Should New Parents Sleep When the Baby Sleeps?

This content was created by the National Sleep Foundation

If you’re a new parent, you want to do what's best for baby. But it’s also important to take care of your own health and wellness and try to get as much sleep as you can.

Newborns often sleep no more than three to four hours at a time, even at night. That’s because babies aren’t born with the circadian rhythm that you have—it needs time to develop. So while nighttime for you means that you’re tired and want to sleep, the same doesn’t go for your baby. And if your baby is awake, so are you. That means that you’re getting a lot of fragmented sleep, making you feel tired, causing you to forget things, raising your risk of depression, and creating an unsafe situation if you get behind the wheel.

So what’s an exhausted parent to do? There’s a common saying that new moms and dads should “sleep when their baby sleeps.” It turns out: This is a good approach. If you’re home and your baby is napping, lie down yourself. Even a 20- to 30-minute nap can make you feel more alert and happier. It might be hard to ignore the sink full of dishes or baskets of dirty laundry, but you need to prioritize sleep.

That one approach might not be enough, though. If you’re still not getting enough sleep and you’re raising your baby with a partner, consider splitting up the night into two “shifts.” If only one parent wakes up, the other will get to sleep for a longer stretch at a time. (For breastfeeding moms, this means pumping or saving some extra milk in the fridge for your partner ahead of time.) Lastly, take comfort in knowing that this isn’t a long-term issue. Most babies are sleeping nine to twelve hours at a time at night by six months.