Sleep Tips for New Parents: 6 Ways to Catch Z's with a Newborn
A sleep survival guide for new parents. Find out what parenting experts have to say about sleeping and taking care of your newborn. Better sleep is in your reach.
Mercey LivingstonCNET Contributor
Mercey Livingston is a health and wellness writer and certified Integrative Nutrition Health Coach. She's written about fitness and wellness for Well+Good, Women's Health, Business Insider, and Prevention.com among others. When not writing, she enjoys reading and trying out workout classes all over New York City.
New parents are all too familiar with sleep deprivation. While not getting enough sleep is almost like a rite of passage, it shouldn't be. Lack of sleep is not only draining and exhausting, but it could also lead to more health issues if left unchecked.
"Taking care of a new baby is a lot of hard work and can be extremely exhausting, especially for mom as she is still recovering from labor," says Kelly Murray, a certified pediatric and adult sleep consultant and sleep coach for Motherfigure. "Adjusting to being a parent can be daunting for both parents. The entire family needs adequate rest to feel their best and to cope with their new role as caregiver for the new bundle of joy," says Murray.
The reality is that you can't change how many times your baby wakes you up each night. But that doesn't mean you're doomed to bad sleep. Changing some of your pre-bedtime habits can significantly affect how you fall asleep and the quality of sleep you get. We talked to the experts to get their advice on how new parents can get better sleep, even with a baby who wakes them up at all hours.
How to get better sleep with a new baby at home
1. Incorporate grounding and relaxing activities into your day
What you do throughout the day may affect you even more than what you do at bedtime or just before bed. "New moms should make sure that they take time out every day to do something they enjoy to stay grounded," says Murray. "It could be as simple as taking a walk around the block, taking a long bath or calling a friend to chat. By incorporating relaxation into her day, it will help her to keep any stress hormones in check, which will promote better sleep."
"It can also be tempting for new moms to be on their phones searching for parenting advice and gear before bedtime," says Murray. "But screen time before bedtime can interfere with sleep due to the blue and green light that they emit. These lightwaves send a signal to our brains that it is daytime and our bodies will then produce cortisol, the stimulating hormone, which will make it challenging to fall asleep and stay asleep."
She recommends turning off screens and avoiding devices for at least 30 to 60 minutes before you go to sleep.
3. Create a relaxing bedtime routine, like a bath
Time is a precious commodity when you have a baby, and adding something new to your routine could sound intimidating. But even adding a few minutes to your bedtime routine could make a big difference. "It's also helpful for new moms to have their own relaxing bedtime routine to unwind after a hard day of taking care of their new baby," says Murray. "A great way to start a bedtime routine is with a bath. It will help to soothe her muscles and mind. Additionally, a bath helps to lower your body temperature, which facilitates sleep -- as our body temperature has to lower by two degrees in order to fall asleep."
If you tend to feel overwhelmed before bed and struggle with a racing mind at night, Murray suggests adding a few minutes of journaling to help process emotions and worries. "This will allow her to process her emotions so that she isn't kept awake by a racing mind after an overnight feeding session," she says.
4. Take turns waking up with the baby throughout the night
If one parent tends to take over with feeding the baby throughout the night, try splitting up the duties more evenly. "If bottle-feeding, both mom and dad should take turns getting up with the baby. Ideally mom should be allowed to sleep for five hours continuously the first half of the night as it will help with her emotional health," says Murray.
But if you're breastfeeding the baby, that might not be possible. "If mom is breastfeeding, have dad retrieve the baby during night wake-ups, change the baby's diaper and then bring the baby to mom so that she can sideline nurse in bed," says Murray. "Dad should keep a watchful eye to ensure that mom doesn't fall asleep and should place the baby in the bassinet after the feed is complete."
"If you're able, take shifts with your partner overnight," agrees Arielle Greenleaf, chief education officer at Restfully and REST Academy, and also a sleep coach at Motherfigure. "Even if you can prioritize a four- to five-hour stretch of sleep, that will leave you feeling more well-rested than disrupted sleep all night long. And that may mean you're going to bed super early to prioritize that sleep -- that's OK! This too shall pass."
5. Hire or ask for help
There's nothing wrong with asking for help when you need it, so don't be afraid to reach out to friends, family or even hiring help if possible. "If it's in the budget, it's helpful to hire a night nurse or postpartum doula to help overnight so that both parents can get better rest, even if it's just one or two times a week," says Greenleaf.
"One of the things most new parents or parents of new babies aren't told enough is to ask for help. Whether that be from a family member, friend or a provider such as a postpartum doula or sleep coach, asking for help (and accepting it!) is so important," she says.
6. Try sleeping when your baby sleeps
Babies sleep a lot during the day and at erratic times that might seem less than ideal for you to sleep -- but Greenleaf recommends sleeping when your baby sleeps. "I know this piece of advice gets a bad rap, but in those early stages, forget about the laundry or the dishes and take sleep however and whenever you can get it," she says.
The information contained in this article is for educational and informational purposes only and is not intended as health or medical advice. Always consult a physician or other qualified health provider regarding any questions you may have about a medical condition or health objectives.