All expectant parents know that with the arrival of a new baby, there is going to be an impact on their sleep. As much as we can try to prepare for this, no-one can predict exactly how it will be for you, or how you will manage. Some babies naturally get a settled night from quite early on, but others take a lot longer.
Sleep deprivation can impact us all in different ways, but it’s important to be aware of the impact on our health. It can impact our immune system, mental health and mood, our metabolisms, increase chances of high blood pressure and heart disease to name a few. It’s important to highlight sleep deprivation can negatively impact existing health conditions you have, so working on a strategy to cope can be more important than ever.
While we must expect some disturbances to our sleep when we have a new baby, that doesn’t mean you are powerless and can’t have a plan. With a little support and organisation, you can improve things. So, what can we do?
You may have heard the phrase ‘sleep when baby sleeps,’ which isn’t always the most practical advice, but it is sensible to try to have a rest and see if you can close your eyes for a bit. Sometimes we want to use nap time to catch up on chores, or just be ourselves for a moment, but trying to prioritise some resting time or a short nap can give you the little re-charge that you need.
Set your baby up for the best sleep possible – think about your little one’s sleep environment and how it is set up. Is your room blacked out? This can help us all get a better night. Think about room temperature – we all sleep a little better when things are on the cooler side. The Lullaby Trust, the baby sleep charity, suggests the optimum temperature for our babies is 16-20 degrees Celsius. If you can’t control the temperature of the room (in the hotter months), you should adjust baby’s layers accordingly. You can also think about using white noise – this can be really comforting to baby, who will have been used to the lulling sounds of the womb.
"While we must expect some disturbances to our sleep when we have a new baby, that doesn’t mean you are powerless and can’t have a plan. With a little support and organisation, you can improve things."
- Rosey Davidson
Having a regular wake and sleep time becomes more important as baby grows and develops. Having a consistent, familiar bedtime routine can help baby unwind and relax for bed. Starting the day at roughly the same time each day can anchor your little one’s routine. This means your naps and feeds can flow from this point onwards each day, and possibly become a little more consistent.
Get your partner, a friend or family member to support you. If your partner can take over some night feeds or take the time to settle baby after a feed, this can give you the chance to get a little more sleep before baby wakes again. For those who don’t have this option there are postnatal doulas and maternity nurses who can give you a break and help with baby.
Get to bed early! It can be such a catch-22 when we want some time to ourselves to watch Netflix, have a meal alone or spend time with our partners, but if you are going through a rocky patch, it is worth going to bed as early as possible. This will mean you can make the most of your potential sleep window. Remember, it is not forever and once you are out of this phase you will get back to being you in the evenings.
If you are concerned about you or your little one, always reach out for help - speak to your GP or health visitor if you have health concerns or are worried about any underlying conditions or causes of broken sleep.
"If you are struggling with sleep deprivation, take comfort that you are not alone, and it will pass."
If you are struggling with sleep deprivation, I hope you can take comfort that you are not alone, and it will pass. This doesn’t mean you have to tolerate sleep deprivation long term. It’s very common that babies wake regularly and often, especially in the first few months of life, but as they grow and develop they are capable of longer stretches during the night. You can always work on improving sleep, whether that is implementing a routine, assessing how baby settles, or simply getting a little more rest where you can. You will get there!