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Oh yawn…. You knew you weren’t going to get much sleep once your baby was born but you weren’t expecting this! You haven’t had an uninterrupted night’s sleep for weeks. (months?) Newborns sleep in fits and starts for about 16 to 20 hours over a 24 hour period. If your baby is awake there’s a good chance that you’re awake too.

Most babies, about 90%, will sleep through the night by the time they are 3 months old. For some babies, unfortunately, it will take much longer. Parents lose an average of 2 hours of sleep per night until their baby is 5 months old. From then until age 2 they lose 1 hour of sleep.

Sleep deprivation seems like a fact of life for new parents – and it affects dads as well as moms! But before you get totally bleary eyed, I have some tips to help you get the sleep you need.

How much sleep do you really need?

To function optimally, the average adult needs between 7 and 9 hours of sleep per night. Unfortunately we live in a culture that takes pride in getting by with as little sleep as possible, which is really unhealthy. Many women start losing sleep while they’re still pregnant. Sleep may be interrupted by frequent trips to the bathroom and once awake, it’s hard to get back to sleep. Feeling uncomfortable may also make getting to sleep difficult.

Parents lose an average of 2 hours of sleep per night until their baby is 5 months old. From then until age 2 they lose 1 hour of sleep.

This sleep interruption during pregnancy doesn’t compare to the lack of sleep you are subjected to once you bring your newborn home. Not getting enough sleep after your baby is born can be unhealthy and even dangerous. It is associated with high levels of stress and is a component of post partum depression. A study by the University of North Carolina Safety Research Center found that people who sleep less than 5 hours are 4 to 5 times more likely to be involved in sleep related car accidents. So, if you find yourself dozing off while driving your baby to the pediatrician, it’s time to get some sleep. But how???

Some suggestions for getting more sleep
  • Sleep when your baby sleeps. You’ve probably heard this one and have lots of reasons not to do this. You are probably thinking, “But that’s the only time I can get anything done!” Really? Realistically, you can’t get too much done if you’re falling asleep. Leave the dishes, don’t clean the house, don’t do the laundry. Just take a nap!
  • Use a baby carrier or a bouncy seat. If you really need to get things done around the house wear your baby. You’ll have your hands free and your baby will be quite content against your chest. By the way, don’t worry about the noise of the vacuum cleaner disturbing your baby. According to Dr Harvey Karp, author of The Happiest Baby on the Block,  babies actually find the sound of a vacuum cleaner soothing. If your baby is a little older you can put him in a bouncy seat while you get things done.
  • Limit your social life. This isn’t really the best time to entertain. In most other cultures a new mom is expected to rest. In this country everyone wants to come and see the new baby,  which makes mom feel she needs to be social. Tell family and friends that unless they want to help out, they’ll have to wait to meet the baby. You need your rest. Most people will understand.
  • Get help. When friends offer to help say, “Yes, please.” Someone can watch your baby while you nap. They may even put the dishes in the dish washer. If you can afford it, hire a postpartum doula or a baby nurse. They are trained to watch the baby and allow you time to rest and will probably do light housework.
  • Have Dad help with night feedings. This works whether you are breastfeeding or formula feeding. If you’re breastfeeding, make sure you have expressed enough milk to have a bottle or two ready for a night feed. For example, if you put your baby to bed at 8:00 and then you go to bed at 9:00, Dad can give baby a bottle at 11:00 and let you sleep until 2:00. That’s 5 hours of uninterrupted sleep. Yeah! The other nice thing about this is that dad can get some sleep too, as well as some baby-bonding time.
  • Put yourself in the mood to sleep. If you are having trouble sleeping and napping, try using ear plugs, an eye mask or even a white noise machine. Make your bedroom dark and quiet. Use essential oils that have a calming effect, such as lavender.

And remember, this is not going to last forever. Your baby will sleep and so will you!

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How are you dealing with your baby's sleep schedule? Share your ideas, tips and comments below.
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Categories: Baby, Baby's First Year, Blog, Mommy and Baby, and New Moms.