New parents: Getting the sleep you need

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New parents: Getting the sleep you need

It's 2 a.m. and your newborn is crying. Will you ever get a good night's sleep again?

Although life with a newborn is a round-the-clock adventure, don't lose hope. By age 3 months, many babies can sleep at least five hours at a time. By age 6 months, nighttime stretches of nine to 12 hours are possible. In the meantime, a little creativity can help you sneak in as much sleep as possible.

Suggestions for the weary

While there's no magical formula for getting enough sleep, these strategies can help:

  • Sleep when your baby sleeps. Silence your phone, hide the laundry basket and ignore the dishes in the kitchen sink. Calls and chores can wait.
  • Set aside social graces. When friends and loved ones visit, don't offer to be the host. Instead, ask if they could watch the baby while you take a nap.
  • Don't 'bed share' during sleep. It's OK to bring your baby into your bed for nursing or comforting — but return your baby to the crib or bassinet when you're ready to go back to sleep.
  • Split up nighttime duties. Work out a schedule with your partner that allows both of you to rest and care for the baby. If you're breast-feeding, perhaps your partner could bring you the baby and handle nighttime diaper changes. If you're using a bottle, take turns feeding the baby.
  • Give watchful waiting a try. Sometimes, middle-of-the-night fussing or crying is simply a sign that your baby is settling down. Unless you suspect that your baby is hungry or uncomfortable, it's OK to wait a few minutes to see what happens.

When sleep becomes a struggle

The rigors of caring for a newborn might leave you so exhausted that you could fall asleep anytime, anywhere — but that's not always the case.

If you have trouble falling asleep, make sure your environment is suited for sleep. Turn off the TV and keep your bedroom cool and dark. Avoid nicotine, caffeine and alcohol late in the day or at night. In addition, don't agonize over falling asleep. If you're not nodding off within a reasonable amount of time, get up and do something else until you feel sleepy. Then try going back to bed.

If you think you have a sleep problem, consult your health care provider. Identifying and treating any underlying conditions can help you get the rest you need. Remember, taking good care of yourself — including getting adequate sleep — will help you take the best care of your baby.

Last Updated: 2011-08-04
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