. Hi Tricia, I completely agree with your comment about sleeping more easily with baby nearby. I was only ever able to sleep properly if I knew my daughter was near to me. Maybe my anxiety (& PPD) made me worry too much that I would be needed whilst I slept, or maybe I felt like a failure if I had to give up baby in favour of sleep. Nervous for what it will be like for me when I have a second child and my first also needs lots of attention but I do think camping out in bed with baby and lots of help and support for those first few weeks is what I will be doing! ❤️

  52. I like a lot of this, but hesitate to post it on my FB because of the use of the word psychosis. Psychosis is a mental illness that occurs in approximately 1 in 1,000 deliveries. We are all going insane with a lack of sleep – which is torture, yes. But that doesn’t “give” us psychosis. We may feel crazy, and we may even have horrible intrusive thoughts, but psychosis is an illness where you would need to be admitted as you could be a threat to yourself or others. Postpartum Psychosis is a medical diagnosis.

    Is a voice in your head or the box of Tide telling you to do harm to yourself or your baby? Get ye to a hospital. Now.

    Emilija I think your opinion does not include the experience of many of the mothers posting here. The flippant “mothers should sleep while the baby sleeps” is an insult to those of us who experienced the trauma of breastfeeding every 2 hours for six months and being unsuccessful in finding a way to get a solid 5 hours of sleep in a row for those same 6 months.

    If we slept when the baby slept, like lucky people (usually men) who fall asleep with in 40 seconds because their brain conveniently switches off, we’d still sleep in 2 hours shifts for six months. Does that make an adult healthy enough to tend a baby?

    No, it doesn’t.

    The post here describes the torture of not sleeping and how it can make you crazy. You don’t understand because you didn’t experience this – you can’t sleep. Even in a padded room in a cell you can’t sleep. You have been ill with this lack of sleep. Your body and brain are shutting down. It sounds so obvious – take a nap! We can’t. Our brains don’t turn off and our brains are saying really vivid, screamy things and we are scaring ourselves and working really, really hard to keep it together for everyone else.

    Just curious – did any of you also have the added bonus of your spouse/partner telling you what a shitty job you were doing? And asking how you couldn’t even manage to unload and load the dishwasher all day? Even after hospitalization for postpartum anxiety? Or a relative telling you your baby is an angel and a gift from God and you should just smile and maybe put on some lipstick? Because that can also make someone murderous, psychosis or not.

    P.S. Postpartum Anxiety doesn’t just mean constantly worrying. It can also take the form of constant rage. It took me 6 months to even learn that my anger wasn’t just ANGER at my situation and lack of support (although I look back and still think holy shit what a lack of support I had – no wonder I was mad). I wish the term “postpartum rage” was more popular – then more moms would know it’s a thing they can get help with.

    P.P.S. Ladies let’s try not to blame breastfeeding, bottle feeding, or our cell phones for Chrissake. How is that helping? Do you really think that’s why these mothers experienced this torture? Give us a little more credit than your quick diagnoses which, surprise! blames the mother.

  53. Completely agree! After my own experience with psychosis after days of not resting, I made sure to hire a postpartum doula to get the help I needed so that I lowered my chance of PPD. I also did hypnobabies to lower the risk of harsh interventions during labor. I never had a repeat of my psychosis and had a wonderful, happy memory of my postpartum time. I really wish more moms would take the postpartum time seriously and get help from family or hire help so that they are able to have a happier intro to motherhood. I really think it made a huge impact on my family!

  54. New era gadgets are adding vows to the already deprived mothers. Mothers must be allowed to strictly follow the newly born child’s clock. All gadgets must be shoved off. Husband and family members play a critical part. Counseling (?!) helps

  55. I agree and I have to say that I got my 2 onto a sleep routine early on as I knew I wouldn’t cope without sleep – it was the best thing I ever chose to do as far as my kids are concerned. Of course it doesn’t work for everyone but from 10 weeks old 8 hours of sleep a night -IDEAL. PS I’m still tired all the time but at least I get normal amounts of sleep for 360 days of the year (the others may be sleepless).

