Even new parents have to sleep sometime
"Sleep when your baby sleeps."— The Mayo Clinic
Anewborn baby can't do much but wriggle and poop, but he can definitely turn a house upside down. The hurricane that hits new parents' houses is partially down to long periods of time spent gazing into the new addition's eyes, but is primarily due to sleep deprivation caused by this adorably demanding little creature. With military precision and preparation, though, Mum and Dad can maximise their chances of getting enough sleep for relatively normal human functioning. Of course, no baby comes with a manual, so trial and error is involved in squeezing every last minute of sleep out of each topsy-turvy 24-hour period.
Take sleep cues from your baby
Every baby sleeps in a different pattern, says the NHS, and some snooze more than others. The key to getting rest is to nap when your baby naps. The minimum sleep a newborn gets per 24 hours is a full eight hours, so if you can match him in his sleep periods, you should get a reasonable level of rest to get you through the first three months of interrupted nights. From three months onwards, most babies calm down and sleep longer through the night. Newborns do generally have to wake up at night to fill their little tummies with milk, though, so there is little chance of escaping the middle of the night feed.
New babies tend to wake up every few hours to feed, so expect that you'll only be getting about three hours sleep per nap. As you become accustomed to the tiny boss of your house, you might be able to discern patterns in his sleeping, and adjust accordingly. Keeping a journal of when he sleeps and for how long might help you with this. Some sage advice from the Children's Health Network is to plan ahead when you will be napping or sleeping. Simple measures like putting your mobile phone on silent, turning off alarms and putting a note on your front door to warn the postman not to ring the bell will mean your rest is not interrupted.
Share housework and baby work
Newly made mothers and fathers are under a lot of pressure with responsibility for a new life. On top of looking after the baby and the urge to check every few minutes that the obliviously happy sleepy baby is still breathing, many parents feel that they have to keep up the high standards in other areas they've been used to. You can take some of the pressure off you, though, and free up time for sleep, by relying on friends and family and taking turns with your partner for baby changing and feeding if possible.
People without small babies normally have a mental checklist in their heads, listing the various chores they have to do and when. Scrap that checklist completely, and simply aim to do housework whenever you really, really need to. In times of baby stress and sleep deprivation, normal host or hostess duties do not apply for visitors, and you can get away with pleading exhaustion and make visits short and sweet. Supportive family and friends can also be press-ganged into taking some work off your hands, such as doing the dishes or laundry for you. This type of Machiavellian planning can dramatically cut down on the demands on your time, freeing you up to snooze when your baby snoozes peacefully in his cot. Advance planning before the birth, such as asking your mother or mother-in-law to pop in a few times a week and help out, is invaluable. If your support network isn't close by, then booking a cleaner beforehand is another option. Taking this pressure off gives you more time with the baby, whether for feeding, sleeping or simply enjoying each other's company. Working duties out between parents also helps spread the strain relatively evenly, especially at night-time if both parents can feed the baby.
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