For many parents, the word “tired” takes on new meaning during the first few weeks after bringing a baby home. New moms and dads are often surprised by just how drained and exhausted they are, and at times, it can seem as if they’ll never feel rested again. But while it can be difficult to avoid sleep deprivation entirely thanks to the fact that newborns typically wake up every three hours to eat, these tips can make it easier to get through those special but sleepless days and nights.
Sleep When Your Baby Sleeps
The golden rule of new parenting is to follow your baby’s lead and snooze whenever you put your infant down to sleep. This means ignoring your to-do list, shutting off your cellphone, and sneaking in as much rest as you can until your newborn wakes up.
Go for Morning Walks
The exposure to natural sunlight in the morning can reset your circadian rhythm after a sleepless night. It also helps an infant develop a regular sleep-wake cycle. Plus, the exercise may make it easier to fall asleep when you do have a chance to nap.
Avoid Bed Sharing
While it’s tempting to snuggle, when sleep is a priority it’s best for moms to place their baby back in the crib or bassinet after nursing. Being alone in the bed may improve the chances of getting better quality sleep.
Call in Help
Ask your partner (or a parent, sibling, or friend) to alternate baby duties with you so that you can make up for missed sleep with short naps during the day. Even 15 minutes of shut-eye can be beneficial to body and mind.
While extreme fatigue is normal during the early days of parenthood, if your level of exhaustion is so great that it is impairing your ability to make safe decisions or carry out daily functions, it’s important to talk with your doctor. A lack of sleep may actually increase the chance of postpartum depression, and—on the flip side—postpartum depression may make it more challenging for a new parent to get sufficient sleep.
The good news is, the weariness won’t last forever. New parents say that they get about six hours of nighttime sleep and a one-hour nap during the day by the time their baby turns 2-months-old, numbers that are pretty close to the national average for all adults.