  56. Great article, but I would disagree with the not being shown awful images part; we constantly are, but not of violence, what can happen if things go wrong. We also face constant criticism; breastfeed because otherwise you aren’t good enough, bottle feed because otherwise you’re selfish, use a sling, use a pram, stay indoors, take them out, go back to work, stay at home, if you don’t lose the baby weight you’re lazy, if you do lose the weight you’re an exercise freak, on and on. Couple the constant commentary with sleep deprivation and often hunger (as it can be hard to get a balanced diet with a baby) and it’s no wonder women struggle. We’re treated like we’re hated by society in so many ways! We need to show mums more love and care ❤️

  57. I’ve had 4 children and worked full time through all the pregnancies and through the years, just taking off time with mat leave. I believe a new mom has to sleep when the baby sleeps and who cares about the housework, dishes, etc. You’ll get to that when you get to it or get your husband to do that. When you also work out of the home, you just have to go to bed as early as possible. I also found that I woke up an hour before everyone else for several years, just so I could have a coffee, shower and get dressed in peace and save my sanity. I think it worked. Not too many people call me crazy now.

  58. As a new mom back in 1981, I can still remember the sleep deprivation. One warning I haven’t seen mentioned – you may be struck with an irritable impulse to seriously injure your child. If that happens you must retain enough sanity to remove the child from your presence. Separate yourself from the child. It happened to me when my husband was and was out of town and I was alone with my newborn. He would not stop crying unless I picked him up. Being a new mother, I was afraid to put him in bed with me. Around 4 AM I picked him up and wanted to just shake the shit out of him! So I took him downstairs to the den where his bassinet was (and where I couldn’t hear him)
    , tucked him in and went back to bed! I finally got some sleep and he was safe and sound. And he had quit crying! When I got up few hours later he was all smiles. He did not know how close he came to being a rag doll.

  59. jennifer freudenberg

    I was just thinking about this exact thing earlier today. For the first two years of my son’s life, he never slept for more than 3 hours at a time and when he woke up, I would sprint out of bed to get to him so he wouldn’t wake my husband up. (he needed his sleep because he had to go to work the next day) So, other than the occasional fluke, I spent 2 years waking up in a hyper-alert state every 3 hours. Now, my memory is terrible (even 6 years later) and I have a serious case of adrenal burnout… My son finally sleeps through the night (he started to at around 3 years old), but I still don’t.

    1. My memory is terrible too. Our little one is 3 and sleeps in a bed next to our bed. It made for more sleep during the exclusive bf years, but now I’m basically the buffer in case she wakes or is upset and I can settle her so dad can get enough sleep for work. Until you worded your comment like you did, I didn’t really know why my memory has declined. Adrenal burnout. Waking suddenly to sooth baby, now toddler, several times a night for the last almost 4 years. I wonder how I can gain memory function back. Aside from increasing my sleep, I would be interested in ways to better help my brain function.

  60. This is a great blog and I related to so many items you raised – incredibly sleep deprived for the first three days, constant room visits – checks for blood pressure, have you fed your baby? Someone checking on drugs provided, cleaning the floor, food service etc and once visiting hours came there was a well meant stream of visitors taking pictures of Bub. When I had my second one I wanted to go to hospital early so I could sleep and get a full night’s sleep!! My oldest is nearly four now, second one is nearly 18 months and I could confidently say I’ve only had a full night’s sleep for about 10 nights in the past four years. I’m more easily irritated, shorter tempered, which is damaging to relationships. I tend to raise my voice more quickly with kids and then feel guilty. Sometimes the sleep deprivation is self inflicted because when both kids are finally asleep, and you know you should go to bed yourself, you stay up because you can finally do stuff you’ve wanted to get to, or just stay up because it’s the only time you can get to yourself!

  61. Thank you for this! I recently recovered from post natal depression, I’d say I suffered the biggest part of the year! Everything you say I can relate 100% to! Even now, if my little one is ill or I haven’t had a great sleep it triggers my anxiety and I lose focus! Sleep and rest is KEY for new mummies! I had my son at 2.10am by the time I was cleaned up etc I was in the ward at 5am… With crying babies and mothers, my little one was super content but I didn’t have an ounce of sleep…lights then came on at 7am! I had no choice but to get up! Home 2 days later (they were actually sending me out the same day but personally I needed a little more time than 12 hours) home with a new born, a very anxious and over whelmed daddy and 3 days after our little guy was born rushed back into hospital as he had sepsis!! Hospitalised for a week, our world’s ripped apart, and eventually once we did get home my husband had to go back to work, I had people give me all sorts of unwanted advice and the usual “sleep when baby sleeps” yeah that’s hard when I’m breastfeeding, trying to eat, get washed and maintain a house! It’s hard but I’ve survived and I still have my moments! Im also a full time teacher,hard job, exhausting even more so when little one is ill, not sleeping or teething! AND we only get maternity pay for 13 weeks!! Another stress factor! Thank you again for this! I think more people need to read it AND it would be nice if it could change in hospitals to allow more rest before we are pushed out the door!❤

