5 Essential Sleep Tips for New Parents
When you become a new parent, you enter a world of exciting and surprising changes. You have the joy of a little one in your life growing every day, along with the challenges of feeding, stimulating, and sleeping. “Navigating your and your newborn’s sleep are among the steepest challenges during the early weeks of an infant’s life,” says Dr. Rebecca Robbins, Harvard Medical School offered. “Unfortunately, this can be difficult, particularly as the caregiver is often operating on very little sleep due to their nighttime’s now being punctuated by feedings, introducing stress and frustration.
Prioritizing your own sleep helps you have the energy to care for your new child, so learning what works best for you and your child is key. Infants have shorter sleep cycles than adults. They sleep in one to three hour bouts, which means they, and therefore you, awake several times during the night. The following elements of sleep hygiene are especially important for new parents:
1.Nap when the baby naps.
Experts recommend you sleep when the baby sleeps. This can be challenging with mounting household tasks, but even power naps, or short naps that are 10 to 20 minutes long, help you recharge. Research shows napping can also reduce your stress level and will allow you to make time for things like cleaning, meal preparation, and other general tasks.
2. Be comfortable saying no.
There will likely be many friends, family members, and other loved ones who want to meet your baby. Before their 2-month shots, this may be ill-advised from the standpoint of their health, but as you navigate a new life with your little one, be comfortable saying “no” or asking to delay a visit until you and your baby have a bit more of a routine.
3. Create a good sleep environment and bedtime routine.
A good sleep environment for adults is cool, quiet, and dark. The same recommendations apply to your newborn’s bedroom. Make sure the temperature is neither too cold nor too hot (i.e., approximately 68° to 72°F), dark, and quiet in their nursery.
If you sleep with a partner with whom you share parenting duties, a common mistake new parents make is to both be awoken by the baby at night. Instead, consider having one person be “on” and the other be “off,” sleeping with ear plugs or even in a separate bedroom so they can (hopefully) get a consolidated night of sleep.
Nighttime rituals are important as well, so make sure there is a chance to bond as a family at the end of a long day. This may look like reading a story together, lighting candles, or taking a warm bath with your baby once they are able to do so.
4. Ask for help.
Don’t be afraid to ask friends, neighbors, and family members for help when you are in need of some sleep or alone time. Be sure to communicate with your partner to create a functional and consistent schedule while the baby is awake, plus also dividing responsibilities evenly. Making sure you have time to get outside, even for a quick stroll around the block, can have many positive effects on your mental health.
5. Start sleep training around six months.
Sleep training helps your child sleep better. Research shows that sleep training also improves maternal mood.
You might also consider connecting with a new mother or parent support group to talk about your sleep experiences. The members may have suggestions that meet your specific needs and provide a vital support system to help you know you are not alone.
If you struggle to sleep in the weeks and months after giving birth, talk to your doctor. Your doctor can determine if your experiences are part of normal postpartum fatigue or something requiring further medical attention. They can also suggest additional strategies for helping you feel your best.
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