How to Get More Sleep With a Newborn
As a new mom, you’re not sleeping much. And you know “just sleep when the baby sleeps” is easier said than done. But we got you!
Here are tips to getting more sleep — from three moms who are sleep researchers:
Dr. Maristella Lucchini
Dr. Lucchini has two children and is expecting her third. She studies sleep health as a postdoctoral research scientist at Columbia University Irving Medical Center in New York.
- Keep the temperature cool. This made me feel better during postpartum night sweats.
- Reduce distractions during middle-of-the-night feedings. Although very tempting, try to not use a telephone, TV or tablet. A dim nightlight is helpful.
- Manage your stress before lying down. If I feel overwhelmed, I try to talk to someone. It’s important to vent so you can rest.
- Invest in good quality pillows and window blinds for sleeping rooms. The pillows improve my comfort and the blinds keep light from entering my room and the baby’s room.
- Set reasonable expectations. This is even more important as you welcome more children into your family. I knew that I could not have everything under control, so I made a “priority list.” Sleeping an extra 20 minutes in the morning meant that my hair routine got shorter. When I napped in the afternoon, I didn’t have time to make a complicated dinner. Because I needed a minute to talk to my friend over the phone, my apartment floors weren’t always spotless.
- Value your sleep. Making changes so you get more sleep might seem hard in the beginning, but in the long run is a good investment.
- Consistency and routines are key elements. As you train your baby’s circadian rhythm to get their best sleep, you’ll also set one for yourself.
Dr. Bronwyn Sweeney
Dr. Sweeney is a mother of two adult children and a grandmother. As a clinical psychologist with the Sleep-Wake Research Centre at Massey University in New Zealand, she studies how education and support can help new mothers feel more confident about helping themselves and their babies get enough sleep.
- Don’t disregard your need for sleep, even if your child is a good sleeper. I was quite stoic with my first child, which didn’t help me get the sleep I needed. With my second child, who had severe colic and reflux, I learned I had to take naps and rest. I accepted offers of help such as a meal and childcare and tried to sleep in whenever I could.
- Recognize the limits of your internal resources. Adjust what you think you should achieve each day. Once I became more accepting of the change brought by a new baby and realized that this change was not going to last forever, my quality of life improved, stress dropped and I enjoyed my babies more.
- Give yourself permission to sleep and take care of yourself. I’ve worked with mothers for more than 20 years, and the ones who do this have very positive feedback.
Dr. Marie-Pierre St. Onge
Dr. St. Onge is a mother of twins. She directs the Columbia University Irving Medical Center Sleep Center in New York, and her research probes the role that sleep plays in women’s health.
- Follow sleep patterns as a family. My husband and I would feed the twins around 10 p.m. to 11 p.m., and then we’d all go to sleep. We’d have one feed in the middle of the night and were good until at least 5 a.m. The goal is for the baby and the entire family to fall asleep on his/her own and maintain sleep.
- Understand that some newborns need more attention. My daughter was able to make it through the night within a few months, but not my son. I woke up an extra time with him for about 15 to 20 minutes. I was back asleep in no time.
- Extra attention for too long can lead to unwanted sleeping habits. We gave in to my son’s request for a feed in the middle of the night much too long. He was born small, so we thought he needed it. This became a habit that was hard to break.
- Notice your sleep improving. Postpartum sleep actually can be better than prenatal sleep. In the months before my twins were born, I was constantly tired. I slept much better after.
- Prioritize night sleep. Try to get as much sleep as possible during the night. This might mean going to bed earlier to compensate for wake time during the night and early mornings.
Tucking in new sleep habits
As you train your baby to sleep, don’t skip on your own. As you can see from these tips, sleeping more and better with a newborn can be tricky. But with consistent habits, including giving yourself permission to sleep, you’ll soon be resting better. Night night!
Note: Talk to your pediatrician or health care team if you have questions about your own sleep or that of your family, especially when navigating a newborn’s sleep and eating schedule. Each baby has unique needs, and your pediatrician can help guide you.