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How to Get Better Sleep After Giving Birth: The Ideal Postpartum Sleep Position

How to Get Better Sleep After Giving Birth: The Ideal Postpartum Sleep Position

Guest Post By Genevieve Kane, MSN, RN

After delivering your baby, you may struggle to sleep and get into a comfortable position. Here are some tips for getting better sleep after giving birth and ideal postpartum sleep positions to consider.

 During pregnancy, there are several recommendations to follow surrounding sleep. For example, you were probably told to sleep on your side and to avoid sleeping on your back. You may have also been told to use a pillow between your legs and other suggestions for comfort.

Sleep during pregnancy can be challenging for many mothers. You may feel uncomfortable, swollen, or achy. However, once the baby is born, many moms wonder how to get better sleep after giving birth. To help you feel rested, we’ll share the ideal postpartum sleep positions and a few other tips to help you get the best sleep possible after delivery!

How to Get Better Sleep After Giving Birth

How to Get Better Sleep After Giving Birth: The Ideal Postpartum Sleep Position 

Pregnancy and delivery is a lot of work! As exhausting as pregnancy and delivery can be, you have a new little bundle to care for after delivery. Getting good rest and sleep is essential to aid your postpartum recovery and have the energy to look after your baby.

However, the ideal postpartum sleep position may differ depending on how you delivered your baby. For example, if you delivered via a cesarean section or c-section, you may find a side-lying position most comfortable.

A C-section is major surgery, and lying on your side can make it easier to get up and move around. Side-lying also avoids any significant pressure on your incision.

Alternatively, you may be excited to be able to sleep on your back again finally! The American College of Obstetrics and Gynecology (ACOG) explains how it’s recommended that women avoid back sleeping later in pregnancy. This is because sleeping on your back can place pressure on important blood vessels, potentially reducing blood flow to the uterus.

Regardless of how you gave birth to your baby, if you missed sleeping on your back, it is an option again after delivery. However, just be aware that if you had a C-section or have a sore abdomen after delivery, you will likely find that turning to your side first and then using your arms to raise yourself up slowly makes getting out of bed easier.

So, whether you sleep on your back or side postpartum, the key is to be gentle with yourself and how you get up.

Sleeping on Your Stomach Postpartum

While pregnant, your bump probably made tummy sleeping uncomfortable and impractical. Now that you’ve delivered, it may be tempting to consider sleeping on your stomach as the ideal postpartum sleep position. 

Some moms can comfortably sleep on their stomachs before long. If you’re a stomach sleeper and missed being able to sleep this way, you may get better sleep after giving birth by sleeping on your stomach. 

However, stomach sleeping can be less than ideal for several reasons. For example, if you had a C-section, you’ll want to avoid stomach sleeping since it can put pressure on the incision. Additionally, if you are breastfeeding or pumping, you’ll probably find stomach sleeping uncomfortable once your milk comes in.  

How to Get Better Sleep After Giving Birth

Sleep Positions and Obstructive Sleep Apnea

Another sleep consideration is whether or not you have obstructive sleep apnea (OSA). One study describes how pregnant individuals are at risk of OSA and that OSA may continue postpartum. And a subsequent study demonstrated a possible connection between OSA and depression.

If OSA is something you have, positioning yourself at a 45° angle may help. In a study examining sleep position and OSA, half of the postpartum patients were successfully treated with positioning alone. Talk with your healthcare provider about the best treatment options and sleep positions for your individual needs so that you can get a good night’s rest.

Additional Tips for Better Sleep After Giving Birth

There are many reasons for sleep disruption after giving birth. Common barriers to good sleep can include:

  • Baby frequently wakes overnight
  • A fussy baby who makes it hard to rest during the day
  • Pain and soreness after delivery
  • Pumping schedules
  • Engorgement and breast pain

Fortunately, there are several measures you can take to help yourself get a restful night’s sleep. One of the main ways to get additional sleep is to ask for and accept help. This can look different depending on your situation. For many, it can mean friends and family bringing food and other necessities and your partner taking shifts with you for baby duty.

Even if your partner or support person can’t take over for long periods overnight due to work schedules or other conflicts, there might be a different time during the day or evening hours that they can take over so you can get better sleep after giving birth.

Additionally, taking pain medication as prescribed or recommended by your healthcare provider can help keep your pain levels manageable so you can sleep. Lactation consultants are also an excellent resource for questions about pumping, breastfeeding, sore nipples, engorgement, and other challenges you may face that interfere with sleep.

Many individuals who slept with a pregnancy pillow during pregnancy find that their ideal postpartum sleep position still includes support from their pregnancy pillow. It takes several weeks for the uterus to shrink back down in size, and you may still want the extra support for a while post-delivery.

Other tips include using other pillows for support, keeping the room cool, and changing sheets and clothes as needed. You may sweat more postpartum, and having extra breathable clothes nearby can be helpful.

Lastly, having everything you need at the bedside can provide comfort and help you sleep better after birth. For example, consider keeping the following items nearby and within arm's reach on a cart or shelf:

  • Nursing pads
  • Extra pads and disposable underwear
  • Ready-to-feed formula bottles and nipples
  • Snacks
  • Water bottle
  • Diapers
  • Wipes
  • Diaper paste
  • Nasal aspirator, like the NozeBot
  • Thermometer
  • Pain medications if safe to do so (i.e., no other young children in the home)

 By keeping these items nearby, you’ll limit how much you need to get up and move around overnight or during rest times. So if your sleep is disturbed, hopefully, you can fall back to sleep faster. Self-care after delivery is essential, and adequate sleep is a big part of caring for yourself.

The Ideal Postpartum Sleep Position

Looking for more tips on caring for yourself postpartum? You’ll find these helpful:

Key Takeaways

Delivering a baby is an exciting and overwhelming time! Remember to follow any specific recovery instructions your healthcare provider gives you about the ideal postpartum sleep position, recovery, and aftercare. There’s a reason the postpartum period is also known as the 4th trimester! 

It is important to listen to your body, fuel it with healthy foods, hydrate it, and do your best to get some sleep after giving birth — we know this is easier said than done! Also, reach out to your healthcare provider with questions or concerns.

Know that you did an incredible job growing and delivering your little one. We hope these pointers on the ideal postpartum sleep positions and other sleep tips help you get better sleep after giving birth.

Genevieve Kane, MSN, RN, is a mother of four and a registered nurse with a background in pediatrics. When she's not working, you can find her cooking up tasty family dinners or keeping up with her kids on a hiking trail in her home state of Colorado.

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