They say the first six weeks with an infant are the toughest: You’re just starting to get the hang of round-the-clock feedings and diaper changes. At the same time, your little bundle doesn’t know yet that daytime is for being awake and nighttime is for sleeping. So you’re running on practically zero steam.
But as any parent knows, your sleep schedule doesn’t immediately flip back to normal once you make it over that first exhausting hump. In fact, a recent Australian study found that even four months after giving birth, one in two new moms still report being excessively drowsy.
Though the women who participated in the study got a little more than seven hours of shut-eye per night, their sleep was fragmented. Most moms dozed off, then woke up to tend to their babies, dozed off again, woke up again … you get the (very tiring) picture.
It’s true that expecting to get a full night of uninterrupted shut-eye with a newborn is unrealistic. But by helping their baby get the best sleep she can, new moms (and dads) are more likely to snooze a bit more soundly, too, according to the American Academy of Pediatrics. Here’s how.
Make nighttime wake-ups a non-event. Instead of stimulating your baby and making it more difficult for her to fall back asleep, stay calm and quiet when you feed or change her in the middle of the night.
Teach her that daytime equals playtime. By talking and playing with your baby during the day, she’ll stay awake longer. And that means longer periods of sleep at night.
Help your baby learn to fall asleep on her own. In the middle of the night, put her in her crib when she’s drowsy but still awake. Holding or rocking her until she’s asleep completely can make it harder for her to doze off without you in the middle of the night.
Don’t go to soothe her ASAP. When you hear your baby fussing in the wee hours, wait a few minutes before checking on her to see if she’s able to fall back asleep on her own. You just might be pleasantly surprised.