  62. As someone who works in a postnatal ward – this is not possible. “Baby friendly” means baby spends all of the time with mom. So mom can see the feeding queues, which baby gives and so breastfeeding can be established well. If baby is exclusively breastfed, dad can’t help much. I’ve seen many times partners trying to comfort a crying baby, while mom is sleeping. Baby doesn’t stop crying until he gets the breast. So if we’re promoting the exclusive breastfeeding (which NHS is really on about at the moment), mom has to sleep WHILE THE BABY IS SLEEPING. It’s up to them to minimise the time their visitors spend with them. Busy postnatal wards will remain busy, unless there’s a change in funding. If mom wants a room with a door, they will have to go private. So, even though I truly like the concept of pampering moms and allowing them lots of rest, in the end of the day, baby comes first..:)

    1. There’s really no alternative to keeping women awake for days after giving birth, continuously? It’s one thing being at home with a newborn sleeping an hour here an hour there, it’s another thing to not sleep even for a moment for three days.

      Rooming in on shared wards is madness. Obviously there’s no space for private rooms, but in that case, the wards should have quiet hours–with the baby elsewhere. Not all night long, say the postpartum ward is silent from 11-2, then all the babies get nursed, and then the mothers sleep again from 3-6. It’s enough to prevent women from getting so tired that they develop psychosis, or faint, or drop the baby.

      Doing it that way shouldn’t interfere with breastfeeding, but if it does? A little formula is going to do a lot less harm to a baby than a mother with severe mental illness. You say baby comes first, but what babies need most are capable parents!

      1. Wrong. You NEVER give a breastfed baby formula until well established, if ever. I would never want my child looked after by a nurse. How could you possibly feed all babies at the same time, when all are on different schedules and have different needs?

      2. For proper breastfeeding to be established yes a drop of formula will hurt especially the newborns gut, help at home for when bubs sleeps and mother can sleep is what is more important

      3. Oh yes, there is an alternative. It’s called going home.

        I realise there are some mothers who have to stay in hospital if something has gone wrong during labour, either of treatment or just for observation. But for a routine birth you should be able to go home within hours, if you were ever in hospital at all.

    2. One more reason I am so very happy we formula fed. We switched nights not to mention I was able to leave the house for hours at the time when I had severe post partum depression. Those hours saved my life.

    3. That is pretty awful and shame-y, emilija. You know what really hurts babies? Severely depressed moms! Yuuuup, I’d think you’d know that if you were so into this mom and baby thing? Women who become too sick can even lead to the deaths of their babies. How is that helpful? Of course mom should breastfeed, but then we put baby in a cradle across the room and make her get up to get him. Or we send her home without any help and force her to cook, clean and do everything else while trying to recover and taking care of a newborn which she’s never done before. This is new, very new, bullshit we’ve done where women are just supposed to pretend the whole post-natal period doesn’t exist and come out on the other side with a well-fed, well-behaved child and their pre-baby body.

      I’m sorry that your ward is so busy. I’m not in England but that all seems to backward that you all just ignore your patient’s well being like that in any part of the hospital. We work with people in what’s called a Birthing Center. It’s nice, quiet and peaceful place for mom and baby to bond without obnoxious people barging in like they don’t have any sense.

    4. The article says partners should put mom to bed sometimes and bring her the baby when he needs feeding. The baby’s needs can still be looked after with a breastfeeding mom getting some sleep. They don’t need to nurse every second of the day…. I don’t see why you are completely dismissing the importance of what this article is saying.

    5. You are right that is best for baby to be with Mom at all times, but private rooms are a must for everyone. In Canada, most get them. Could you sleep if I put 3 Moms and their babies in your bedroom tonight?

