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What All New Parents Need: Sleep
Sunday, April 17, 2016

New mothers are told again and again that they should do everything they can to protect their sleep after the baby comes. Adequate sleep can guard against depression, overeating, and mood swings during those first few weeks (or months!) after bringing a newborn home.

It can be difficult to get all the sleep we need when a precious but demanding alarm sounds every few hours, all night, every night. So it’s important to have a plan that allows both parents to get enough sleep (or as much as possible) each night. And work schedules can make getting enough sleep even more challenging when there’s a new baby in the house.

New parents can expect several nighttime wake up calls every night for the first 8 weeks at minimum. There are some lucky parents who have babies that sleep through the night before they reach the two-month milestone, but don’t count on winning that lottery.

Instead, make a plan with your partner before baby arrives.

·      Trade off nighttime duties. If both parents work or if there are older siblings who will need care during the day neither parent will be able to replace lost nighttime sleep with daytime naps.

·      Go to bed early. If baby (and your older children) are in bed at 7:00, go to bed soon after. Sure, you’ll miss out on evening television or you’ll have to leave the dishes in the sink until the morning, but this period of disturbed sleep is temporary. Before you know it you’ll have your evenings back.

·      Don’t turn on any lights (if you can help it) when baby wakes up. You’ll both fall back asleep faster if you keep things dark and quiet.

·      Have diapers and bottles ready before heading off to bed. Prepping before going to sleep will limit the amount of work you have to do to keep baby happy during the middle of the night. If you breastfeed, do so in the baby’s nursery with the lights low or off. If you bottle feed, have bottles prepared and ready to go. Make sure there are diapers and wipes near the crib and if possible, change your newborn in her bed for the least amount of disturbance.

·      Feed and/or change baby and put him right back to bed. Small fussing noises will quickly lead to sleep (but whole-hearted bawling probably won’t, in which case you may be back to square one or need to do more soothing before heading back to bed yourself).

There are lots of resources for getting through the first few weeks of a new baby’s arrival. Talk to other new parents, your pediatrician, or other health professionals who can offer advice for guarding your sleep during this important transition.


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