Introducing a new member of the family is one of life’s greatest joys but it usually comes at the cost of a good night’s rest.
Becoming a parent is an exciting and hugely nerve-wracking experience for anybody. It’s a time full of firsts: first smiles, first laughs, and the first time you lay them down to sleep.
The truth is, though, that having a newborn in the house tends to take a toll on your own ability to sleep. You have to be at your baby’s beck and call at all hours, making it difficult to squeeze in a full night’s rest for yourself. This can leave you feeling exhausted, confused and overwhelmed.
According to a study published in The Independent in 2018, the average night’s sleep for a new parent is just four hours and 44 minutes, and this is the case for the first year of the baby’s life. Needless to say, this falls well below the seven to nine hours recommended by the National Sleep Foundation.
So what can new parents do to improve their sleep quality and feel better rested for both themselves and baby? Here are five essential sleep tips.
Sleep when your baby sleeps
This is the main piece of advice offered to new parents worried about sleep, and it’s a good one. Although they may wake frequently throughout the night, new babies also sleep a lot during the day, so don’t be afraid to do the same. Put chores and other commitments on hold while you catch some rest together – this will help fight off complete exhaustion and ensure you have the energy to enjoy your little one’s waking hours.
Shut off your mobile phone and let your family and friends know you aren’t to be disturbed. Newborn babies sleep for up to 18 hours per day, offering you plenty of opportunity to catch some shut-eye.
Distinguish between day and night
Even though you’re catching sleep when you can, you should still try to keep some level of routine if possible. Change the kind of activities you enjoy with your baby depending on the time of day. Save your more engaging, playful activities for the daytime, then try to create a calmer atmosphere as night-time rolls around. Switch to quieter voices, less background noise and softer lighting to establish a different between day and night from the outset.
Share the burden
There’s always an element of feeling like you need to prove yourself when it comes to taking on a new challenge, especially something as huge and lifechanging as having a baby. However, there is absolutely no shame in accepting help when it is offered.
Whether from family, friends or a partner, let people take turns looking after the baby or completing household tasks so that you have a chance to rest.
Avoid keeping baby in bed with you
You probably want to be as close as possible to your new baby at all hours, but don’t be tempted to keep them in bed with you through the night. Give them their own space in their cot, as this helps them get familiar with the idea of being left alone to rest. It’s ok to bring baby into bed for feeding, but be sure to return them to their cot afterwards. The fact of the matter is that having a baby lying next to you will mean that your brain remains on high alert and the quality of your sleep will be significantly worse.
Make your own comfort a priority too
There is absolutely nothing wrong with caring for your own wellbeing as well as the wellbeing of your baby. Make sure that both of your bedrooms are optimised for sleep – cool, dark environments that are free from electronic distractions. This will give the whole family the best chance of a good sleep when you get the chance.