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0 - 3 months

How to get more sleep with a baby (yes you can!)

28 February 2021 | By Tammy Jacks

Sleep deprivation is one of the toughest parts of early parenthood, but there are ways you can get more rest. We asked the pros for their top tips.

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Sleep, (or lack thereof) is one of the most common topics among new parents and for good reason. It’s hard to get enough sleep when you’re taking care of your little one 24/7. But the importance of sleep can’t be underestimated, as it’s critical for our physical and mental wellbeing. 

According to the National Sleep Foundation, a good night’s sleep empowers the body to recover and lets you wake up refreshed and ready to tackle the day ahead. However, a survey on new parents’ sleep habits by Sleep Junkie revealed that only 10% were getting the recommended seven to nine hours of sleep per night, after having a baby. Most parents were only getting around five to six hours of sleep per night, sometimes less.

So, the question is, how do you get more sleep? While the first six to 12 months are tough, there are ways to sneak in a little more shut-eye and feel more rested, says professional sleep consultant and managing director of Good Night Baby, Jolandi Becker.

For parents

1. Go to bed earlier

Sleep cycles and sleep patterns in babies only start to develop between 12-16 weeks, which is when you’ll notice that your child might be sleeping for longer stretches at night, says Jolandi. The first stretch is usually the longest – where you can expect your baby to sleep from around 7pm until midnight. Therefore, it’s important to go to bed as early as possible, as it’ll allow you to get 4-5 hours of solid sleep before the midnight feed. 

If you have older kids with a later bedtime, or chores to do, try to work in shifts with your partner. Single parent? If possible, ask a friend or relative for help, or pay for help wherever you need it in your home, so that you can prioritise sleep. 

2. Co-sleep in the early days 

Keeping your baby close during the first couple of weeks can be beneficial to your sleep, as you’ll have to feed, but if you don’t have to get up or walk too far, it can help you and your baby go back to sleep faster, says Jolandi. “Co-sleeping is great, but it needs to be done safely,” advises Jolandi. “By co-sleeping, we mean keep your baby close in the same room, but not in the same bed. Adult beds aren’t made for babies,” she adds.

3. Grab a power nap

According to the National Sleep Foundation, a 15-20-minute power nap can be very beneficial as it helps to reduce feelings of chronic fatigue as well as increase mental alertness, especially after a poor night’s sleep. Why only 20-minutes? Research shows this length provides just enough restorative sleep without that drowsy, groggy feeling after waking. And, the truth is, you might have more of an opportunity to grab a power nap once or twice a day, rather than a full 60-90-minute sleep during the day. 

For babies 

1. Focus on feeding

Babies who drink well during the newborn phase often sleep well. Jolandi maintains that you should focus on establishing milk production and giving your baby full feeds at every feed. Also ensure that you burp your little one properly after each feed, so they don’t wake up feeling uncomfortable from a wind.  

2. Swaddle

Babies are used to being in a tight space in the womb, so swaddling helps them feel safe and secure. It also helps to prevent Moro reflex (startle reflex) from waking your baby in the first 5 months. Cotton muslin is arguably the most popular swaddle fabric, as it’s soft, lightweight, breathable, yet snug, and durable. 

3. Practice kangaroo care and baby wearing

Kangaroo care – the method of skin to skin contact where you hold your baby against your bare chest, is the ultimate way promote better sleep habits and calm your little one in the first few weeks. It also helps to stabilise your baby’s heart rate, improve breathing patterns and decrease crying/anxiety. When you need your hands free, practice “wearing your baby” in a safe, age-appropriate wrap, sling or carrier. This helps to increase bonding and promote sleep in the early days, although experts do recommend transitioning your child into his/her crib for full, restorative naps. 

4. Stick to a consistent nap schedule 

As your little one falls into a more predictable sleep/wake pattern, it’s important to prioritise her day-time naps as experts maintain that sleep begets sleep. Simply put, the more chance your child has of getting restorative sleep during the day, the less restless she’ll be at night.

Follow this simple sleep guide from Good Night Baby.

Age

Number of Naps

Total length of naptime hours

0 – 3 months

4 - 5

6 - 9

3 – 6 months

3

3 - 5

6 – 12 months

2

2 – 4.5

12 months
(Earliest for a baby to move to one nap is
9 months but most likely around 12 months)

1 – 2

2 – 3

18 months

1 – 2 (usually 1)

2 – 3 (usually 2)

2years – 5 years
(earlierst to move to one nap is 2.5 years if it is influencing night time sleep)

0 – 1

0 – 2.5

Image: 123rf

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