Most parents of infants—68 percent, to be exact—get less sleep than they need, according to a National Sleep Foundation survey. Between feedings, changings, rocking, and otherwise engaging a newborn, having a baby leaves new parents feeling like there’s little time to take care of their own needs. Fortunately, finding time for sleep does get easier as babies get older. In the meantime, these three strategies can help parents figure out how to squeeze in the rest they need.
Step 1: Sleep When Baby Sleeps
A new born isn’t going to adjust his or her sleep schedule to accommodate others, so the best thing new parents can do is adapt to their baby’s rhythms, and grab a little shut-eye whenever baby does. Yes, that means ignoring the mess around the house and the long list of unanswered emails, but in order to stay healthy and energized during this busy time, your sleep health comes first. Every time a newborn goes down for a nap, parents should follow suit. Even if it only amounts to 20 minutes of shut-eye, that rest will help the body recharge.
Step 2: Alternate Nights
Newborns need to feed at regular intervals, meaning sleep disruptions during the night are par for the course for at least the first several months. Lessen the load a little by preparing bottles in advance, and trading off nights with your partner.
Step 3: Accept Help
Now is not the time to go it alone. If possible, make use of friends, family, and your partner to share the responsibility of baby care and household chores. During these first weeks of parenthood, it’s completely fine to duck into the bedroom for a snooze while relatives meet the newborn for the first time. Another idea: Give each visiting guest an errand to run, whether that’s picking up a few groceries or taking your dog for a walk, freeing up a few precious minutes for parents to relax and perhaps nap.
Step 4: Talk with a Doc
If the level of new-parent exhaustion feels unmanageable, it’s time to seek medical help. A physician may be able to identify ways to adjust a feeding schedule of other daily activities to allow for more rest time. He or she may also help to identify and treat underlying conditions, such as postpartum depression, that are making it difficult to get the necessary sleep.