I’m sure you’ve heard it about one thousand times by now, but as a new parent, you will have sleep deprivation with a baby! Before having kids, I never had trouble sleeping, and I considered myself lucky to be able to function quite well on about 7 hours of sleep a night. After having children, my sleep has considerably changed, and my expectations about sleep have changed as well. With my first baby, I was able to sleep here and there, during the day or the night. My schedule was adjusted to his schedule (or lack there of!). But, after having my second, I had to do things a bit differently since I still had to be up and about with my older one. Every afternoon when I put my older child down for his nap, I’d immediately hand off the new baby to anyone around and I would lie down, uninterrupted, for at least an hour. This was a lifesaver!
As a new parent, you’ve probably learned by now, that sleep is a privilege, and unfortunately, it’s no longer on your terms. If baby needs to eat, then you’re most likely up. If baby won’t sleep, then you’re most likely not sleeping either! This being said, sleep is essential for life. In order to function, and do things safely (like drive a car), you need to be getting some sleep.
When you first have your baby, go into survival mode. Sleep when your baby sleeps. This does not mean that you will attempt to nap after you’ve washed a few dishes, folded some laundry, etc. This means that the second your little one nods off, you are lying down…immediately! As a new mom, quite often we are trying so hard to get everything around the house in order, and when the babe is sleeping seems to be a perfect time. If you’re not getting good nighttime sleep (which undoubtedly you are not getting as a new parent), it’s time to let things slide a bit, and make sure you’re taking care of yourself and getting much-needed rest.
On the theme of “sleeping when your baby sleeps”, it’s not always possible to fall asleep the second your baby does. That’s okay. Allowing your body some quiet time, while you actually lie down and shut your eyes, can work wonders. This time can allow your mind to slow down, your muscles to rest, and your body to recoup. And who knows, maybe you’ll end up nodding off as well!
Top 10 Ways to Get Some Sleep with a New Baby
- Take care of yourself. If you are not healthy and happy, your baby won’t be either. Making sure you carve out a few times a day where you can get uninterrupted rest is essential for all new moms. If you cannot sleep when you have the opportunity call your healthcare provider. I’ll say it again, making sure you carve out a few times a day where you can get uninterrupted rest is essential for all new moms!
- Let the dishes and laundry pile up for a few days! It will be okay, I promise!
- Ask a friend or family member to come and help you do the laundry or the dishes. Tell them that when the baby goes down, you’re going to do the same.
- Ask a friend or family member to bring you dinner. It doesn’t have to be anything special. Even it someone simply picks up a premade meal from a restaurant or grocery store. It just means that you have less to do…no cooking or preparing, means more time for rest!
- Call a postpartum doula. A postpartum doula is a specially trained individual that can help with all things baby. From lactation help, to washing clothes/bottles, or keeping your baby happy while you get some much needed rest!
- Invite someone over to hold the baby while you sleep! Feed your little one, hand him/her off, and go to bed. This could be your partner, your family member or a friend.
- If you’re able to divide up some of the nighttime duties with your partner, do so. For instance, have your partner get up and bring the baby to you, do diapers, and alternate if you can.
- Have your baby close by, so that you don’t have to walk to another room every time your baby needs to eat or have his/her diaper changed.
- Try not to attend to every single noise your baby makes. It may be that your baby is just moving around, fussing a bit as he/she falls to sleep, or just making normal baby noises. Wait a minute or so before rushing in and waking yourself up fully. Fussing can be a baby’s way of communicating that they are having mild difficulty falling asleep – it is a challenge for them to learn. It’s perfectly okay to let your baby express him/herself as they work through learning to fall asleep. Listen to your gut to know if your baby is feeling a healthy challenge or is overwhelmed and afraid. Comfort your overwhelmed baby. If the challenge is too much for them at this point and they likely will not be successful at falling asleep peacefully, but rather will cry themselves to exhaustion. On the other hand, allow your healthily challenged baby some time to overcome the challenge and fall asleep! If their fussing is intermittent, does not sound panicked, and gradually subsides over a few minutes it is likely that you are watching your baby amazingly develop a new skill, just like the miraculous moments when they first learn to smile or roll over. You will be filled with a sense of pride and excitement, not the dread, guilt or anxiety many parents feel when listening to their baby “cry it out.” Babies are born with a wide range of temperaments, and learn to fall asleep on their own in different ways and at different ages.
- Set up good sleep hygiene for yourself (not just your baby!). Have a nighttime routine. Make sure you’re not ingesting caffeine or other stimulants close to bedtime. Try to sleep in a darkened room. No TV. Add some white noise, or anything else that you find to be soothing.
Okay, okay, so you get it. It’s important for you to get your rest. But why? I can hear you thinking that it’s okay to lose out on some sleep, that you can manage, or that it’s expected for all new parents to be sleepless and frazzled, right? Sleep will help you be fabulous parent. Sleep is essential for health. It helps ensure that you can make an adequate supply of breast milk. Sleep helps to heal your body; after all, you just gave birth, and need some healing time! Sleepless drivers compare to severely drunk drivers! So, for you to take yourself or your baby somewhere safely in the car, you need to be getting some sleep!
If you feel that you’re not able to be get enough sleep, or if you are not able to get rest when your baby is resting (due to anxiety, sadness, etc), contact your healthcare provider to get some help.