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maternal adaptation, maternal role, postpartum, sleep



  1. Kennedy, Holly Powell PhD, CNM, FACNM
  2. Gardiner, Annelise BA, BS
  3. Gay, Caryl PhD
  4. Lee, Kathryn A. PhD, RN, FAAN


Objective: The purpose of this qualitative study was to learn from 20 mothers about their experience of sleep during pregnancy and the immediate months of becoming a new mother. The study was part of a larger randomized clinical trial on an intervention to improve sleep and well-being among new mothers.


Methods: Semistructured, audiotaped interviews were conducted in which women were asked to describe the continuum of the sleep experience across the pregnancy and early postpartum and to describe strategies they found helpful as they established sleep patterns with their infant. Narrative analysis was used to interpret their stories, and data were managed with Atlas.ti qualitative software.


Results and Conclusions: Sleep disturbances were common to all of the mothers, and sleep became a negotiated behavior as they adjusted to the mothering role. All of the mothers were surprised at the level of disturbance and exhaustion they experienced. Strategies included enlistment of partners to facilitate naps, development of a "sleep consciousness," and bed-sharing. Mercer's stages of becoming a mother are used to describe the process of incorporating sleep changes into their lives.