My first c-section wasn’t planned, so I was thoroughly unprepared when we got home from the hospital.
And to be honest? Those first couple of days at home without the help of a nurse and a remote-controlled hospital bed were really rough for me.
I learned so much from painful trial and error after my first c-section, and I’d love to share some sleeping tips for other new moms out there. By my third baby, I had absolutely no fear and knew what to do, and I want that for you, too!
Whether you’re preparing for your first c-section, or you just had it and are terrified about sleeping at home tonight, here are 10 tips to help you rest easy.
Planned vs Emergency C-Section Expectations
My first c-section was an emergency – it all happened in a whirlwind after my daughter’s heart rate kept dropping during labor.
It was incredibly traumatic, not only for me but for my husband. I was shivering uncontrollably by the time they rushed me off to the OR, and they had to move so quickly that my husband wasn’t even there when he should’ve been.
Because of that experience, we decided to plan the next two to avoid more potential traumatic birthing experiences.
For me, the recovery after an emergency c-section was SO much more painful and difficult than the planned ones. This may just be my experience, but it was honestly night and day.
Perhaps it’s because the emergency c-section is rushed and is harder on your body, but I think it helps to manage your expectations. If you just had an emergency c-section, give yourself extra grace and time to get back to normal.
And if your c-section is planned, you still need lots of recovery, but I think you’ll start feeling a lot better – and experience better sleep – a bit sooner.
In my experience, it took me 3-4 weeks to start feeling a bit more normal after the emergency c-section, and I felt pretty darn good after about a week with the planned c-sections. Everyone’s experience varies, so if you have some experience to draw on, please leave a comment at the end of this article!
1. Get an electronic glider or recliner
This is the most important sleep tip of everything I’m going to mention here. It’s the only reason I was able to sleep comfortably for the first two weeks after my first emergency c-section.
The electronic glider. The exact one I have is from Babyletto.
You plug it into the wall, and you can press a button to recline back and you press another one to come back up again. It mimics the hospital bed, essentially.
I didn’t realize how much I relied on the hospital bed’s functionality until we got home and I tried to sit up to get my baby in the middle of the night.
The scream I SCRUMPT!!
There is no way I would’ve been able to take care of my newborn at all hours of the night without the help of that electronic glider.
I used it after all three of my c-sections, and it transitioned beautifully into a nursing chair after I didn’t need it for sleeping any longer.
2. Sleep on your back
I didn’t actually think much about sleeping on my stomach or side since I slept in the glider for the first few weeks. (And the only position to sleep in is on your back.)
But you definitely can’t sleep on your stomach, and sleeping on your side would be pretty painful, too.
So that’s just something to keep in mind.
3. Use that abdominal binder
The hospital will send you home with at least one abdominal binder that you wrap around your stomach pretty tightly.
It definitely helped me with pain management, and supposedly, they help support your organs and muscles as everything gets back into place after the birth. It’s probably psychological, but I felt like it was holding me in, and that mixed with the slight pain relief made it a little easier to sleep.
I thought the hospital’s version was just fine, but some moms swear by the Belly Bandit.
4. Don’t skip any pain medications
One of the more difficult parts of sleeping comfortably after a c-section is managing the pain. Your doctor will send you home with several prescriptions, and I wouldn’t recommend skipping any doses, especially in the first few days.
Even when I thought my pain was going away, if I skipped a medication, the pain would come barreling back a few hours later, and much worse than before. Plus, each time I breastfed, I would get more contractions, which just added to the discomfort.
Stay on top of your prescriptions to ensure your pain is managed and the inflammation stays under control.
5. Don’t sit straight up when getting baby to nurse
If only you could truly recover and get a good night’s sleep after a c-section! But no – we’re up every 2-3 hours feeding our newborns.
If your hubby doesn’t offer, ask him to get up and hand you the baby each time they wake up to nurse, especially in those first few days at home.
After that, or if you don’t have that kind of support, avoid sitting straight up. Your core is basically jello right now and you will be in a world of hurt if you try to engage it.
While I used my electronic glider to get myself into a seated position, you can also get creative if you’re in bed. I would do a rolling maneuver so that I could kind of slide off the edge of the bed and I didn’t rely on my abs to get up. #momlife
Just be super-mindful of how delicate your stomach area is when you need to get up.
6. Consider a bedrest pillow or bed wedge
So this is something I didn’t get since I had the reclining glider, but a bedrest pillow or a wedge might be a good alternative (and it’s a lot cheaper).
These pillows allow you to be more upright, and they support your back.
If you used a body pillow during pregnancy, you can likely utilize that to help you sleep better after a c-section.
7. Take the gas-x
Your entire abdomen fills with air after a c-section. Some women can even feel it up to their shoulders. I personally just had a lot of unease in my stomach, and it’s really bizarre, but you’ll be burping and passing gas a lot for the first few days.
In the hospital, the nurses will be giving you regular doses of gas-x to help get that air out. Definitely continue that when you get home (be sure to consult with your nurses on this, too).
You don’t want gas pains keeping you up or waking you up! You need all the sleep you can get.
(The same goes for stool softeners.)
8. Stay in tune with your mental health
Mental health struggles are so incredibly common postpartum. I’m not even kidding when I say probably 80% of the moms I’ve talked to have dealt with some kind of postpartum struggle, whether it be postpartum depression, anxiety, or something else.
If you’re having any trouble falling asleep, it could be a symptom of PPD or PPA.
As an example, if you can’t fall asleep because you have racing thoughts about all the bad things that could happen to your baby, bring it up to your doctor!
9. Wear super soft and practical pajamas
It’s so much easier to sleep – and nurse your baby and get back to sleep – when you’re wearing good pajamas.
I really fell in love with the Kindred Bravely nursing nightgown, because it’s soft, it doesn’t cling to your stomach, and it has easy nursing access.
I purchased a few of them, and they’re still my favorite pajamas!
10. Use a cordless heating pad
If you have a lot of back pain, and it’s hindering your sleep, a cordless heating pad can be a godsend.
Don’t mess around with the cord – cordless heating pads will be so much easier to handle.
Bonus Tip: Get the SNOO
Let’s just be real – if your newborn gets good sleep, you’ll get good sleep, too.
Obviously, newborns are waking up every 2-3 hours to nurse. That’s normal and expected for at least the first 2-3 months.
However, the SNOO was a godsend for our family. Our babies slept so much better and were rocked back to sleep when they were startled awake or had gas that woke them up during a good sleep stretch.
The price point isn’t going to be for everyone, but if your budget can handle it – or you can find a good deal on a used one in your area – I wholeheartedly recommend it.
Getting any kind of sleep after having a baby is kind of laughable because you’re up at all hours of the night. Even if you have a pretty “good” baby, they’re still going to nurse every couple of hours, and at the beginning, they’re probably confused about what’s night and what’s day.
That said, I hope the tips on this list will help you get better sleep when you’re able to get it.
If you have any additional tips or experiences to share, please leave a comment!
Rebekah is a writer and mother of three children. She is also the woman behind Two Mama Bears, a blog for parents with babies and toddlers.