Almost all parents experience sleep deprivation in the first 3 months or so after their babies are born. For the first 6 months, babies spend about 50% of their time in active sleep (REM sleep). This means that they are much more likely to wake up easily.
Babies generally do not have regulated circadian rhythms until about 6 weeks of age. Therefore, they do not recognize day or night.
Moreover, babies wake up to eat in the middle of the night for at least the first 3 months and usually even longer.
And until preschool age, they have shorter sleep cycles than adults, approximately 45-50 minutes.
All these make it hard for new parents to sleep through the night, especially new mothers, at least for the first 3 months.
But even once your baby consolidates more of their sleeping to the night, sleep deprivation might still play a part in your parenting experience.
A 2019 study found that parents experienced some sort of sleep deprivation in the first 6 years of their child’s life.
Here are some highlights from this study:
- Mothers reported an average of 40 minutes sleep loss per night in the first year of their baby’s life.
- Mothers were the most sleep-deprived during the first 3 months of their baby’s life, reporting an average sleep loss of about an hour.
- Fathers experienced sleep loss as well, but not as intensely as mothers, averaging a sleep loss of 13 minutes per night during the first 3 months.
- Mothers reported lingering sleep deprivation for the first four to 6 years after the birth of their first child, though similar results were not reported after the birth of subsequent children.
In this article you will find 10 tips to cope with sleep deprivation as a new mother.
Table of Contents Hide
- 1. Maintain good sleep hygiene
- 2. Sleep while the baby sleeps
- 3. Don’t worry that you won’t hear your baby cry
- 4. Place the crib near your bed
- 5. Skip household chores
- 6. Share nighttime duties
- 7. Ask friends, family members and relatives for help
- 8. Help the baby sleep
- 9. Don’t ignore the baby blues
- 10. Say no to added responsibility
1. Maintain good sleep hygiene
Good sleep hygiene is one of the most important parts of resting, whether or not you have a newborn at home. The following strategies can help you maintain that:
- Avoid caffeine: This stimulant can interfere with your sleep cycle.
- Do not use electronics before bed: You mustn’t forget that the light emitted from electronic devices can confuse your body’s clock. You have to ensure that your bedroom is meant for sleeping only. There shouldn’t be television sets or other electronic gadgets in the bedroom. Your body needs to know that it is time to sleep when you walk into your bedroom.
- Stick to a regular sleep schedule: As difficult as this sounds as a new parent, try to turn in and wake up at the same time every day. Just keep in mind that with a baby, you need to be flexible and expect nighttime awakenings.
2. Sleep while the baby sleeps
Any experienced adult will tell you that: If your baby takes a nap, put everything aside and take a nap, too.
It can be very tempting to wash the dishes, do some laundry, clean floors, make some phone calls or catch up on episodes of your TV series. It is very understandable. But everything can wait unless it is your baby. Once your baby is up, you have to be up too.
Always remember that newborns take frequent naps from 2 to 4 hours, for a total of 16 to 18 hours of sleep each day. And new parents are often severely sleep deprived if the only sleep they’re getting is overnight.
Sleeping while the baby sleeps can sometimes be challenging because of other kids in the house or our internal body clocks, but it’s a good idea to try and get some rest regardless.
3. Don’t worry that you won’t hear your baby cry
A baby is a natural alarm clock. Nearly all mothers experience that since they tend to be attuned to their baby’s crying.
If you are concerned that you won’t hear your baby or if the nursery is far away from your bedroom, buy a monitor and keep it close. Remember that your baby is safe, and if they cry for a few minutes before you hear them, they will be ok, too.
4. Place the crib near your bed
Placing the baby’s crib or bassinet next to your bed makes it easier to tend to your baby and then go back to sleep, allowing for a more restful night.
While co-sleeping in the same bed with your little one may seem tempting, the American Academy of Pediatrics doesn’t suggest it because of the risk of suffocating the baby.
5. Skip household chores
Instead of doing the laundry or any other housework, opt for sleep.
Household chores can wait and you can ask your family members, friends, or relatives for help.
6. Share nighttime duties
You and your partner can share feedings, diaper changes and other nighttime baby duties. Fathers are generally unsure about where to begin. As a mother you can ease the process for your partner about where and how to begin engaging in baby nurturing.
Moms who breastfeed can pump breast milk so the father can give a nighttime bottle to the baby, allowing the mom to get some extra shuteye.
7. Ask friends, family members and relatives for help
Don’t hesitate to ask for help from friends or relatives, whether it’s shopping, cleaning, cooking or holding the baby while you nap.
Some people might be hesitant to accept the help. But, whether it is a family member, friend, or babysitter, accept all the help you can get, so you can get a few hours of sleep.
If possible, friends and family members might also be willing to help at night with diaper changes and feedings. Sleep is not a luxury, it is a medical requirement.
8. Help the baby sleep
Although it varies from infant to infant, starting at 3 months of age, many babies start sleeping for longer stretches at night. By 6 months, two-thirds of babies sleep through much of the night.
Babies that are smaller at birth start to sleep for longer stretches when they are closer to 12 to 13 pounds.
In order to help your baby develop healthy sleep habits, you can try several things, 3 months after the birth:
- You can set a constant sleep routine.
- You can put your baby down when they are drowsy.
- You can teach your baby to self-soothe.
Teaching your baby self soothe means not picking up your baby every time they fuss. Giving babies some time to comfort themselves so they can fall back asleep on their own can establish good sleeping habits, which in turn, help parents get a good night’s rest.
9. Don’t ignore the baby blues
This is really important. Sleep loss can lead to mood changes, and new moms are at risk of baby blues or, even more seriously, postpartum depression.
If you experience some of the symptoms of baby blues or postpartum, you should take it seriously and talk to your doctor. Mood changes might get worse by sleep deprivation.
10. Say no to added responsibility
Being a mother to a newborn means a lot of responsibility for a long while and taking any added responsibility may lead to exhaustion.
For a while do not feel guilty for spending less time with your older child, your partner or doing less housework. All the experts tell that you should be careful about not taking any added responsibility for a while.
References: healthline.com, clevelandclinic.org, whattoexpect.com, babycenter.com, mayoclinic.org, raisingchildren.net.au, kidshealth.org