Baby sleep: every parent's challenge
Maybe you’re an exhausted new parent and feeling overwhelmed. Maybe you’re an expectant parent and this is your #1 concern. Read on for some baby sleep tips you could put into action right now.
Sleep deprivation goes hand in hand with having a new baby in the house. This is just part of life with a newborn.
New babies actually sleep a LOT.
But they don’t sleep in solid chunks, at least in the beginning. And let’s face it, they can be quite NOISY even when they ARE sleeping.
Make a plan now to arrange for ways to get both parents as much sleep as possible during the early days with a new baby.
You can't change baby's sleep
I hate to break it to you, but you don’t have a lot of control over your newborn’s sleep patterns, that comes with time and development. But you do have control over the parents’ sleep schedule. So these baby sleep tips are actually about the parent’s sleep schedule. Read my blog Baby sleep 4 tips and tricks: baby edition for more tips to help with baby.
No one size plan will fit all but I’m going to give two options for you to consider. If you want more personal help, this is what I do as a postpartum doula.
Parenting in shifts
Baby sleep tip #1: This one may require a mindset shift. You may not be sleeping together, or even in your own bed for a while.
Think about it: Is one parent better able to fall asleep earlier in the evening and the other more of a night owl?
One parent heads to bed at 8:00 PM. Anything baby needs between that time and say 1:00 AM falls to the other parent. Then at 1:00 AM until 6:00 AM the parent that slept earlier is on deck. Sometimes it might mean you don’t share a room, maybe put a mattress on the floor of a nursery and the “on parent” sleeps in there so they can respond to baby’s needs while the “off parent” is sleeping in a another room.
Another version that might work is doing it by days of the week. Each parent trades nights that they are on deck (again utilizing a separate sleeping room).
Baby sleep rhythms
Baby sleep tip #2: This one is a bit trickier to implement but might be more helpful for parents who are lactating to provide human milk for the baby.
Newborns sleep a lot and in the beginning it is in very short chunks but not too shortly after birth baby will start to sleep longer chunks (usually around 3 weeks when full milk supply is established).
Baby is not necessarily going to do the longer stretch of sleep at night. So you are going to sleep when you notice this longer stretch happening. If you are still pregnant, you may want to note when baby is normally less active (3rd trimester? counting kicks is important).
Both parents can actually sleep during this stretch of time (say from 5 PM to 10 PM). Meals and other household tasks are ideally taken care of by someone else but at least are done at other times.
Final thoughts on newborn sleep
The best sleeping arrangement is the one that gets the MOST people the MOST amount of sleep. And this changes over time so be FLEXIBLE.
I promise, you will eventually all get back to sleeping in your preferred sleeping spot at your preferred sleeping time but it isn’t going to happen right a way.
👉And if you find yourself unable to sleep, even when you are tired and your baby is sleeping, please reach out for help.
👉Not being able to sleep is one of the most reliable indicators of mental health struggles.
For some insomnia tips that might help you tonight, I share some of my own strategies in Insomia: 5 tips for new parents.