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New Parents Need Sleep Too!

New babies need to sleep a lot – but sleep is important for new mums and dads, too!

Posted: 14 April 2009
by Laura Lee Davies

For all new parents, feeling tired most of the time is an accepted hazard that comes with the excitement of a new baby. Luckily, our babies are so cute we usually forgive them and just hope that we can hold out until a regular sleep pattern evolves! However, while our households are still settling into new baby sleep routines it's important for us to get our own rest while we can.

Tips for new parent sleeping
Until your baby gets used to feeding and life outside the womb, sleep routines are pretty much on hold. Instead, you will have to get used to waking in the night and erratic napping patterns.
I remember a friend of mine complaining that all the text books say, 'Get some sleep when your baby sleeps,' but as he said, 'That's not very easy when you're driving in the outside lane of the M1.' Indeed - naps when your baby sleeps are not so easy if your child only sleeps on car journeys or when you're pushing his pram! In these instances, swapping drivers or getting someone else to take your baby for a walk might be your only salvation…
But even if your baby only naps briefly and at odd times of the day, if you are at home, do try to take a nap or at least go for a bit of a lie-down rather than always using that downtime to rush around doing household chores. (Chores can wait and you'll get them done much quicker if you have had a rest!)

Grabbing some shut-eye - a few tips
Here are some other tips. Some might work for you, others won't, or won't for a week or so and then suddenly they will, so, despite feeling frazzled, do try to be patient!

  • Don't keep count of your sleeping hours - Apparently a new mother can usually bank on as little as three and a half hours of sleep. That really isn't much is it?! However, you'd be surprised how your new-baby 'adrenalin' can help you keep going, plus some nights you will find that even a new baby sleeps for longer periods. However, if you have one good night, don't bank on the next night being so good, and try not to compare your household's sleeping patterns with those of friends at your mother and baby group, otherwise your baby sleeping through will become a bit of an obsession.
  • Take each night as it comes - If you have a bad night broken up by lots of feeds, try to lighten your load the next day. Don't feel you have to rush around. Make time for a quick shower or a bath when your baby goes down for a nap after a morning feed, and maybe put off a visit by friends or a trip shopping. Do something less taxing instead. Make yourself an extra cup of tea, have a couple of biscuits and spend the morning taking it easy, maybe breastfeeding on the sofa in front of your favourite DVD. After all, you need to be good to yourself instead of trying to prove you're a supermum – there'll be time for that tomorrow!
  • Where is dad sleeping? - Depending on whether or not your partner has been able to take any paternity leave, has a very stressful job, or finds life without sleep particularly hard, you might end up sleeping in different rooms until your baby's sleep patterns settle down. Some couples opt for baby in the bedroom with mum, and dad either in the spare room or on the sofa in the early weeks. So long as you both agree on this strategy (and mum doesn't feel abandoned), this can work even for mum because she won't have to creep around during each feed. However, make sure this phase only lasts a few weeks as otherwise it is easy to lose the closeness in your relationship – cuddles are important!
  • Share feeding duties with your partner - Unless you are sleeping in different rooms (see above), sharing feeding duties can really help. Even breastfeeding mums can, after six weeks or so, start to express milk and dad can feed the baby from a bottle. This shares the duties and gives mum some rest. It also allows dad to get some bonding time in with the new baby. Even if mum is doing all the feeding, if dad gets up to make a cup of tea or offer some supportive words, this can really help a new mum to know she is not alone, all awake while the rest of the world snoozes!

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