The first few months with a new baby can be very stressful and exhausting, so it is important to look after yourself as well…. whilst not falling asleep when you need to be on parenting duty! This is a difficult balance to maintain and something most of us can’t achieve all the time, but it needs to be done as much as possible. There are lots of tips that can help you increase the quality of your sleep for both your baby and you, for a happier, healthier bonding relationship.
New-born babies sleep up to 18 hours a day but rarely for longer than 1-3 hours, as they require such frequent feeding. This is only a short phase and it will begin to extend after a few weeks. Better sleep habits kick in around the 8-weeks, but be aware that this can take longer. You’ll definitely be without a full night’s sleep for a few months! (Sorry, not what you want to hear!) The hormones that regulate the full sleep cycle kick in after about 3 months.
‘Sleep when the baby sleeps’ is a lovely intention, but it rarely works out. After all, there’s chores to be done, or you might have a little toddler roaming around! However, if you can, and you’re feeling over-tired, you should try and nap when your baby does. It will benefit your physical health even if you’re still feeling stressed.
Whilst it’s often tempting to do lots with your baby to tire them out, this can actually have the opposite effect as they can become over-stimulated. Introducing too many activities or new experiences to your baby before bedtime causes the brain to work overtime and it will continue to process information when you want your baby to go to sleep. This will upset your baby, and they’re likely to cry from over-tiredness. Instead, relax and have some lazy time before a snooze is due.
It’s also tempting to wake babies from daytime naps to encourage night-time slumber instead. If only it worked like that! Instead, leave them to wake up naturally. This nurtures the sleep cycle and won’t deprive them of any necessary rest. If woken part way through a cycle, it’ll be more difficult to get them to sleep later as they’ll be over-tired.
Once your baby is asleep, suddenly everything you do seems to be so loud! Yet this may not be an issue – and being overly quiet could actually wake your baby up! So…keep familiar sounds going. If the TV is on most of the day, keep it on. If you hum as you walk around the house, don’t stop. It will only be unfamiliar noises that will wake your baby, so there’s no need to tip toe around the house!
The main thing to remember with sleep when you have a new-born is that the disruption won’t last forever! It will probably be the most tired you’ve ever felt, but all parents have been there, and in a few months your routine will feel easy and natural.
And just when you think you can settle in to a good night’s sleep after the stresses and strains of having a new-born, your little one becomes a toddler and loves to get in and out of their ‘big bed’, worries about being in the dark and doesn’t want to go to sleep. How best to deal with these issues so that you can enjoy the odd night of uninterrupted slumber? Read more…