With a new baby in the house, it can seem next to impossible to find the sleep parents needs. In fact, a recent study done by Sleep Junkie found that only 10 percent of new parents were able to get the recommended 7 hours of sleep per night. This is scary when we consider the alarming side effects of sleep deprivation, such as reduced cognitive abilities, slower response times, and an inability to focus.
Additionally, research also shows that a lack of sleep can increase the risk of developing postpartum depression. To help curb some of these dangers, we’ve compiled a list of 8 key strategies that may help new parents find relief.
Create A Schedule
At this stage in your baby’s life, establishing a sleep schedule might seem like a hopeless task. However, monitoring your baby’s sleep patterns and needs can help you create a loose schedule that works for you both. Sticking to this schedule will help you and your baby fall asleep more quickly.
Keep in mind that your baby’s needs will frequently change. Newborns to 3 months old will need around 14 to 17 hours of sleep, while infants to 12 months old will need around 12 to 16 hours of sleep.
Ask For Help
Whether you are a single parent or you have the help of a partner, never be afraid to ask for help. Consider hiring a professional sitter or nurse who can look after your baby for a few hours during the week. Even a short period of time can provide relief.
You may even consider seeking the help of friends and family. People close to you may be willing to offer their time in order to watch your baby or to help with housework and cooking. Don’t let guilt get in the way of accepting help. In most cases, they enjoy helping.
It can be frustrating when one person is shouldering the burden of nighttime feedings and diaper changes. Consider working with your partner to create a system that allows you both to share these responsibilities. If your partner is breastfeeding, consider using pumped breastmilk to feed your baby during the night so she can sleep.
If your partner is responsible for staying home with the baby during the day, this may also mean helping take care of the baby when you are home so your partner can sleep or have time for self-care.
Having a new baby comes with a lot of changes. Chances are, your stress levels are higher than normal. Because sleep can be harder to come by when we are anxious and worried, experts suggest practicing stress-reducing activities before bedtime. Consider reading, taking a warm bath or shower, practicing breathing exercises, or journaling. These practices only require 15-20 minutes of your time and can have a big impact on your ability to find sleep quickly.
Adjust Your Bedroom
Whether you are retiring to your bedroom for a nap or for the night, it will be important to have a tranquil sleep space to relax in. Consider making some of the following adjustments to your bedroom.
- Light. Because light from electronic screens can interfere with our body’s ability to produce melatonin, experts suggest avoiding exposure to these lights at least 2 hours before bed.
- Comfortable mattress. Be sure you are sleeping on a mattress that is both comfortable and supportive for you and your partner. If you frequently wake with pain in your neck, back, or shoulders, it may be time to consider replacing your current mattress.
- Clutter. To keep your sleep space stress free, be sure to remove clutter such as laundry, mail, paperwork, or exercise equipment from your bedroom.
- Temperature. Because our body temperature tends to drop during sleep, experts suggest keeping your bedroom around 60 to 67 degrees.
Sleep When Your Baby Sleeps
When your baby finally falls asleep, it can be tempting to want to catch up on the news, your social life, or household chores, but this will only lead to further exhaustion. When if you don’t feel ready for sleep, just laying down and closing your eyes can give your mind and body a short respite.
Avoid Making Additional Commitments
As adults, there are numerous demands on our time. However, with a new baby at home, it is best to avoid making any additional commitments beyond caring for your baby right now. Do not feel pressured to accept invitations or to volunteer for anything at this time. Your sleep and self-care should come first. After all, when you are taking care of yourself, you are ultimately taking care of your baby.
Keep Them Close
Although there are many schools of thought on bedroom sharing with your baby, experts suggest this can help to reduce separation anxiety for both the baby and the parents. They point out that if your baby wakes in the middle of the night, they may have trouble falling back sleep due to fear that this separation is not temporary. If your baby is close by, it can be easier for you to reassure them that they are safe, allowing them to fall back asleep more quickly. This also seems to reduce parental fears regarding the safety of the baby. In fact, research even suggests that room-sharing has been linked with a lower risk of sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS).
However, be sure you only put your baby down to sleep in a crib or bassinet designed for infant sleeping. Beds, couches, and futons can be dangerous for babies. They can become trapped between headboards or footboards, cushions, or railings.
This stage of your baby’s life can be frustrating, just remember, it doesn’t last forever. Be patient with yourself and do your best to find moments for sleep and self-care.