How to optimize your sleep when you can get it

What to Know

  • In the first few months of a baby’s life, they’re usually eating almost around-the-clock (typically about every two to three hours in the beginning) and their sleep patterns are unpredictable.
  • Lack of sleep plus recovering from childbirth and the stress of having a newborn can be detrimental to any new parent’s health and productivity.
  • With a surge in post-partum hormones and the stress of having a new baby, some moms find they have trouble falling asleep, despite feeling exhausted.
  • The blue light emitted from electronics, such as phones, computers and TVs can actually disrupt our sleep.

You probably had a handful (or more!) well-meaning friends and family members tell you to sleep as much as possible before the baby comes, since you won’t be sleeping much with a newborn. While it’s impossible to bank sleep for a later sleep-deprived date, there are some things you can do to maximize your sleep as much as possible when you have a newborn at home.

In the first few months of a baby’s life, they’re eating almost around-the-clock and their sleep patterns are unpredictable. That, coupled with the fact that newborns don’t seem to have their days and nights sorted out yet, means you’ll likely find that you’re getting only a few hours of sleep at a time. Lack of sleep plus recovering from childbirth and the stress of having a newborn can be detrimental to any new parent’s health and productivity, so finding ways to optimize your sleep as you adjust to having a newborn is essential.

The recommendation, “sleep when the baby sleeps” can be tricky to execute without extra hands to help out. Most newborns need to eat about every two to three hours around-the-clock, and once that feeding is done, there’s burping, changing, swaddling and getting the baby back to sleep. At that point, you have fewer than two hours to get some shut-eye, and may decide to tackle the growing pile of laundry or dishes instead. If you can enlist a few friends or family members to help out, delegate those non-baby related tasks to them so you can focus on your baby and self care. Once you’re done feeding your baby, hand her off to a trusted adult who can take care of changing, burping, and rocking the baby to sleep while you sneak off for a nap.

With a surge in post-partum hormones and the stress of having a new baby, some moms find they have trouble falling asleep, despite feeling exhausted. As a result, many moms turn to screens – phones, TVs, computers and iPads – to quiet their minds or give them something to do while feeding their baby in the middle of the night. The problem is, the blue light emitted from electronics can actually disrupt our sleep. To help, there are inexpensive goggles you can wear made specifically to block this light if you enjoy watching TV a few hours before bedtime, or try reducing your screen time 2-3 hours before going to bed to optimize your sleep. Doing calming breathing exercises is another way you can calm the mind and body during restless moments when you cannot fall asleep.

If you have a partner who can help with nighttime feeding sessions, take advantage of alternating who feeds the baby in the evening so you can get a stretch of 5-6 uninterrupted hours of sleep. After about four months of age, babies start to develop a sleep pattern and you may find yours consistently goes to sleep for a stretch of about six hours starting in the early evening. Take this as your cue to go to bed as well so you can get into a restful, deep state of sleep earlier in the evening. Nighttime help, such as night nurses, are an option so you can wake up only to pump during the evening (or sleep if you’re formula feeding) while a caretaker is responsible for overnight bottle feeding.

What to Do

  • Enlist a few friends or family members to help out, delegate those non-baby related tasks to them so you can focus on your baby and self care.
  • Once you’re done feeding your baby, hand her off to an experienced adult who can take care of changing, burping, and rocking the baby to sleep while you sneak off for a nap.
  •  Buy inexpensive goggles made to block electronics’ blue light if you enjoy watching TV a few hours before bedtime, or try reducing your screen time 2-3 hours before going to bed to optimize your sleep.
  • Do calming breathing exercises before bed or when you cannot fall back to sleep.
  • If you have a partner, alternate who feeds the baby in the evening so you can get a stretch of 5-6 uninterrupted hours of sleep.
  • Go to bed in the early evening when your baby goes to bed.
  • Seek out overnight help so you can get consistent stretches of uninterrupted sleep.
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