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After nine long months of pregnancy, your baby is finally here! For the first few days, adrenaline and pure excitement are your fuel. At the hospital you’re learning how to breastfeed, healing from birth, and getting to know your little one. Nursing staff is available 24/7 to help you. But when you finally get to take your baby home, reality hits hard. Feeding your baby every 2-4 hours, changing diapers, burping, and soothing leave little time to take care of your own needs – let alone sleep! Sleep deprivation after having a baby is no joke. Inadequate sleep can quickly lead to feelings of frustration, arguments with your partner, and physical ailments. Let’s explore some sleep deprivation survival tips to help you through the thick of it.
Get Educated about Sleep
There’s a lot about new parenthood that you can’t prepare for. But sleep isn’t one of them! Learn about normal newborn sleep during your pregnancy, like signs your baby is ready to go down for a nap or wake back up. Overtiredness releases stress hormones, making overtired babies extra fussy and hard to put to sleep. When they do drift off, newborns drop quickly into REM sleep, so they can be quite active sleepers. When your baby moves, grunts, or fusses briefly in her bassinet, pause before going to her. Many parents inadvertently disrupt their newborn’s sleep by assuming they’re waking up before they’re ready.
Set the Scene for Healthy Sleep
Set up a healthy sleep environment for your baby, including a safe sleep surface, white noise machine, and blackout curtains. Consider using a pacifier once breastfeeding is established. Keep the room temperature at 68-72°F, and dress your baby lightly. Pajamas and a swaddle blanket are perfect for most babies. Always place your baby to sleep on their back in their crib or bassinet. When your baby associates her sleeping place with peace and calm, she’ll grow to love falling asleep on her own. Healthy sleep habits from day one promote better sleep for the whole family.
Talk with your partner about a plan for maximizing sleep and minimizing stress in the early days, like taking turns for part or the night or napping daily during maternity leave. If you have friends or family offering to help, make a list of chores like loading the dishwasher, folding laundry, or taking the trash out. The less energy you put into household chores, the more energy you can put into healing and bonding with your baby. And you’ll have more opportunities to catch up on sleep, too!
Hire a Professional
Parenthood is not meant to be a solitary act. Professional support from a newborn care specialist or postpartum doula has many proven benefits. Parents with postpartum support report better satisfaction with parenthood and lower rates of anxiety and depression. Sleep deprivation can quickly lead to mental fog, mood changes, weakened immunity, and higher incidences of health issues like high blood pressure. Overnight care or 24 hour care is a wonderful option in the newborn days to help parents cope with sleep deprivation. Consistent overnight support can help your baby to develop good sleep habits while you catch up on much-needed rest. Daytime nanny care is a great choice for families who would like extra household support or care for older children.
When you and your baby are ready (at 5+ months), a professional can help with sleep training your baby to solidify healthy sleep habits for the long term. Formal sleep training is appropriate for babies 5 months and up who struggle with nighttime wake ups, short naps, or very early morning wake ups.
Put Sleep Deprivation Survival Tips to Action
Reading about sleep deprivation survival tips is the first step. But getting through the haze of the newborn days takes action: learning, planning, and accepting help are crucial. Read about normal newborn sleep, take a newborn sleep class or consult with a professional. Search “night nurse near me” or “overnight care near me” to begin building your support team. Plan simple ways that your family and friends can make meals, household tasks, and pet or childcare easier during your early postpartum. Making arrangements to promote rest for the whole family ahead will help make the transition to parenthood a smooth and enjoyable one, a fleeting season that you will look back on fondly.