My Struggle with Postpartum Insomnia and Anxiety

You may have heard that many new moms experience postpartum insomnia. It’s not hard to imagine
that it’s a common issue with the constant waking of the newborn and the crazy life transition.
However, there is a difference between some difficulty getting enough sleep and a true health issue.
Postpartum insomnia really hit me hard. It became much more than just sleep issues. It became a very
serious mental health issue that I need professional help to cope with. Here is my story:
My lack of sleep started with the same struggles all new moms face. At first, she woke up every 2-3
hours to breastfeed. I heard her stirring so I'd wake up, feed her, and put her back to sleep. By the time
she went back to sleep, I was wide awake. It would take me about an hour to get myself back to sleep,
only to be woken up an hour after that to feed again. This went on for the first three months.
For those first three months she slept in a co-sleeper next to me. This made my life so much easier
because I could see her and hear her before she became an inconsolable screaming mess. This kept our
bedroom quite peaceful for us all. My husband and daughter got lots of relaxation. I was the only one
missing out.
Finally, my daughter got to the point where she only woke up once each night to eat. This meant that I
could get a good 6 hour stretch of uninterrupted sleep… in theory. In actuality, I was sleeping even
worse. Why?
Well, by this time my daughter outgrew the co-sleeper. We transitioned her to her crib. Even though she
was still in our bedroom with us, she was at the other end of the room. Now I was up all night because I
grew anxious that she would stop breathing or roll herself into a corner and suffocate somehow. I
couldn't see her from my bed. All it took was the sound of a shuffle from her crib and I'd be up checking
on her and wide awake. Again, she and my husband got so much rest and I was losing my mind from lack
of sleep. This time I was lucky if I was getting even 3 hours of sleep in total. When I did sleep, I often
dreamt about dangerous things happening to my daughter (like drowning in the tub or falling down the
stairs). These terrible thoughts became obsessive and intrusive in every part of my life, but especially at
I spent a lot of my days so physically exhausted that it was often hard to concentrate at my classes. I also
got pounding headaches and body aches. I felt like I was barely functioning. Something seriously had to
I started to see a therapist to discuss these fears that my daughter was going to get seriously hurt to the
point of death. She helped me realize that of course it was an underlying fear that I would screw up as a
mother. But she also helped me realize how I could sleep much better at night. The solution was pretty
clear. I just didn’t want to admit it… I needed to sleep with her next to me again. So we took off one side
of the rails on her crib and connected her mattress with mine. It was our new way to co-sleep.
So now we permanently co-sleep. I know. I know. I hear all the time about how I'm going to spoil and
ruin my daughter, and how it's going to make it hard for her to be self-sufficient and independent. I get
it. However, I have to respectfully disagree and explain why co-sleeping is the reason why I have been
able to beat the postpartum insomnia that was damaging my life.

I know that the threat that I imagine in my head may forever be imaginary, but in the middle of the
night, when she's so far from me, it seems very real and that instinctual, primal fear is enough to keep
me wide awake. When she is close to me I feel like I can protect her from all kinds of dangers and I sleep
so much better. Again, I know that it’s silly but at 3am it doesn’t feel silly. Ever since we moved her bed
right next to mine I have slept through the night. (Also, she’s 2 years old now and incredibly
independent and well-adjusted so ::sticks tongue out to all the mean mom shamers::)
To sum it up, many moms experience postpartum insomnia. I'm sure that there are lots of remedies out
there that could work for you. For me, talking it out with a therapist and co-sleeping have been a life-
changer. I get to fall into a deep peaceful sleep and get the full 8 hours. I finally wake up feeling
refreshed and functional. Sure, she's still little so the jury is out on whether it'll ruin her as an adult, but I
guess we'll just wait and see.
I have also had a second baby and I didn’t have the same insomnia issues. (This time I had serious
postpartum depression though. More on that some other time.)
Remember that 85% of mothers experience postpartum mood disorders. It is totally normal to struggle
after a new baby. If you are struggling with postpartum insomnia, please talk to your doctor or another
trusted provider immediately. Lack of sleep could easily lead to a variety of dangerous situations when
you are alone with your baby.
Wishing you lovely nights of sleep,