Sleep deprivation is one of the biggest things people warn you about when having a baby. Newborn babies need almost constant attention, including feeding every ~2 hours (as well as during the night) in the early weeks. Some babies might even wake up every 1.5 hours! And yes, this is definitely a challenging time, particularly for new parents.
I’m not here to tell you there’s an easy way around it. It takes work, but there are definitely ways to manage your sleep and feel considerably better.
Before we start the tips and advice for maximising your sleep with a newborn baby, I’d first recommend checking out how and why you should learn to love waking through the night.
Here are the top recommendations for getting more and better sleep, as a parent with a newborn baby:
Position the cradle/bassinet/cot beside your bed
When your baby wakes for a feed, you can easily reach over to pick them up for nursing. Or if they need settling, they’re within reach and you don’t even need to get out of bed.
There’s really no need to keep running to and from your baby’s separate bedroom, when you can keep them close by instead and have greater peace of mind (and a more settled sleep) knowing they’re safe in the room with you. For at least the first 6 months of baby’s life, it’s recommended to have newborns sleeping in their parents’ room anyway.
Try the “lying down” nursing position
If you’re breastfeeding your baby during the night, try breastfeeding while lying down. That way you can continue resting/dozing while your little one nurses, and it’s a more relaxing position than having to sit up the entire time. This is particularly good during the early weeks when baby may nurse for quite a long period of time during each feed.
Get help from your partner
If possible, it’s a fantastic help if your partner can help with the night shift – by giving baby at least one of their nighttime feeds (either with pumped breastmilk or formula). Alternatively, you could even take turns on a nightly basis, by taking over one night then having the next night off. Work together to find an arrangement that suits all 3 of you.
Retire for the evening at an earlier hour
If you’re used to sleeping from 11pm to 7am, don’t stick to this bedtime schedule. Since you’ll likely be waking through the night, this eats into what your usual 8 hours of sleep would be. Instead, if you head to bed around 9pm for example, you can still get 8 hours of sleep through the night despite being up at different intervals throughout.
Sleep when baby sleeps (or at least take the time to rest)
This is a hard one…to resist the housework or cooking or other things that you could do while baby snoozes. But it’s probably the most common recommendation for dealing with postpartum sleep deprivation. So if you can, try taking a nap when your baby does. Your health and wellbeing is more important than the dishes in the sink.
If you’re not one who can easily sleep during the day, at least lie down in bed or on the couch and let yourself relax and unwind. Even if you don’t fall asleep, this rest time is still beneficial.
Sleep in when you can
On the weekends, pop baby into the bed with you after their morning feed and doze off there for a while. Or perhaps your partner can take baby while you catch a few more z’s before getting up for the day. These extra hours can help compensate for the lost ones on other nights,
Accept help during the day
Family member dropping by to help out for the day? Don’t be afraid to ask for a couple of hours for a solid nap while they look after your little one.
Get good quality sleep
If you’re not getting many hours of sleep, at least make sure the ones that you do have are good quality. Help yourself to fall asleep faster (rather than tossing and turning for half an hour before falling to sleep each time) by avoiding caffeine and alcohol in the later afternoon and evenings. Also avoid bright lights and noise, and turn off the TV/laptop/phone well before bedtime. Simple things like these can help you fall asleep quicker, and hopefully you’ll be in a deep, recuperating sleep in no time.
Sometimes, leave baby alone
Unless you think baby is hungry or something’s wrong, it’s totally okay to wait a little bit while they fuss in the middle of the night. Sometimes, it’s just a brief wake between sleep cycles, and they’re trying to self-settle. There’s no need to fully wake and attend to them if they manage to fall back asleep soon enough on their own – besides, self-settling is a really important skill for them to learn anyway!
Just remember, it’ll only get better! Expending energy on stressing out over not having enough sleep…well, that’s a waste of energy. Take one day and night at a time, and rest assured that as baby grows up, the time between feeds will stretch out until eventually they’ll sleep through the night!
Do you have any other tips for maximising your sleep with a newborn? What do you do to catch some extra z’s?