How to Get Sleep in the First Few Months of Parenthood
Author Bio: Ryan Howard runs SmartParentAdvice, a site that provides parenting advice for moms and dads. Ryan writes about all of the different ups and downs of parenting, provides solutions to common challenges, and reviews products that parents need to purchase for babies and toddlers.
For a lot of new parents, the first few months can be a shock to the system. If you’re used to sleeping for 8 to 9 hours every night, brace yourself: that’s unlikely to happen once you have a baby in the house. A lot of parents go through a period of sleep deprivation, which only makes it harder to deal with the challenges of being a new parent. However, while your sleep schedule is certain to change, it is possible to get enough rest as a new parent.
Nap When Baby Sleeps
Babies sleep quite a bit during the first few months of life. In fact, sleeping, eating, and filling diapers is pretty much all they do. That said, they tend to mostly sleep in short intervals and aren’t going to get anywhere near 8 hours in a row in the early days. Since you’re likely to get woken up several times each night, your best bet is to try to catch a little shut-eye whenever you put your baby in the crib for a nap. Even if you’re not a regular napper, you might find that the lack of nighttime sleep makes day times snoozes a little more appealing.
Early to Bed, Often to Rise
While infants don’t maintain a regular sleep schedule, they usually go down for the night around 6pm or 7pm. Many new parents will use this time to get some chores done around the house or catch up on Netflix before hitting the sack themselves around 10pm or 11pm. The problem with this strategy is that you’re likely to get woken up every few hours to feed your baby. So, instead of sleeping for 8 hours between 10pm and 6am, you end up sleeping for 4.5 hours with stretches of awake time throughout the night. You’re much better off embracing your little one’s early bedtime and trying to get to bed around 7pm to maximize your rest.
Night On, Night Off
Most people can handle a sleepless night here and there. The challenge for new parents is that it often feels like there is no end in sight. Some parents will take turns getting up for different feedings on any given night. But this often leaves both parents with too little sleep. Instead, it can be a great idea to have one parent carry the load for one night, while the other catches some Zzzs. Then, the next night, you can switch places. That way, both parents are at least getting a good night of sleep every other night.
A Little Distance
One way to double down on the strategy of carrying the load on alternate nights is to sleep in separate rooms. On one night, Mom might sleep in the master bedroom while the baby sleeps in a bassinet beside the bed. In the meantime, Dad can be sleeping in another bedroom, or even on an air mattress in the living room. The next night, you can switch places. Being in different rooms really helps ensure that at least one parent gets uninterrupted sleep.
Set the Mood for Sleep
You will want to maximize your chances of getting good sleep whenever the opportunity arises. For a lot of people, it can be tough to go to bed at 7pm or to take a nap at 1pm when it’s light out. In order to stack the odds in your favor, get blackout curtains. That way, your room will be as dark as possible and perfect for sleeping.
A Little Help From a Night Nanny
Night nannies can be a great way to lighten the load. These people are pros when it comes to taking care of little ones in the middle of the night. It’s what they do for a living. Having some help, even if it’s only for a few months in the beginning, can make a big difference. The beginning of parenthood can be particularly overwhelming. So, anything that makes it a little easier is welcome.