Ask any new parents how they are feeling after the arrival of their new baby and chances are they will tell you “exhausted.” It’s only normal. It takes a few months for babies to sleep through the night (or at least for most of the night), and the first few weeks are often the most challenging as you get used to the new routine of waking up every few hours to feed your newborn.
While knowing that this phase is only temporary, and someday you will get back to a regular sleep routine (although research suggests it might be a while, as most mothers have disrupted sleep for about 6 years) can help you get through it, there are some tips and tricks you can use to get better sleep now. You may not be able to get a full 8 hours per night right away, but you can still be reasonably well-rested.
Sleep Tips for Parents of Newborns
Until babies are about 3 months old, they are likely to wake up every 2-3 hours. By the end of the first year, though, they can potentially sleep up to 10 hours in a stretch, so there is hope that you’ll sleep again. In the meantime, try these ideas.
1. Sleep When the Baby Sleeps
You’ve probably heard this a million times, but it’s solid advice. Resist the temptation to clean, catch up on emails or social media, or zone out in front of the television while your baby naps, and catch some Z’s yourself. If you just can’t let the laundry go, throw in a load before you lie down to finish when the baby wakes up. Even if your little one only naps for a couple of hours, that’s a couple of hours of rest you wouldn’t have had otherwise.
2. Take Shifts
Make a schedule with your partner that helps one of you get a decent night of sleep each night, and time to catch up on rest on the weekends. For instance, take turns with late night/early morning feedings. If one partner takes on more of the burden for overnight care, then the other partner should agree to let them sleep in on weekends. Raising children requires partnership, and it begins with helping each other get rest now.
3. Ask for Help
Don’t hesitate to ask for help from friends and family — after all, many of them have probably offered to help you out and would love to be asked. Having someone else sit with your newborn for a few hours can give you some precious nap time.
4. Take Care of Yourself
When you’re busy with feedings, diaper changes, baby snuggles, laundry, dishes, and everything else that comes with having a baby, it’s easy to let yourself come last. But maintaining a healthy diet and getting exercise when your doctor says it’s okay are all important to getting quality sleep. This doesn’t mean you need to spend hours in the kitchen or at the gym, either. Taking a walk with your infant in the carrier or stroller is a great way to stay active, while also getting a boost of vitamin D and fresh air. You’ll be surprised how much better you feel after spending some time outdoors and being active.
5. Follow a Bedtime Routine
You’re probably trying to establish a bedtime routine for your baby, but don’t forget about yourself. Quality sleep is just as important as quantity, so watch for signs of poor sleep hygiene like using your devices in bed, not creating an environment conducive to sleep, or even not changing into pajamas. Taking a warm shower or bath, slipping into some comfortable PJ’s, and spending a few moments relaxing with some gentle stretches or breathing exercises can help you wind down and fall asleep faster, and get better sleep — no matter how short-lived your slumber may be.
For more great parenting tips, check out the other blogs on Cyber Parent.