If you have a new baby at home (or even a toddler or preschooler!) you have probably forgotten what it's like to go to sleep when you are tired and wake up on your own feeling well-rested.
Well-rested? What does that even mean anymore?! There are so many ways to become parents and raise children, but one common thread seems to be sleep deprivation. It's almost a right of passage new parents go through. Stumbling through sleepless nights and tiresome days, surviving on a bottomless cup of coffee, catching the occasional head nod of solidarity from the zombie-parent you pass by at Target.
Sleep deprivation is no joke.
Turns out, sleep really is super important - for parents as well as their kiddos! Studies have shown that sleep deprivation impacts mood and cognitive function and can exacerbate postpartum depression. But we also know that babies aren't born knowing how to sleep all night. In fact, there are very good reasons why they wake frequently throughout the first year.
So what's a new parent to do? We have some tips!
Seems like a no-brainer... but somehow sleep often ends up pretty low on the priority list for new moms and dads trying to cram in all the laundry, cleaning, showering, work, meals, and everything else into baby's 20-minute naps. We know how unhelpful the old "sleep when the baby sleeps" advice is (especially when your baby won't sleep in the crib) but at least once a day, try making sleep the number one priority when you have a moment to yourself.
Lower Your Expectations (or Hire Out)
Like, really. Across the board. Lower your expectations for how much you are going to "get done" in a day, how clean your house is, how much laundry/dishes gets done. You're coping with the very big responsibility of raising a tiny human! Give yourself a break on the Martha Stewart-like expectations and let go of anything unnecessary (at least for a bit).
But if a tidy home and a daily shower are super important to you, consider bringing on some professional help. A weekly or bi-weekly visit from a house cleaner, a meal delivery service, and/or a postpartum doula can help you maintain your housekeeping and self-care expectations - while giving you the gift of time to yourself and with your baby. Our Doulas of Asheville Postpartum Doulas even work overnights, caring for you and your baby(ies) all night so you can actually get some sleep!
Limit Screen Time Before Bed
This one is a tough one! You finally have a moment to yourself before going to bed, of course you want to catch up on what's trending and binge your favorite shows. Go ahead and indulge... but try to cut out screen time in the time before bed (and in bed). Exposure to those bright blue hues impact your circadian rhythm and make it harder for you to sleep when you are actually able to lie down. If it's impossible to put the phone away before bed, check your settings to see if you have a "night shift" mode that filters out blue and green light.
Help Your Baby Learn Healthy Sleep Habits
Babies actually have to learn how to sleep! Newborn and infant sleep habits and norms are completely different than yours, and they go through so many changes throughout their first year. Just as you are getting used to your baby's sleep needs, they are likely to change again. Right when you think you've hit smooth sailing, boom. Sleep regression. (It's not a coincidence that we get A LOT of calls for overnight baby care around 4 months!)
Getting familiar with baby sleep needs can help new parents create reasonable expectations for how long and when their babies should be sleeping. How you help your baby learn to sleep is a personal decision, there are many different approaches and many right ways. Our team of postpartum doulas is knowledgeable in infant sleep science and can help you get into a healthy sleep routine based on your baby's developmental age and stage and your parenting style and preferences. We can also support you in implementing sleep interventions you feel are right for your family.
Go easy on yourself!
Figuring out parenting would be hard enough well-rested, but add in months of sleep deprivation and it's a wonder any of us survive! Cut yourself some slack - actually, cut yourself A LOT of slack. None of us can do it alone. And while social media make have you thinking everyone else has this parenting thing all figured out, we assure you they do not. There's almost always a "messy reality" behind every "slice of perfect" that makes the Instagram feed. You don't have to have it all figured out, and you don't even have to enjoy every minute.
Parenting is hard, but you're doing amazing. Now go get some sleep!