New babies are cute and snuggly and smell so lovely (most of the time!), but they can also be tiring! Your little person seems to need to eat so often and it can be hard to carve out enough time to get the sleep that you need. Did you know that a study has shown that driving while sleep deprived is as dangerous as texting while driving?
While there is no magic formula to getting 8 uninterrupted hours from the get-go, there are some tips and tricks that you can do to maximize your sleep and set up some good sleep habits for you and baby.
Gone are the days of heading to bed and waking on your own 8 hours later feeling rested and relaxed. You can, however, make sure to maximize the sleep you are getting. When planning for a smooth postpartum transition, think back to pre-pregnancy and how much sleep you needed to be at your best (for most, it’s in the 7-9 hour range). That is your ‘sleep number’. Aim to get that much sleep every day.
With a baby, those 7-9 hours will be interrupted, it might take as many as 12 or more hours to get 8 hours of sleep in, but you’ll feel much better if you do! Try to go to bed as early as possible and keep track of your sleep and keep going back to bed until you hit your sleep number. To do this, you may want to try and keep appointments and activities to the afternoon (you might need to sleep all morning!). Once you’ve hit your number, get up and get started with your day! Let’s be realistic. There will be days where this just isn’t possible, and that is OK. However, if you can do this consistently you’ll feel much better and will be able to better deal with the days where you don’t get enough sleep.
It would be great if your baby would stretch their arms, let out a yawn and say “Man, I’m ready for a sleep” to let you know it was nap time, but unfortunately the cues are often much more subtle than that.
Your baby might yawn and/or rub their eyes when they are tired, but they also may exhibit a far off glaze, get droopy or red eyes, or get fussy to let you know that they’re ready for a nap. The tricky thing about babies (and toddlers) is that when they get overtired they can actually seem to have MORE energy and be more difficult to put down. Keep track of your baby’s behaviour before bed time and watch for consistent patterns. Those are your baby’s sleep cues.
Having an idea about maximum awake periods for your baby’s age can help you to identify when their sleep window is so you can put them down for a nap.
Brand new babies may not be able to learn habits, but their parents sure can! If you start with your baby how you intend to finish, you can do a better job of getting them to sleep. If you start by spending lots of time, rocking, bouncing, and singing your baby to sleep it will become your habit and eventually your baby’s too. You will likely need to help your baby to get drowsy and fall asleep, and the more hands-off you can be to do that, the better habits you’re creating.
Being consistent can help both you and your baby get into good sleep habits. If you can keep sleep times and locations consistent, your baby will develop better sleep habits in the long run.
I hear from a lot of parents that they want to get more sleep and they also don’t want to give up breastfeeding. Sometimes sleep training can mean adjusting breastfeeding habits a bit (not using it exclusively to put a baby to sleep for instance), but the two can go hand-in-hand.
Not all families are the same, and not all sleep shaping and/or training methods are the same. Do you want to share a room with your baby? Have them sleep separately? Do you want to see sleep changes quickly or would you rather a slower approach? The approaches are varied and a good sleep consultant will work with you to create a plan that works for your family and your parenting style.
These tips should help you to get more sleep and feel more rested. Know that you’re not alone in needing sleep and that one day (hopefully soon!) you and your baby will get more sleep.