The picture of parenthood wouldn’t be complete without a reference to the bleary-eyed, sleep-deprived time spent taking care of brand new bundles of joy. It is often the first in a long line of parenting milestones that give parents everywhere a common bond. If you are lucky enough to have a new baby that sleeps through the night from the start, you may even feel a little left out of this shared experience.
While it may seem like a noble sacrifice to spend sleepless nights taking care of the tiny addition to your family, not getting the sleep you need is bad for you, your family, and even your baby. Sleep is critical to maintaining your health and not getting enough sleep can cause mistakes at work, unnecessary conflict at home, and dangerous behavior like drowsy driving.
Losing an entire night’s sleep and being awake for 24 hours straight causes impairment equal to that of a blood alcohol level of .10, legally drunk in most states, according to the National Sleep Foundation. You wouldn’t drive your kids to school or take care of your newborn after you had been drinking because drinking impairs your ability to drive, your reaction time, and your decision making skills. Sleep deprivation does the same thing.
Here are 6 tips to help you do the right thing for you and your baby by finding ways to get the sleep you need.
1. Sleep When They Sleep
This is at the top of every list for new moms who need to get some sleep because it works. Don’t feel obligated to catch-up on chores, fit in some work, or do anything other than grab a nap. Turn off the phone, close the curtains, and snuggle in for some sleep.
2. Avoid Co-Napping
The concept of bed-sharing, co-sleeping, and the family bed are controversial and should be considered carefully and discussed with your baby’s pediatrician. However, regardless of whether you decide to share your bed with the baby or not, take time to nap by yourself.
3. Ask for Help
If family and friends are anxious to visit and spend time with your little bundle, invite them over so you can take a nap. You can rest peacefully knowing that the baby is being taken care of and that someone will wake you if they need you.
4. Start a Nap-pool
Moms and Dads of school-age children know the value of looking to their peers for help in managing the day to day duties that go with having children like carpooling. There is no reason you can’t start this early and organize a nap-pool with other parents from childbirth class or other new parent groups. Start by setting up times where you can watch each other’s babies each week so you can all get a little more sleep.
5. Split the Schedule
If one parent is home with the baby and one is working, it seems logical that the working parent needs to sleep so they can go to work. But in reality, you both need to be getting enough sleep to take care of your individual responsibilities and one parent getting enough sleep shouldn’t be a priority over the other. Split the schedule of who sleeps when, who gets up with the baby, and when you can both fit in a nap or a full night’s sleep.
6. Do it in the Dark
If you need to get up in the middle of the night, don’t turn on the lights. Light signals your body that it is time to wake-up and could keep you from falling back to sleep after a quick feeding. Keep the light low and protect your ability to fall back to sleep quickly. This can have the same impact on your baby.
The first step in getting the sleep you need to be happy, productive new parent is to commit to making sleep a high priority. Take advantage of any opportunity you have to fit in a nap and don’t be afraid to ask for help. Remind yourself that safeguarding your health and being awake and alert are part of being a good parent and that getting the sleep you need is part of taking care of your new baby.
- Sleep Soundly Knowing Your Baby is Sleeping Soundly (valleysleepcenter.com)
- Sleep Deprived Parents Don’t Have to Hit The Sleeping Pill Bottle (npr.org)
- New Mommies Coping with Sleep Deprivation (sleepandhealth.com)