Ask A Doula: Insomnia … will I ever sleep again?

by Brood


Hey there! If we haven’t met yet, I’m Emma (they/them), and I’m a co-founder at Brood we are a modern care agency supporting doulas to do what they love and families to thrive. I’m a full spectrum care worker and doula, who supports families through the full reproductive health gamut which means I support families through loss, birth, postpartum and into parenthood. I’ve given lots of advice over the years, whether directly and consciously or through example. And today I’m here to share a little bit more with you. This monthly advice column will take questions from our community about; feelings, their experiences, the uncomfortable stuff, the joy and all the juice. Everything that the Brood team loves to get into to. If you have a question or a story to share, get in touch with us, we’d love to hear from you! 

I feel like one of those lucky parents because my baby is sleeping in large chunks through the night, but I can’t. This is the worst insomnia I’ve ever had, and I’m losing it. SOS.

Congrats on having a baby sleeping through the night(!), I’m so sorry that you’re not joining them in restful slumber. Know that this is a super common reaction in postpartum, so let’s get down to the nitty gritty.

To take it back to basics— when you were pregnant, you may or may not have experienced pregnancy induced insomnia. Then you gave birth to a baby and have spent so much of your time focusing on their sleep – how to manage it, how to optimize it, and so on. And then all of a sudden, your baby is able to sleep through the night, but your focus has been solely on their sleep, which means that you’ve altered your life for it. So where do we go from here? Let’s look at some tactics on how to manage that. 

Sleep is a really hot topic right now, especially because it is a limited resource for so many of us. And in those early stages of parenting, these are some of the hardest days and lowest lows – so many of the families that we support go through this. Our first tactic can be an annoying answer to some — you have to put yourself first a little bit here. Let’s look at your routine, let’s look at how you’re taking care of yourself, most likely the answer is going to be to invest in yourself a little bit more. Start creating a bedtime routine for yourself with as much vim and vigor as you have for your baby. Similarly to what you’re doing for them— dim your lights, turn your stimulations down and support your nervous system. In the moment, when you can’t sleep in the middle of the night— we’ll tell parents to get up, make yourself a little high protein snack, do a tiny bit of stretching, and then try to get back to bed instead of just laying there awake the whole night. When I’m caring for myself in these sleepless situations (you know, week long births or weeks of overnight shifts)—I focus on moving my body during the day, staring at some trees, taking a nice warm bath, being aware of my caffeine intake. If all the wellness and nighttime routines are cutting it, know that there’s more out there – know that at Brood, we love getting support from meds. Especially if you need to make sure you’re sleeping in the night for your mental health, you don’t have to self care your way through this when maybe that’s not the answer. If that’s the case, talk to your primary care provider and see if you can get some meds or talk through other options. If prescription medication isn’t your jam, you can start with some melatonin and magnesium and work your way up from there.

Becoming a new parent is this really beautiful opportunity to step into parenting yourself, and sleep routines is a really great first step. So if you are experiencing insomnia, may you step up and parent yourself and ask for help — and know, asking me this question is your first way to ask for help. 

Beyond caring for yourself, getting medical support, and then leaning into your community — know that there are other logistical ways you can manage your sleepless nights. This may constitute a conversation around balancing parenting duties, and rejigging your nights. Which could look like pumping during the day and doing bottles at night or supporting more daytime deep sleep.

Last thing we want to do is make more work for you, but we can look at this in a few different ways. One, you’re asking for help— that’s is the best thing to do that’s early in your parenthood journey and you’re going to be doing it every single phase. Two, take care of your sleep hygiene— we know you know what to do there now. It doesn’t make it easy, but you really need to prioritize yourself. Three, is there anything else going on around your feeding journey or your mental health? And four, stay flexible. Know that you’ll probably come back to this issue with new solutions every time, and that your kiddo will be in different phases of sleep and need more support at times, just like you are, you know?

Our Brood doulas offer night time postpartum care! You can check out more of our offerings here.

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We work and live on the unceded and occupied territories of the Sḵwx̱wú7mesh Úxwumixw (Squamish), səl̓ilw̓ətaʔɬ (Tsleil-Waututh) and xʷməθkʷəy̓əm (Musqueam) Nations. Since time immemorial, the original peoples of these lands have cared for their families and communities. We are committed to honouring their teachings, legacy and their sovereignty.


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