      1. Agree. I had my son in an nhs birth centre, they have private rooms and it’s a really dignified place to have a baby. My son and husband slept all night! I didn’t, too many hormones in my system I think but at least I could doze and wasn’t disturbed. With my first son our first night was a busy ward it was horrible, I got no sleep and no one even told me where the toilets were. The women on that ward were desperate, it was horrible. Made worse by the fact that I should have been at home hut they’d been too busy to discharge me that evening. This country is messed up how it treats mothers of small children and babies, maybe all mothers not for want of trying by excellent midwives and maternity staff

    6. I absolutely disagree with what you have said. I exclusively breastfed both my children and when my husband was home (which he was not a lot with the second due to working out of state) all I had to do was nurse and pass back out. He dealt with changing the diapers and rocking the baby if he/she needed it.
      When you have more than one kid and the older doesn’t nap, it is absolutely impossible
      To sleep when the baby sleeps unless you want a CPS call.
      As a mental health counselor I also disagree. The baby must have their basic needs met of course, but if mom is slipping away into PPD or worse she is not able to take care of the baby at all.
      We need new standards of care for women in our culture. That is the point of this article. Not starving a baby bc they need to eat and moms are the only people that can do it. That is obviously true and I am a huge advocate of breastfeeding, but not at the risk of moms health because attachment disorders (created in the first year of life) are much more harmful than formula.
      I don’t mean to sound angry or rude but as someone who has suffered from PPD, not feeling like a good enough parent and severe lack of sleep it is frustrating and almost hurtful to see someone say oops sorry there is nothing anyone can do and moms need to deal. At least that’s how I interpreted it

    7. I regret prioritizing breastmilk over sleep. I nursed each of my kids for 14-18 months, almost exclusively. But I wish I had had the frame of mind to get some sleep after my first child’s birth. After 2 sleepless nights in labor, the third night the nurses were concerned that my baby had not yet nursed and I was dead set against my baby having any formula before nursing was established. So I stayed up just about all night – again- and tried to nurse a baby who just wouldnt wake up enough to latch. I did that because nurses were threatening formula. I regret that decision. Sleep matters. Mothers matter. I wish the nurses had asked me if I had slept at all when they peeked in my room to remind me to nurse during the night instead of just being concerned about the baby. Obviously, all I was concerned about was the baby but somebody around me at the hospital could have and should have cared about me, too. the mom. I didn’t have the frame of mind to care for myself at the time. It was a tough start to motherhood- and surely not the best start for my baby, either, to have a sleep deprived, anxious mom.

    8. The hospital I was in still had a nursery. The baby could stay in your room or in the nursery at any time. I remember waking up in the middle of the night the first night and walking to the nursery. My daughter wasn’t there. I asked the nurses where she was and they said she is with the nurses at the nurses station down the hall. My baby just didn’t like to sleep alone and was crying the nurses had already fed her. She would bust out of the swaddled blanket and everything. So your point from 2 years ago is new baby comes first and new mom comes dead last .. ….I’m glad I wasn’t at your hospital.

  63. sewblockwardenmiss

    Can you cite your sources for “Almost all non-westernised cultures have a ritual similar to this, which lasts about 40 days”

    1. hi Michelle,
      Brazelton talks about it, Yvonne Lefèber, and Voorhoeve also mention the 40 day pattern (in their book Indigenous Customs in Childbirth and Child Care)
      I know that Hispanic cultures, Asian cultures,including Japanese and Malaysian,Indian, all have rituals and beliefs that serve to make sure mum rests for about 6 weeks. They all include keeping mother and baby together, while others take care of the rest. If any-one knows of any specific references, I’d be grateful.

    2. I can attest that in Chinese culture it’s imperative for new mothers to “nest” for a month, called “sitting the month” (坐月子), during which time she does nothing but stay in bed with the baby and is secluded from visitors and the elements (she’s not even supposed to bathe in case she catches a chill). Rich, marrow-based soups are made for her to help recover from labour and heal its associated injuries, and meals are served to her in bed. This is great if you happen to give birth in the fall or winter, but sucks when it’s, say, July.

  64. So true! I took all the night feeds because my husband went back to work a few days after my son was born. I was also breastfeeding so I had all the feeds anyway. I was very fortunate to have my mom and my mother-in-law both spend a week with us. They did the cooking and cleaning but I didn’t take complete advantage of the sleep I could’ve had while they were there. I went back to work when my son was 10 weeks old. Still doing all the night feeds by myself, getting our son ready in the morning, making dinner when I got home from work. I was exhausted. When he was 12 weeks I dropped him of at daycare and was on my way to work. I was less than a minute away from my office when I fell asleep at the wheel. Luckily I did not hit any other cars but I slammed into a telephone pole and totaled my car. After that accident my husband and I realized how vital it was for me to get more sleep. He helped out a bit more at night (even with me nursing) and we came up with a better plan. My son still woke up every 3ish hours until he was around 16 months old. And still woke up 1-2 times a night until he was 22 months old when I night weaned him due to being pregnant again.
    It is so important for us to help new moms out!

