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“But She Needs Her Sleep”

July 2020

One of the most common responses by hospital postpartum staff to the initiation of rooming-in (keeping the birthing parent and newborn together in the same room 24 hours a day during their hospital stay) is often something like, “But she needs her sleep.”  Postpartum fatigue in the literature was reviewed by Mathew et al (1) in 2018, where they found that Postpartum fatigue (PPF) is, “commonly experienced but not well understood,” (1).


PPF did not seem to be influenced by parity but lack of sleep, fatigue, and tiredness affected PPF and the amount of infant crying. PPF is defined as “a combination of exhaustion and feeling overwhelmed which leads to diminished functioning” and is routinely worse during the first four-to-six weeks following birth. (1)

Interestingly, this literature review found that most of the studies to lessen or prevent postpartum fatigue were conducted outside of the United States where greater support is available to new mothers. There is a dearth of studies that identify strategies utilized in the US. Globally, social support from family, friends, and older children play an important role in decreasing PPM, as do the uses of aromatherapy, chamomile and lavender tea, exercise programs, massage, warm showers, self-care management techniques, and social support groups. (1) In addition, Baumgartel and Facco (2018) found that the use of bright light therapy, relaxation guided imagery, and progressive muscle relaxation helped in decreasing PPF.

What do you find in your support of the newly postpartum family? Is postpartum fatigue prevalent in your area? What resources are available for new families and how easily and equitably are these resources accessed?

Thanks for all you do to support, promote, and protect breastfeeding, and for your Baby-friendly Hospital Initiative work. Stay safe during this COVID-19 time.

Kathy Parkes, MSN-Ed, RN, IBCLC, FILCA CHC

Professional Development Educator

This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

1. Mathew, L., Phillips, K.F., and Sandanapitchai, P. (2018). Interventions to reduce postpartum fatigue: An integrative review of the literature. Global J of Health Science & Nursing; 1: 113-119. https://pdfs.semanticscholar.org/decc/05c75dd04614e39f95f6887cafdad83717f1.pdf 
2. Baumgartel, K.L. and Facco, F. (2018). An integrative review of the sleep experiences of mothers of hospitalized preterm infants. Nurs Womens Health; 22(4): 310-326. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6157631/

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