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 ages 3 to 4 months, many babies can sleep at least five hours at a time. At some point during your baby's first year, nighttime stretches of 10 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 duties. If possible, work out a schedule with your partner that allows each of you alternately to rest and care for the baby.
- Give watchful waiting a try. Sometimes, you might need to let your baby cry himself or herself to sleep. Unless you suspect that your baby is hungry or uncomfortable, it's OK to encourage self-soothing. If the crying doesn't stop, check on your baby, offer comforting words and leave the room. Your reassuring presence might be all your baby needs to fall asleep.
When sleep becomes a struggle
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. Keep your bedroom dark, quiet and cool. Avoid nicotine, caffeine and alcohol late in the day or at night. Get regular physical activity — not too close to bedtime, if possible. Also, avoid stimulating light, such as from screens, and noise around bedtime.
Try not to agonize over falling asleep. If you're not nodding off within a reasonable amount of time, get up and do a quiet activity, such as reading, until you feel sleepy. Then try going back to bed.
If you think you have a sleep problem, talk to your doctor. 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.