  65. My first four days of my baby’s life I had next to no sleep due to the sounds and lights of the hospital.. once I remember finally getting asleep and then having loud nurses bring in another lady and throw things around. I cried and never did get to sleep. I had a c-section and needed 6 weeks recovery. My husband tried to take a month off using vacation time but his work refused to give him more than 2 weeks. My mother was doing school, my mother in law worked, and everyone else was busy. I just sucked it up and did it as I didnt want to complain.. it was very hard to be hurting and so very tired. And yes “sleeping when baby sleeps” wasnt helpful.. and then as months go by I found people saying “why are you napping instead of cleaning? You should be getting your work done when baby is sleeping.”

  66. Oh, gosh. I remember those days. It is so hard. I’d had a sleepless pregnancy. My son never slept more than 2 hours at a time…. and when my son was 8 months old, I found out my husband was going to be transferred overseas. That was when I threw my hands up in the air and decided I could not do this anymore. I found a sleep doula with thousands of hours working with moms who taught their babies to sleep. It completely changed my motherhood experience. I went from surviving, to thriving. I wasn’t overwhelmed anymore. I wasn’t disoriented anymore. It was life changing. What I really noticed in other sleepless moms now is the stress of a baby crying. No one likes to hear a baby cry. But, it is infinitely worse when you have not slept. Sleepless moms have have an inability to cope, think beyond the next 3 minutes. And they are constantly bombarded with other peoples judgements and opinions.

  67. Pingback: Om psykisk ohälsa bland gravida och mammor | MammaMage

  68. “Let’s stop ignoring the problem of expecting new mums to get back to normal.”
    I agree wholeheartedly and, as an NHS midwife, I spend a lot of my time encouraging families to treat the early days as a time to suspend the hectic pace of normal life and nurture not only the baby but the mother and, indeed, the whole family relationship. I do find your choice of photo unfortunate – I’d have preferred something less glamorous and more realistic.

  69. The expectations about new mothers used to be different. The “month nurse” used to be employed to help look after the baby during the first 4-6 weeks. This was standard even in lower middle class households, right up till the 1950s. In working class families, a female relative would have to do this for free. But now, no one has a month nurse.

  70. I fell into this exact trap! 24 ours in labour followed by a month of sleeping maximum 3 separated hours of sleep in any 24 hours for a month and I ended up dong weird things, reacting in weird ways and eventually biting my partner’s finger in a conspiracy hallucination and 3 months in mental hospital. He’s never contacted me, hasn’t asked how I was or even inquired through friends…very sad and I wish we’d known about the condition because we both knew something was wrong with me but never heard of postpartum psychosis.

  71. I totally agree! After my first baby I didn’t sleep properly until I was pretty much awake for 22 hours and ended up becoming very I’ll with post natal psychosis. After the births of my other two children, I did all I could to prevent becoming so I’ll again and both times booked myself into mother and baby units in psychiatric hospital rather than being sectioned as I was the first time. During both voluntary stays in hospital, I made it very clear I needed to get several hours sleep in the first week or so, had sleeping tablets to switch off my extremely active brain and my babies were looked after by nurses. I just wish all new mothers were given the chance of good sleep post natally.

  72. It’s not just new mothers- toddlers are also the cause of serious sleep deprivation, as I am living with at the moment- up for about 3 hours every night for the last 3 months, plus the added ‘bonus’ of being at work full time- an added extra I did not thankfully have to deal with with a newborn. I’ve been to the GP who told me ‘maybe I should try to speak to another GP who has children, or the health visitor’. The health visitor is not returning my calls. Sleep deprivation is definitely not taken seriously enough.

    1. Louise that sounds awful.your toddler might be sleep deprived too, which can cause symptoms that mimic ADHD and hyperactivity. Try another GP or find a private sleep deserve better.

    2. A sleep consultant can help you so much. I hired Baby Sleep Well and she’s still there for my family. She can get your toddler sleeping well in a matter of weeks. Worth considering. I’m only saying this because I saw your comment and want to help every mom to get good sleep.

    3. I know how you feel, so you definitely have my sympathy. Currently on night three with a teething 16 month old where he has woken up screaming for long intervals where nothing seems to help. Like you I am working too, can you call it working if you are zombie like and slurring/mixing up words because you are that tired!! My boy has only slept through twice in 16 months so just existing, I can fall asleep, but can’t stay asleep. I am the only one who has ever got up with him too. I end up being a permanently grumpy mum because I am so tired. I sometimes feel I could collapse I am so tired.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *