Newborns are pretty much one of the cutest things on the planet, but they sure don’t let you get much sleep! Sleep deprivation is probably one of the most challenging parts of new parenthood, simply because it makes all the little challenges feel so much more amplified. A crying newborn seems a lot more overwhelming when you’re running on three hours of sleep.
That said, this is a relatively short season of life. Even though it may not feel like it in the moment, I promise your baby will sleep eventually, and there are definitely some things you can do to help you get a little more sleep in the meantime.
Here are 10 little tips that helped me get more sleep when my daughter was a newborn…and I promise “sleep when the baby sleeps” isn’t one of them!
1. Room in
Having baby sleep in your room sounds like a surefire plan for disaster and sleeplessness, but during those early weeks/months when you’re nursing a ton throughout the night, it can actually be a godsend. We had my daughter in a bedside co-sleeper for the first two months before transitioning her to her nursery, and it helped me sleep so much better. I didn’t have to get up and walk all the way to another room every time I was nursing, so my body didn’t feel as awake. Not sure if this helped my husband get more sleep, but it was certainly helpful for me.
2. Pump/pre-make bottles
Not only is pumping a great way to boost milk supply if you need the extra help, but it can be a great way to include others in caring for your little one and giving you a much needed break. With my daughter we didn’t introduce a bottle for awhile and I was always the one getting up in the night since I had “all the necessary equipment” for feeding her and my husband had to get up for work in the morning. This time around since I’m working too, he’s offered to tag team middle of the night feedings with me if I pump bottles. Sounds like an awesome set-up to me! And even if you’re not nursing, you can always set up your bottles and pre-measure formula for quick and easy bottle making while you’re in a sleepy stupor.
3. Invest in a red light
Invest in a red light bulb for the lamp in your bedroom or Baby’s nursery. It sounds strange, but red light will actually help you see what you need to see when you’re up with baby without making you feel as awake. There’s something about the red light that isn’t as abrasive – something scientific about the rods and cones in your eyes, though it escapes me now. I used one with my daughter at the recommendation of a friend and it was wonderful. After awhile you may not need a light at all, but when you and Baby are still getting the hang of nursing, it’s nice to be able to see what you’re doing.
4. Stay off your phone
I realize that nursing in the middle of the night may seem like the perfect time to get caught up on social media, but I would encourage you to try to stay off of your phone during those middle-of-the-night feedings. The light and stimulation will be disruptive to your sleep cycle (and Baby’s) and make it more difficult to fall back asleep.
5. Prep your diaper station
Every little thing you can do to make middle-of-the-night tasks a little easier will be much appreciated. Something I did often was to set out all of my diapering supplies so I didn’t have to fumble for them in the night. I would open a diaper and set out a couple of wipes next to it on the changing station. It only saved a few extra seconds, but when you’re sleep deprived those few extra seconds mean you might not wake up quite as much and you might be able to fall back asleep.
6. Go for gowns / easy-wrap swaddles
Newborn gowns are pretty much the best creation ever when it comes to 2 A.M. diaper changes. Not having to fumble around with zippers and snaps will make your life so much better. Also, I loved those easy-wrap swaddles that are pre-wrapped for you so you basically just have to slip your baby in and velcro it together. Much easier than trying to perfect your swaddling skills in a zombie-like daze.
7. Take the early shift
I’m not a good napper, so the advice everyone gives about “sleep when Baby sleeps” didn’t work for me. What did work was taking the early bed time shift. Once my daughter would fall asleep in the early evening (often between 6:00 and 7:00) I would head to bed and my husband would stay up with her so I could at least squeeze in a good chunk of sleep before the late night rounds came. It worked out really well for us.
8. Let sleeping babes lie
As a first-time parent, I found it really difficult to let my baby sleep for long chunks of time. I would start to worry and would often end up waking her up, which was a total rookie mistake. After the first few weeks, if your baby is gaining weight and has no other medical issues, most doctors will tell you that it’s OK to just let your sleeping babe do its sleepy thing. Baby will wake up when he or she needs you. Obviously you should always consult your pediatrician first as some babies might need to be woken up for awhile. My daughter had trouble gaining weight so I actually did have to wake her up to eat for the first month-and-a-half. Every baby is different.
9. Don’t take on too much
If you’re the type of person who likes to keep busy, then having a newborn will probably throw a bit of a wrench in things for you, but it’s important to take this time to relax and just soak up time with your new baby. Don’t take on too much, too soon. Doing everyday tasks with a newborn to work around is doubly exhausting, so it’s a good idea to just accept that you’ll have to slow down for a bit. Embrace it!
10. Accept help
People will offer to help you, but they won’t always know how. My suggestion? Create a running list of “chores” for when people stop by, that way if they want to help they can choose something from the list instead of you trying to come up with something. Folding laundry, running a load of dishes or taking your dog for a walk…help with any of these tasks will relieve you a bit freeing you up to rest a little more. And if people offer to bring you a meal? The answer is always yes. It takes a village my friends and I swear…you’ll get more sleep eventually!