Whether it’s your first or your fifth, round-the-clock caring for a newborn will flip your life upside down. Especially in the first few months, when your little one is likely to wake several times during the night.
Looking after a baby can be exhausting, and all new parents experience some amount of sleeplessness. But getting more sleep and rest is like putting your oxygen mask on first – it will help you do all the things you need to do, as you give the best possible care to your shiny new bundle of joy.
And while it may feel that way sometimes, we want you to know you’re not alone. We’ve gathered some sleep tips from mums who’ve been there.
“Accepting that little babies often don’t sleep is a good start – rather than fighting it or thinking you or your baby are doing something wrong. Sleep during the day when the baby sleeps (throw away your to-do list because focusing on your sleep and health benefits you, your baby and everyone around you). I do a 14-minute guided meditation which is super effective and clears my mind so I can think more clearly even on a bad sleep. Meditation is very restful, so it’s a good solution.”
“This one is tricky as it depends if you have a partner and what the dynamic is. But I know heaps of amazing dads who are the primary breadwinner while their partner has just had a baby. And they’ll happily take on one night feed (with a milk expressed bottle). Allowing the new mum a couple of extra undisrupted hours of sleep is golden – and the sense she’s supported and in a real partnership.”
“A teacher at my work got me onto a mindfulness app called Insight. If I have some downtime I listen to this lying down on my bed in the dark and sometimes fall asleep. Also, I’ve seen a naturopath, who recommends magnesium before bed (this helps sleep a lot) and of course not overdoing the coffee (hard) so that it has mostly gone from my system by the time I need to sleep.”
“I had a friend give me her copy of a book about getting your baby on a sleep schedule, but that didn’t work for me and my hungry babies. My mother-in-law helped me with the laundry as my girls puked after each feed, so I would say accept any help from anyone willing to help out. And maybe try and sleep when baby is sleeping rather than tidying your messy house.”
“My one focus was resting and following a simple care routine, and focused on only that, noting things down in a little book. It allowed time for me too, which was important. Just managing a shower was heavenly. I was lucky my partner was willing and able to clean the house and cook the dinners. I followed the exact routine with my second child... and it felt simple and soothing to focus on just one train of thought. I also found the Plunket line very useful for any questions or worries.”
“I was very lucky to have an abundance of milk, so I would express 5-10ml of milk before each feed as it would choke my babies otherwise. And I would save the milk for bottle feeds that my husband could do when I needed any extra sleep...But all in all I tried to stick to the same rhythm for the first six weeks.”
“The best advice I would give for the very early days (like the first month or so) would be sleep when baby sleeps, breastfeed whenever baby wants it. Be kind to yourself and lower expectations in every way (like woohoo and claps if you achieve looking after baby and nothing else). Shower when you can, but don’t panic if you can’t. Put lavender oil around the bedroom, remember this is a special time even though it’s hard, cry whenever you like, and laugh stupidly at nothing. And ask women who have been there for advice. We are here collectively look after each other.”
“I used the gentle parenting approach which is really about tuning into the baby’s cues for sleep, cuddles, play and feeding. When we had to wake in the night for a feed or nappy change, I always kept the light as soft as possible to keep the sleepy feeling. During the day, a combination of sunlight walks, baby wearing, watching Game of Thrones with subtitles instead of sound while on a lo-o-ong feed, being OK with a bit of mess so that I could rest while she napped and then I’d have energy for Bub AND the clean up later. These things all helped."
“My midwife was really old school and she said to me, “Never wake a sleeping baby”. So I ran with it, and would try and even lie down, sleep /rest , meditate (kind of) while they had long sleeps and change my mindset as if I worked nights. I would also get up and go for a walk or go to the gym so I got exercise or fresh air in the morning and set me up for a much better day. It would force me to get dressed, wash my face and brush my teeth etc. I’d pump some milk for a night feed, my partner would dreamfeed (we did this with both boys) and change them all sleepy at 10.30/11pm. I would go to bed about 8-9pm so I may get six hours before the baby would wake again at 2-3am.”
“All of the above... I found meditating helped with my second bubba. Even if you have them in your arms while you do it. And yes, don’t be too hard on yourself.”