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5 Ways New Parents Can Get More Sleep With a Newborn

By the time you finally make it to your last trimester, odds are you haven’t been sleeping well for quite a while. Beyond the many unsuccessful attempts at getting comfortable with a giant belly in the way, there is also heartburn, leg cramps and sciatic pain. And let’s not forget waking up fifty times in the night to use the bathroom. Sleep is already a thing of the past, and the baby hasn't even arrived yet.

As you inch closer to your due date, you are not alone in pleading to the forces-that-be to go into labor already. Assuming that you can't sleep any worse than you already do, you start eating spicy foods and walking everywhere, hoping that something will trigger your body to go into labor so you can finally sleep normally again.

Finally, the baby arrives, but you quickly realize that sleep can, and does, get worse. Between the crying and feeding and diaper changing, it seems like there isn't any time to sleep before your little bundle of joy is awake to start the cycle all over again. What is a new parent to do?

Sleep when your Baby Sleeps

A newborn may sleep as much as 16 hours per day, with half of that time being naps. It can be tempting to do the dishes, clean the house, or even shower during these moments of downtime, but your first priority is to sleep when the baby sleeps. The child will, without fail, interrupt your nighttime sleep, so try napping during the day. Even a 20 minute nap can do wonders.

Master the Art of Saying 'No'

As soon as you are home from the hospital, be prepared for well-meaning friends to pop by without any notice. They are, understandably, excited to see you and the new baby, but it is perfectly acceptable to say 'now is not a good time.'

If someone calls in advance and actually wants to help clean your house, cook you dinner, or take the baby for an hour while you nap, then by all means let them enter. However, if you are busy entertaining friends all the time, then you are missing out on opportunities to catch up on sleep.

There will be plenty of time for baby photo shoots and play dates with your friends, but for those first few weeks you should be taking care of yourself and resting instead of playing host.

Don't 'Bed Share'

It's 2am and the baby is awake yet again. Diaper is dry, baby isn't hungry, and you are desperate for him to just go back to sleep. All parents have had that middle-of-the-night internal struggle of whether or not to bring baby into their bed, but there are many reasons why this is a bad idea.

  • Bed sharing increases the risk of a child dying from SIDS more than five times.
  • Once you start bed sharing, it's a rather hard habit to break.
  • Many parents will be so in tune with every move their newborn makes, that they will wake every time their baby so much as whimpers.
  • Bed sharing is really not as restful as you think it could be, but at 2am almost anything sounds like a good idea. As tempting as it may be to bed share, The American Academy of Pediatrics advises parents to place sleeping infants on their back, on a firm surface, and put the child to sleep in the same room but not in the same bed.

    Split Up Nighttime Duties

    If you are breast-feeding it may seem like all the pressure lies on you, but there is plenty that your partner can do to help. Getting baby out of the crib, changing diapers, and burping are just a few ways that your partner can help out at night so you can catch a few extra minutes of sleep. If you are using a bottle, take turns feeding the baby at night. Either way, you will get more sleep if you can work as a team.

    Give Watchful Waiting a Try

    No one is advocating letting a newborn ‘cry it out,’ however there is nothing wrong with watching and waiting to see if he will fall back to sleep on his own. It is normal for babies to wake during the night as they move from one stage of sleep to another. In that transition, many babies will wake up. Some will need help going back to sleep, but others will manage it on their own. It's ok to take a minute to decide if your baby needs attention in that moment.

    Babies are a joy, but the first few months can be challenging as you cope with sleep deprivation and learning how to care for a new life. Take care of yourself and your mental health during this time, and before you know it he will start sleeping through the night and you will wake up refreshed once again.