Beat new sleep deprivation with these tips! Learn how to finally get some sleep with a newborn as a new mom.
Did you know that only a merely 10% of all parents are getting the recommended amount of sleep each night? I’d venture to guess that it’s even less for parents of us parents of newborns.
I mean… that statistic isn’t exactly surprising, is it?
But enough sleep deprivation can really take a toll on you after some time & you just want to know how on earth you can get some rest.
Being a new mom is hard enough between family struggles, learning to breastfeed, and all those new mom anxieties. The least you can do is figure out how to get some rest before you lose it.
I remember when my oldest was born nearly a decade ago (seriously where has the time gone?!) — I was an absolute mess. I can vividly recall a moment of me just sitting on my bed balling my eyes out at how sick and exhausted I felt. I think I had a few hours of sleep spread across several days at that point.
Fast forward to today where I now have my fourth child who is a few months old now & I’ve been rocking it. I’m managing to get a total of 5-6 hours most nights. (But don’t be fooled… that’s not all at once HAHA!)
And I’ll just address the elephant in the room — most new mom advice out there is pretty garbage. Sleep when the baby sleeps. Skip the housework. Get help from your partner.
*insert a big ol’ eyeroll here*
These sleepless nights won’t last forever, but you need advice that ACTUALLY HELPS. Amirite?
Don’t worry — this seasoned mama who has survived multiple newborn phases has some tips for you. Stick around & I’m sure you’ll have a tip or two that will help you start feeling a little less like a walking dead extra.
But, first thing’s first…
how much sleep should new moms get?
I know this isn’t the answer you want to hear, but… as much as you can. A study has shown sleep deprivation can take a toll & really start to age you but the thing you should focus on is just doing your absolute best to take care of yourself.
6-8 hours isn’t always reasonable as we all have a variety of circumstances, responsibilities, etc. The fact is, motherhood looks so different to each and every one of us! You might have additional really small kids to chase after like I do, a job that has you up at wee hours of the morning, or something else entirely.
Whatever it is – I’ll laugh with you when mainstream media says we need x amount of sleep. Sometimes (er… alot of the time?), it just isn’t possible. I mean, there’s a reason why parents don’t get good sleep until their child reaches age SIX.
But what is possible? Doing your best.
This just means to try and go to bed at a reasonable time, taking good care of your body, and really watching how much you rely on caffeine if you can (but seriously no judgement here if you can’t!).
I’ll expand on this a bit later in the post too, if you want some help in this area.
The better you take care of yourself, the easier it will be when you inevitably have to wake up for middle of the night feedings & such.
Oh and PLEASE make sure you have reasonable expectations of your newborn. One of my biggest mistakes in motherhood across all ages I’ve experienced so far is unrealistic expectations.
Which leads me to my next talking point… what are reasonable expectations for a newborn?
newborn sleep expectations
When it comes to expectations of a newborn, it seems like most new moms have some WILD expectations that are truly unrealistic of a newborn. I did too though – it’s just part of being a new parent. You don’t know what you’re doing yet!
I hope me explaining some of those will help, though.
in the fourth trimester, your newborn wants to be close to you
Newborns are these brand new humans that were reasonably comfy in your womb for the last 9 months. Now suddenly, there’s alot of stimuli that they aren’t used to. Naturally, they want you for comfort as you feel safest.
It’s why getting a newborn to sleep in a bed away from you is so incredibly hard. Don’t expect them to want to do that from day 1. It’s unrealistic with how humans are wired. They need to get aquatinted with the world around them before they feel safe & confident enough to be on their own.
Try your best to be patient with them. There’s nothing wrong with your baby, the fourth trimester is hard for everyone. A new baby is a rough adjustment for all parties!
they will sleep alot, but not all at once
I’m sorry to break it to you, mama… but baby is not going to sleep long stretches unless you’re one of the lucky ones. It’s just not how babies work. Them waking frequently is their body’s way of protecting them.
They’re going to sleep a ton in a 24 hour period, but they’re also going to wake at least a few times during the night. Expect it & plan for it.
You’ll be glad you did. It makes things a bit less frustrating that way.
but, newborn wake windows are also very short
Newborns aren’t awake for very long after birth until they fall asleep again. That pretty much keeps happening repeatedly for the first few months.
In the first month of life, they’ll only be awake for 30-60 minutes at a time.
This also means that it’ll be pretty easy to get everyone back to sleep quickly as long as you’re not getting too active at that time.
After that, it stretches out to 60-90 minutes until the newborn phase ends. During the day, this means lots of time for playing & interacting with your baby. It’s such a wonderful time!
babies have underdeveloped digestive systems that affect sleep
If there was one thing to go back and tell myself as a new mom – it’s this. Babies are born with underdeveloped digestive systems. It’s why we wait until 6+ months to feed them solid foods & why they rely so heavily on liquid milk for their nutrition.
But… it also affects sleeping habits. It’s SOOOOOO easy for them to get gassy & uncomfortable. It means they ARE going to wake frequently and some nights will be harder than others to get them back to sleep.
If they’re super fussy and you’ve checked all the boxes – feeding, changing, etc… check to see if they’re gassy. They could just be uncomfortable! We all know how it feels to try and sleep with an upset stomach – it’s not fun.
Now, don’t let all this discourage you. It’s just how babies work. & there is lots we can do to help them! Keep reading and I’ll get into some tips to help THEM sleep so you can sleep too!
newborn sleep tips
If you want to get more sleep, you have to help your baby sleep first. Let that be your driving force & try not to get too frustrated. The calmer you are with them, the better. (Which really is a good rule of thumb with parenting in general, in my experience.)
