Sleep Tips for New Moms and Newborns

Sleep is so important to your health, but that doesn’t mean it’s always easy to get. As a new mom, it can seem like there’s not enough time in the day to close your eyes for 20 minutes, let alone even a five-hour stretch. Before the frustration sinks in, here are a few tips from our IBCLC to help you get the rest you’ve been dreaming of.

Establish good sleep habits from the beginning

Look for and respond to your baby’s sleep cues (like eye rubbing and yawning) to prevent overtiredness. Try to reverse the day-night sleep cycle mix-up with bright light and activity during daytime hours and low lights, soft voices and little stimulation in the evening. And create a consistent bedtime routine: feeding, swaddling, rocking, a story or lullaby.

Consider practicing “the pause”

Newborns are thought to be too young for sleep training. At that age, babies cry for a reason—for food, a diaper change or a cuddle in this very new, expansive world—so we have to attend to their needs. They have small stomachs so must eat often, they don’t have regular sleep cycles yet, and they haven’t learned how to self-soothe. But as we talked about, newborns are noisy sleepers. So if you hear a sound, wait just a moment or two before responding to see if your baby is truly awake or simply resettling. If she quickly quiets down, you won’t even have to get out of bed.

Create an ideal sleep environment for your baby

Blackout curtains, white noise, a cool temperature, and comfortable clothing help set the stage for a good night’s rest. A swaddle can also give a new baby that cozy, secure, womb-like feeling (just be sure to let his arms free once he starts rolling). No matter where your baby is sleeping, keep the environment safe. That means nothing besides a fitted sheet in the crib—no loose blankets, pillows or stuffed animals. Always place baby to sleep on his or her back to reduce the risk of sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS). If you are very tired—to the point that you’re worried you’ll fall asleep holding the baby or in an unsafe co-sleeping position—enlist the help of your partner, friend or night nurse.

Share nighttime feedings with your partner

You could also pump enough breastmilk for your partner to take one late-night feeding, but in those early days, skipping feedings can mess with your supply. And research has shown that bottle-feeding moms actually don’t get more sleep than breastfeeding moms. However, if it means that you can get a solid stretch of sleep here and there, it’s absolutely worth it. Remember, prioritize self care, especially if you are really struggling.

Put yourself to bed

After the baby goes down, it may seem like a good time to catch up on the million things making up your to-do list, but seriously, get some sleep. There’s no use in trying to play catch-up when you’re absolutely exhausted. It can be hard to sleep when the baby sleeps when you have a toddler or other kids in the picture, so put yourself to bed with the baby at night to give yourself a fighting chance at a decent stretch of sleep. And if you are one of the lucky ones who can gets some shut eye during baby’s nap time, drop everything and shut those eyes.

Make yourself sleepy

If you’re having trouble sleeping, don’t underestimate the restorative power of putting your phone away and lying down. Wanting to scroll through your phone before bed is pretty much human nature at this point but you have got to resist the urge. The blue light from your screen can prevent your body from making that sweet, sweet melatonin, making it even harder to doze off. Unplug instead by doing some light reading, or listening to the radio or a podcast.  

When your baby is waking multiple times a night, you’ll do almost anything to help him or her sleep longer. Some moms consider supplementing with formula, but the belief that formula-fed babies sleep longer is a myth. It’s true that formula takes longer to digest than breastmilk, but every baby is different and they still wake up for reasons besides hunger. Give it some time and if you still are having trouble, contact Ashland Women’s Health to learn more about our sleep training services.