Congratulations on your new addition! Whether it’s your first baby or your fourth, a newborn baby brings plenty of joy, smiles, and changes – especially to your sleep schedule. Here are some ways to cope with sleep deprivation with a newborn baby in the house.
Sleep When the Baby Sleeps!?
This is likely the worst piece of advice that parents get. I mean, if you can sleep when the baby sleeps, by all means go for it. But many new parents feel as if they should be doing something else while the baby sleeps. Plenty of your newborn baby’s waking time is spent feeding, changing diapers, and interacting with them. So unless you have a minimum of five arms, you won’t be able to do laundry, clean the kitchen, and scrub toilets, let alone shower and get ready when your baby is awake.
But, a lot of those things can wait. Your laundry can (and likely will) pile up – who cares. Toilets don’t get infinitely grubbier if you go an additional day or two without cleaning them. And don’t want to deal with dirty dishes? That’s what one-pot meals or take out is for!
So parents everywhere – I hereby give you permission to not do anything, do whatever you want, or maybe even sleep while the baby sleeps.
Take a Time Out
A lot of parents of newborns, especially first time parents, feel like they need to be constantly attentive and on their A-game lest they want their child to not reach their milestones on time. Rest assured, your life doesn’t have to be a 24/7 Wiggles concert for your baby to laugh and roll and walk one day.
If you are sleep deprived with a newborn, take a time out. If you can’t bring yourself to do much today, that’s ok. Try again tomorrow. The day is much more tolerable without putting additional stress on yourself that you ‘should’ do this or that.
Plus, it’s good practice especially as a parent to remember that not everything is within your control, and sometimes you just don’t get enough sleep. It doesn’t feel great, but you’ll be ok. If you need to just sit there and zone out for a sec while your baby rests on you, go for it.
If you are fortunate to have a partner to lean on, take shifts during the night. For example, one person can take the 9pm-2am shift and the other the 2am-7am shift. If you breastfeed, pump milk if you are able so your partner can feed your newborn.
Alternatively, formula feed if you aren’t into the pump. (If you have opinions about the right way to feed a baby, good for you – but I don’t care, and neither should you about what others do with their children). If night shifts don’t work for you, alternate nights where only one parent gets up for all feeds.
At least if you take shifts, you’ll each get a chunk of sleep which can feel a lot more refreshing than both of you having interrupted sleep every few hours.
Set a New Routine For Yourself
Ok, so you know how they say parents don’t have any time to themselves? It’s true, especially for the first bit of a newborn’s life. But you can carve out more time by crafting a new routine that works for you. As a result, sometimes, you will have to give up your nightly routine of watching TV so you can squeeze in another hour of sleep at the beginning of the night.
And if you weren’t into good sleep hygiene before, it’s a good idea to get into it now. Things like going to bed at the same time, keeping your room cool and dark, and maintaining a clutter-free environment (even if that just means throwing the laundry in a different room) all help with creating an environment conducive to a more restful sleep.
Create a Routine For Your Newborn
Babies are never too young to start a nightly routine. Putting on pajamas, reading a story, and/or giving a bath all help to develop a sense of consistency that will help later when they can finally sleep through the night. And in the hours leading up to bedtime, dim the lights and have quiet time. It helps with developing the baby’s circadian rhythm.
Do Something You Enjoy
Sometimes, we can’t get adequate sleep with a newborn. That’s ok. The day will feel like you’re dragging your feet a bit more (or a lot more) but try to do something you enjoy. Life doesn’t have to be dreary when you are sleep deprived with a newborn. Cook a wonderful meal for yourself. Write about your day. Go outside. No, it won’t cure the fatigue, but it’ll hopefully add some more joy to your day and give you a more restful night the following night.
Give Yourself Some Grace
Having a newborn cracks your heart wide open. Like, holy crap you love this little kid so much but it’s like a cute little bomb went off in your life and family dynamic. When we experience big life changes, one of which is a new baby, of course our brains are overactive! It’s trying to recalibrate to a new normal.
Try to give yourself some empathy and understanding. If you can’t sleep, get out of bed and do something peaceful like meditation, or write, draw, or read under a dim light. The tough newborn stage will pass, your baby will sleep one day, and so will you.
Give Your Baby Some Grace
On average, a newborn baby literally doubles their body weight in two months. So think to yourself – if you had to double your body weight in two months, you’d have to wake up multiple times during the night to eat too!
Babies are brand new to the world too. Just imagine not having any context to your surroundings, and waking up in a dark room. Not yet knowing familiar voices, or a familiar soothing touch. We’d be scared too. While it might be hard when you are sleep deprived with a newborn to have some empathy, babies do deserve it from us. And the more empathy we can give along the way when they are learning how to ‘human’, the easier it will be for them to go to sleep or get back to sleep.
Keep In Mind…
You won’t have to deal with sleep deprivation forever. According to renowned baby sleep expert Richard Ferber, all babies are capable of sleeping through the night (defined as 11-12 hours per night) by the time they are six months old. If you are sleep deprived with a newborn right now, six months might seem like a lifetime. But rest assured, the time will come.
And your baby may even sleep through the night sooner! According to another baby sleep expert, babies can sleep through the night as long as they have doubled their body weight and are 12 weeks old.
Also, if you are not sleeping beyond the normal interruptions that a newborn provides, it could be due to your hormones, which go absolutely wild after delivering a baby. Approximately 80% of women have postpartum blues after giving birth due to the literal bag of hormones (the placenta) leaving their bodies. And up to 20% develop postpartum depression, which makes it even more difficult to sleep (I know, because I’m in the PPD camp).
With consistency, good routine, and an active effort to de-stress yourself, your baby’s sleep will improve over time and you can get back to a night of restful sleep.