But — here’s a few things you can do to help your newborn sleep better.
make sure they don’t have days & nights mixed up
Some babies are born with days & nights mixed up so make sure that isn’t the culprit. It’s SUPER common but honestly, it isn’t all that difficult to fix. I was able to fix this with my littlest babe in a matter of days.
So what do you do?
- swaddle them exclusively at night so they have a “signal” that it’s night time
- change the diaper BEFORE feeding at night as this helps them fall back to sleep easier
- make sure they’re sleeping in a dark room as light exposure has a lot of influence on your circadian rhythm
If you need more help with this, A Mother Far From Home has a fantastic post on helping babies fix their days & nights. →
establish healthy sleep hygiene from the start
Healthy sleep habits can be taught from a very young age. My now almost 5-year-old is SOOOO good with sleep because we started it early. If he’s tired, he will happily lay down and go to sleep. There really haven’t been a lot of fights with him up to this point.
I cannot stress this enough on how important it is to start early. Yes, really.
At the newborn stage, this is accomplished by:
- putting them to bed at the same time every night (at this age this just means what time they are in a dark room until morning)
- start establishing some kind of routine to “signal” it’s bedtime — even if it’s just putting jammies on & swaddling
- in the early days, keep them close to you if you can as this will help them settle in when they know they’re safe with you nearby
be mindful of babies getting gassy
Most importantly, you REALLY need to be mindful of how easy it is for babies to get gassy. They can’t break things down the way we can. This can easily cause them to wake up a lot.
Here’s a few ways to try and avoid it the best you can:
- feed your baby at an incline rather than laying them flat
- pacefeed if you are using bottles instead of breast
- try to burp them twice after each feeding
- notice if they’re struggling with a strong letdown with breastfeeding
- pay attention to how your diet is affecting them if you’re breastfeeding (e.g. dairy, caffeine, etc)
If they’re STILL gassy, you can help them get the gas out.
Start by doing bicycle legs and turn their hips back and forth at the same time to get things flowing. Then, grab their upper legs and lift them all the way up towards their chest at their sides.
This will seem funny to do, but LOOK OUT – because it works really well when they can’t get that gas out on their own. This also helps a ton with bowels.
Now what about YOU? Don’t worry, we’re getting to that next. We have to make sure baby is sleeping well first!
new mom sleep tips
Baby is sleeping better — now what? Well you need to make sure you’re also setting yourself up for success the best you can.
don’t go to bed while baby is in the MIDDLE of sleeping
I can’t take credit for this as I got this tip from a youtuber I follow but it makes perfect sense now that I think about it! (here’s the video I got this from if you’d like to check it out)
If you go to bed yourself after babe has been asleep for an hour, you’re running the risk of falling into a deep sleep right before they wake up. It’ll make you groggy & struggle to wake up for feeding.
So what do you do instead?
You have two choices — wait for them to wake up again before going to sleep (my usual choice) or wake them up for a feeding once you’re ready to fall asleep. Personally, I feel like a monster if I wake them up LOL … but do what works for you.
practice healthy sleep hygiene yourself
If you’re not practicing good habits, now is the time to start. Seriously. You’re setting yourself up to fail if you’re adding a newborn on top of bad habits.
A few suggestions that will help:
- go to bed early enough to account for wakings (I aim for 9 hours)
- make sure you’re eating an intentional diet — carbs & protein before bed can help with sleep
- LIMIT YOUR CAFFEINE IF AT ALL POSSIBLE — seriously. It’s hard, I know. But it takes your body like 10+ hours to get it out of your system so stopping after 2pm is usually a really good idea.
- drink enough water throughout the day — this not only helps with supply if you’re breastfeeding, but also helps you to not feel so sleepy during the day
Alot of these tips I got from this video on sleep & I highly recommend watching it.
sleep near baby if at all possible
This one may be a bit controversial but if you can sleep near your baby… DO IT!! We are naturally wired to be near our mothers as babies. It helps with so many things.
But — this doesn’t necessarily mean you have to cosleep by means of bedsharing. If you want to do that, go for it. I did it when my older kids were babies. But at this stage in the game, I personally cannot sleep that way.
What I do? Sidecar the crib. It’s when you attach the crib to the side of your bed. (This is the crib we have for reference.)
It means all you have to do is move baby over, feed, and put them back into their bed next to you. You get up less often, making it MUCH easier to fall back asleep — thus, getting better quality sleep throughout the night!
This is how you set up a sidecar crib:
- take one side off and push it up against your bed – bonus points if it’s also against a wall
- attach it to your bed using bungee cords so it’s secure
- push the baby’s mattress up against yours and fill the space between baby’s mattress & the opposite side of the crib with a hard surface such as camping mats — do NOT use blankets as these are a suffocation risk!
Getting sleep with a newborn is HARDDDD – I get it. But it won’t last forever. Until then, there’s some things you can do to help.
First you need proper expectations — understanding the fourth trimester and their need to be close to you, the amount they sleep, frequency they wake, how long the wake windows are, and that they have underdeveloped digestive systems that can result in some struggles.
Then, you can start helping baby sleep better. This can be accomplished with fixing day & night confusion, establishing healthy sleep habits, and keeping in mind how easy it is for them to get gassy.
Once you’ve done all that, you can then focus on getting yourself to sleep better. This can be done through practicing good sleep habits, making sure to go to bed at the right sleep so you don’t risk being woken up in the middle of a sleep cycle, and sleeping near baby with a sidecar crib, if at all possible.
I really hope this post helped you see how to get some sleep with a newborn.
Hang in there mama, the sleep deprivation will end soon!