Caring for a newborn baby might be one of the times in life that is hardest on our sleep. Not only do around-the-clock feedings disrupt sleep, but it also comes right on the heels of the physical marathon of pregnancy and labor.
What helps during this time is to focus on the positives: along with all of the bonding you’ll be getting with this new addition to the family during this time, you’re also helping along a future super-sleeper as they settle into the regular routine that we all come to enjoy. It’s just an undeniable fact that getting through this stage takes some work.
Let’s take a look at why this time in your baby’s life wreaks havoc on your sleep, and some tips you can follow to help make the burden on you a little lighter.
Sleepy, hungry baby
Although it probably doesn’t seem like quite enough to you, your newborn actually sleeps a lot. Newborn babies clock in an impressive 15 to 17 hours of sleep a day, and this sleep usually comes in 2 to 3 hour intervals. Adding to the peculiarity of their sleep schedule is the fact that newborns have yet to develop the circadian rhythm that keeps us in tune with our daytime-nighttime schedule, so waking up at 3am or 3pm really makes no difference to them (but makes quite a big difference to you).
Newborns are also hungry a lot of the time. Part of this is due to the fact that they have very small stomachs, which means that they can get full on less but they also become hungry at a more rapid rate. Babies also digest breast milk and formula quickly, which is why they are often ready for a full meal every two to three hours.
With all of these interruptions, your sleep will become fragmented, due to waking up every few hours. Fragmented sleep means less deep, restorative sleep, causing you to lose out on some of the important benefits of a full night of sleep. One of the impacts of this loss is expressed through a lack of stability in your emotions. You becomes less understanding of other people, you react with greater negativity when things don’t go your way, and you have a harder time reading the emotions of others.
Tips for getting better sleep
- Keep your baby close by. Whether you get a bassinet attached to your bed or just give the baby a spot somewhere in your bedroom, this helps you do away with the frequent nighttime trips down the hall, allowing you to quickly scoop up your baby from nearby and remain comfortable in bed. Along with the convenience factor, this also cuts down the time that you have to spend awake going from your room to baby’s room.
- Don’t be afraid to ask for help. Whether it’s a partner, family, or friends, turning to them for assistance can help you get the boost you need. Try and get into the habit of making bottles of breast milk or formula during the day so your partner or someone else can take over the night shift feedings occasionally.
- Keep up with sleep hygiene. Make sure when you’re getting up to feed during the night you’re still keeping it dark (or as dark as you can while still being safe). Make use of white noise during feeding time, as babies grow used to sleeping through sounds in the womb, and this can actually be a comfort to them, helping them get back to sleep quicker (which means you do too). Watch your caffeine intake; we know it’s almost impossible to get through this time without it, but too much caffeine late in the day will keep you up later into the night.
Take care of you, too
In all the craziness of this nighttime feeding frenzy, don’t forget that you need to try and take care of yourself. If at any time you find the stresses of this sleeplessness overwhelming, make sure to consult a doctor as soon as possible. Remind yourself that this time of little sleep and constant wakeups will pass, and soon your baby will be getting a healthy night’s sleep all on their own—and so will you!