TLDR: Bringing a new baby home is often one of the most exciting times in life–and the most exhausting. If you’re desperate to get some shut-eye, think about your sleep as a team effort and recruit support with these tips.
It’s no secret that sleep deprivation is a real thing when you have a newborn. While you may think you’re prepared to be on #teamnosleep, the reality is that caring for a baby at all hours of the day and night is pretty tricky for most new parents. And it’s really, really exhausting.
Julie Connelly, a pediatric sleep consultant1 , explains that a key way to cope with the lack of sleep is to understand that yes, it’s really normal for your baby to need you that much. And that it’s also totally okay to do what you can to maximize sleep for everyone. “Your newborn needs you and is dependent on you for sleep and feeding. You regulate them—you co-regulate together. Helping your baby sleep, no matter how they are getting that sleep in the newborn stage, cannot be a bad habit. There are no bad habits during the newborn stage.”
If you’re partnered, you may be able to use your significant other (or another support person, like a family member or friend) to help you catch some extra sleep. Here are a few ideas for how you can lean on your support network so you can spend more time catching Zzzs.
Be on The Same Page About Sleep Expectations
While you’ve probably read every single baby book and loaded your nursery with swaddles and pacis, your partner may not be quite as in the know about what to expect sleep-wise with a new baby in the house. And that’s not only in regards to the baby but for what sleep may look like for the whole family.
Connelly explains, “You as the mom go to the appointments or talk to the doula, but your partner may not be getting the same information about newborn sleep expectations and what’s normal for babies during the fourth trimester. Relaying that information to them is really important, as well as managing their expectations about what you are going through as the birthing person who may also be the primary feeder.” Talk about newborn feeding patterns, sleep cycles, and more. Explain how much sleep you can both expect to get and make a plan on how you’ll manage it—together.
Get Some Earplugs, an Eye Mask, and an Uninterrupted 3-Hour Break
Sometimes, you just need to be fully off duty. Give the baby to your partner and take a long rest, complete with earplugs and an eye mask. No interruptions—period. Not from older kiddos or well-meaning friends or family members. Even if you only sleep for a few minutes and spend the rest of the time scrolling Instagram, the space to rest and recalibrate will be worth it.
Meditating can be a clear path to deep relaxation—and any sort of relaxation is crucial to mom getting some sleep. But when there’s a baby around, it might be a bit harder to access that calm place inside of you. Meditating with your partner (who may already be a calming and steadying presence for you) can set the tone for overall relaxation and rest in your household. This is wonderful to do in bed together or in the late evening on the couch. Once you’re in mindful mom mode, hop straight into bed to take advantage of the quiet vibes.
Divide and conquer! Sleeping in shifts is a surefire way to up your shut-eye when you have a new baby. For example, you can make a plan to sleep from 8 p.m. to 12 a.m. while your support person is on baby duty, then switch it up and take the next shift (or vice versa). However, it works for the two of you, taking dedicated baby shifts can make sleep much easier and ensure both of you are getting enough rest to thrive.
Divide and Conquer
During the fourth trimester, it can be incredibly helpful to have your partner run logistics as much as possible, suggests Connelly (depending, of course, on your family situation with parental leave, etc.). Your job should be resting and taking care of the baby. Your partner’s job should be pretty much everything else: food, cleaning, shopping, and managing visitors. They can also take on the bulk of non-feeding baby care, too: changing, dressing, swaddling, and the like. This allows maximum mental and physical rest for you, while also empowering them to share the parenting load.
Have Your Partner Do Skin-to-Skin
The benefits of skin-to-skin contact2 are well-documented for gestational parents and babies, but this calming practice is wonderful for partners to do, too. One randomized control trial found that skin-to-skin contact between fathers and newborns enhanced their connection3 —plus, all of those soothing and temperature-regulating benefits apply when babies cuddle with partners, too.
When your partner feels confident holding your newborn skin-to-skin, it can free you up for sleep. Connelly says that ensuring your partner is comfortable doing skin-to-skin can mean they will be more likely to do it when you’re not able to. Start early and often, so skin-to-skin can be a tool for bonding throughout the fourth trimester.
Massage and other forms of relaxing touch can up your levels of the love hormone, oxytocin, and get you ready for sleep. Some recent research on pregnant women demonstrated that partner-delivered massage can decrease maternal anxiety4 , depression, and stress, too.
Ask for Help
One of the best ways to get more and higher quality sleep is to get your baby to sleep. By contacting a pediatric sleep consultant like Julie Connelly, you can help both yourself and your little one get the best sleep possible. It’s a win-win situation.