As exciting as pregnancy can be, it’s also full of quite a few aches and pains — none more well-known than labor and delivery.
No matter how you deliver your baby, you should be proud that you made it through 9 months of physical changes and made a little human!
But if you deliver by a cesarean section — also known as a C-section — your postpartum recovery may require a few extra precautions. These measures help ensure you heal properly and are back on your feet, keeping up with your new bundle of joy. That includes getting safe, good quality sleep.
To say that the first few weeks post-delivery are chaotic is a bit of an understatement.
In addition to healing from your C-section, you also need to care for a tiny human who’s completely reliant on you.
So, getting adequate sleep is essential. When you’re properly rested, you’re more alert and able to properly care for your baby and yourself. Likewise, when you’re resting, energy is allocated toward healing your body.
You should get as much rest as possible, especially in the first few weeks after a C-section. Adages that recommend sleeping when your baby sleeps or asking friends and family to step in so you can rest are great ways to ease the burden in the early days.
During the early days with a newborn, it can be hard to rest as much as you would like.
The most obvious cause is that you’re adjusting to the needs of a tiny human who sleeps for anywhere from 30 minutes to 2 hours at a stretch. This also includes frequent wakings at night for feedings.
But another reason why sleeping can be difficult is that you’re healing from the procedure.
While some people believe that C-sections are just an everyday procedure, that’s not really the case. It’s a major surgery —
Considering that the surgery involves an incision over the abdomen, it can be hard to find a comfortable position that doesn’t place unnecessary pressure on your healing wound. Likewise, it’s not uncommon to feel discomfort at the incision site for a while, which can make it difficult to fall or stay asleep.
With that in mind, you might want to consider a few different sleeping positions that will help reduce pressure on your incision and make it easier to fall asleep.
While back sleeping isn’t recommended once you’re more than 20 weeks pregnant, this position is recommended for those recovering from surgery. It places the least amount of strain and pressure on your incision site and ensures that your body is aligned in a neutral position.
If you need to elevate your legs or make this position more comfortable, it’s OK to add a body pillow or tightly rolled blanket or towel under your knees or arms.
However, with this position, you’ll want to be mindful of how you get out of bed. Rather than sitting upright, use the three-step “log roll” method:
- Before you move your legs off the bed, fully roll onto your side with your knees bent.
- Using your arms, slowly push your body into a sitting position — being sure to keep your abdomen relaxed as you move.
- Make sure you’re in a fully upright seated position before you stand up.
You’ll also want to use the log roll method in reverse to lie down on the bed.
In this scenario, you’re using enough supportive pillows to give yourself a
Although this might be an unusual position if you don’t typically sleep this way, you may find that it’s relatively comfortable during your recovery period.
Additionally, it’s not uncommon to experience obstructive sleep apnea postpartum, but those who’ve undergone a C-section are more likely to develop this condition.
Sleeping at an incline can reduce pressure on your incision and ensure that your airway is open and unobstructed.
If you’ve ever stayed up bingeing your favorite shows, you’ve probably fallen asleep in an upright seated position at least once.
This position — while maybe not as cozy as being snuggled up in your bed — is another great option that can also be incredibly practical in the early days.
Be sure to invest in some supportive pillows to make upright sleeping as comfortable as possible. Especially if you’re breastfeeding, sleeping upright makes it easier to feed your little one during those multiple nightly feedings.
Upright sleeping isn’t a long-term solution though, as most people can transition back to the bed around 2 weeks after delivery.
For some people, right after back sleeping, side sleeping is the second most comfortable position.
For people recovering from abdominal surgery, it’s a great option since it doesn’t put additional pressure on your incision, and makes getting in and out of bed easier.
Specifically, you should focus on sleeping on your left side since this gives you optimal blood flow and also makes digestion easier.
You may need a body pillow or other supportive aids to get comfortable and provide proper support for your abdomen and hips.
Getting a good night’s rest can be hard for many people — not just new parents.
But adding in the stress of caring for a newborn while also healing from major surgery can make getting adequate sleep an elusive goal. Still, there are a few tips that can make it easier to sleep at night.
If you have a partner, put them on night duty
Parenting in the early days can feel like you’re running a marathon. It’s OK to have your partner — or a helpful relative — take over some tasks so you can rest.
If you’re breastfeeding, have them change the baby and bring them in for a feed. You can also ask for help turning on your side, or getting up to use the bathroom.
If you’re not breastfeeding, have them manage the overnight feedings so you can sleep. This is especially important in the early days when you’re still healing and getting into the groove of things.
Avoid screen time before bed
This is a rule that everyone should follow, not just new parents.
The screens on your electronics such as tablets and smartphones emit what’s known as blue light. This light can trick your brain into reducing melatonin production, and keep you wide awake as a result.
Create a relaxing sleep environment
This can be easier said than done if you currently have your new bundle of joy snoozing in your bedroom in a nearby bassinet. But the goal is to create a room that feels relaxing and encourages you to unwind.
Ideally, make sure that it’s not too hot in your room, and that it’s sufficiently dark to encourage you to fall asleep.
If pain is keeping you up
Don’t be afraid to talk with your physician if incision pain is keeping you up at night.
If the pain is more intense than an over-the-counter medication like ibuprofen can manage, your doctor can prescribe a safe pain medication — even if you’re breastfeeding.
Invest in supportive pillows
If you used a pregnancy pillow, now is a great time to keep getting your money’s worth out of it.
A supportive pillow can help to ease pressure points and make it easier for you to get rest without dealing with unnecessary aches and pains.
No late-night munching and caffeine
This is another tip that’s relevant for everyone, not just those who are in postpartum recovery.
Eating heavy snacks or meals later in the evening, or drinking caffeinated drinks, can keep you up when you’re ready for bed. Avoid heavy meals or caffeinated drinks at least 2 hours before you plan on sleeping.
Recovering from a C-section requires that you give yourself space and time needed to heal properly.
This also means that some activities and behaviors may need to be avoided or adjusted until you’re at least 6 weeks postpartum, you’re fully healed, or your doctor has confirmed it’s OK to do so.
- stomach sleeping
- lifting anything heavier than your baby
- using tampons or douches until cleared by your doctor
- taking baths until the incision has healed and postpartum bleeding has stopped
- having sex until cleared by a doctor
- soaking in public pools or hot tubs
- engaging in rigorous workouts or core muscle exercises until cleared by a doctor
- frequently using the stairs
Having a C-section simply means you had a little help delivering your baby.
While it may be a common procedure, you do need to follow aftercare instructions and modify your routine to heal properly during the recovery period.
Thankfully, there are a few sleep positions that can make catching 40 winks easier to do, even when you’re recovering from a C-section.