How to Cope With Broken Sleep, the Universal Concern of New Parents. Having a new baby is a very tiring time for parents.
- Keep your newborn nearby. Having your baby sleep close-by can make it easier to pick your baby up and feed the baby at night, especially if you are breastfeeding. Less walking into another room can mean less time awake and make it easier to get back to sleep.
- Breastmilk contains a hormone (cholecystokinin) which makes a mother and her baby sleepy – helping you both get back to sleep.
- Sleep when your baby sleeps! Most people hate hearing this one! Even if you find you cannot fall asleep, just resting is better than nothing. So lie down and close your eyes. You may even drift off to sleep without realizing it.
- You may find it helpful for the postpartum doula or family member to watch your baby while you take a nap. It may be more helpful to do this straight after a breastfeed to help ensure the maximum length of time before your baby needs another feeding.
- Keep lights low at night and get sunlight during the day. These things can help boost your own and your baby’s melatonin (sleepy hormone) levels, which can help both of you, sleep better at night. Breast milk has an amino acid (tryptophan) that is used by the body to make melatonin. Tryptophan levels increase and decrease with a mother’s circadian rhythm, so breastfeeding may help develop a baby’s circadian rhythm.
- The circadian rhythm is one’s 24-hour internal body clock.It is important to know, however, that a baby’s circadian rhythm only begins to emerge when a baby is around 2 months of age.
- All parents of babies get tired, whether their babies are breastfed, formula fed , or mixed-fed. There is no research evidence to indicate that giving a baby formula or starting solid food early makes a baby sleep longer. One study reported that parents of breastfed babies averaged 40-45 minutes more sleep time than the parents of formula-fed babies!
Remember, Yes, it really does get easier! Most parents find that things start to get easier around the 3-month mark.
My favorite book with more helpful tips and for a deeper understanding about newborn sleep.
“Sweet Sleep: Nighttime and Naptime Strategies for the Breastfeeding Family” By Diane Wiessinger, Diana West, Linda J. Smith, Teresa Pitman
Doan T, Gardiner A, Gay CL, Lee KA 2007, breastfeeding increases sleep duration of new parents. Journal of Perinatal Neonatal Nursing 21(3):200–206.