After bath-time is over, lullabies have been sung, and everyone has said “goodnight Moon,” it’s time for some well-deserved sleep. Just as you’re settling in to bed next to your already sleeping partner, your baby (who was sleeping soundly just moments before) begins crying. The early newborn nights are challenging, and the sleepless nights can take a big toll on the whole family, especially when there isn’t a clear plan in place for what happens next.
We’ve compiled our best tips.
Take Turns with the Night Shift
Establish an alternating pattern for which parent will get the night shift and write down the agreed schedule on your calendar. For example, one of you is responsible for Monday, Wednesday, Friday, and Saturday, while the other person is responsible for Tuesday, Thursday, and Sunday. When on call, you are responsible for feeding, changing, and getting the baby back to sleep for that night. This strategy will allow the other person to sleep through the night since he/she will not be on call. The premise here is that it is easier to get through a night of limited/no sleep if you know the next night will be your turn to sleep. Be aware that if you are nursing, you may need to adapt this plan in the early weeks. It’s important to note that for the healthy term baby, pumping is not recommended until the breastfeeding/milk supply is well established, or there is a medical indication to do so – usually, this is around 3 to 4 weeks post birth. In this scenario, we recommend that on mom’s day “off” dad will get baby from their crib and bring him/her to mom, allowing her to nurse in bed. Once baby is done nursing, dad can change baby, rock him/her to sleep, and put the little one back into their crib. When mom’s milk supply is established, dad should be able to feed baby with expressed milk that mom has pumped before going to bed. Parents who do this swear by the approach.
Split the Night into Shifts
Another approach is to split the night into two shifts One parent takes the first few hours, and the second parent takes the later hours. For example, the early parent takes care of all the wake-ups that occur from 9 PM to 2 AM. The second parent takes wake ups calls from 2 AM to 7 AM. The schedule will vary based on your schedule, and you might decide to switch off who gets the early vs the late shift. The main point is that each parent is guaranteed some number of hours when he/she will get some quality sleeping.
With both options assigning shifts, it’s important to be as specific as possible when devising the schedule. It’s also important to work these decisions before the baby arrives, as it can be very difficult to make calm, rational decisions when one or both parents are sleep-deprived.
Sleep When You Can
Take a nap when your baby falls asleep. It might feel like there is an endless list of things to do, but taking care of yourself IS a priority. Getting those extra zzz’s will allow you to be more productive and present, so set the chores aside when your little one falls asleep and take that much-needed rest.
When both you and your partner are home, take turns spending one-on-one time with your baby so that one of you can get some alone time. While your partner reads to your baby, go to a separate room in the house and silence your phone. Sleep, read, watch TV, or do whatever you need to re-energize. For extreme luxury, consider investing in noise cancelling headphones to truly escape any chaos.
Communicate Openly and Be Easy on Each Other
Schedules and priorities shift with a newborn, and it can feel like you and your partner aren’t on the same page. Be open about how you’re feeling and discuss decisions frequently with each other. Having a baby is a significant event and you need to know that you and your partner can lean on each other for support. Everyone forgets things and makes mistakes, so be easy on each other. When you’re sleep-deprived or just need a break, politely ask your partner if he/she can take the baby for an hour so that you can rest. Be willing to make compromises and allow for space and time for your partner to rest as well.
Accepting help can be one of the hardest things to do, but trust that people want to help you and spend time with your newborn. Your friends and family will find joy in helping with chores as they get to be a part of the beginning of your newborn’s life. Learn to be a flexible and allow grandparents some one-on-one time with your baby so that you and your partner can sleep.
Consider hiring a babysitter or night nanny to help you get some extra rest. Relax knowing your newborn is in the hands of a professional, while you and your partner can both get the sleep you desperately need.
Whether this is your first or your fourth child, getting through those newborn sleepless nights is difficult for every parent. Trust that you and your partner are doing everything you can for each other and for your newborn. Ask for help and support from your partner, family, or friends when you need it, and be sure to make sleep a priority, as this will benefit both you and your baby.
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