A baby girl appears asleep with a pacifer in her mouth.
Sleep, baby, sleep. Same goes for you, mama and papa. You need your rest, too. (For Spectrum Health Beat)


When you’re a toddler you fight to stay awake and not take a nap. When you’re a teen you want to sleep all the time.

Then, as adults, many of us like our sleep. I personally need my sleep to feel like I’m functioning on all cylinders. Having children will definitely affect your sleep.

New parents will notice a definite loss of sleep after new baby is born. We talked last post about how often newborns are up—a lot at night—typically every couple of hours. Some information I read said it’s common for parents to lose about 350 hours of sleep in the first year of baby’s life.

So what can parents do? Here are 10 things I’ve tried or learned:

1. Say no when you can. I also encourage my pregnant mamas to do this. If it’s something you don’t need to be doing, don’t. For instance babysitting for a friend or making cupcakes for another child’s party.

2. Say yes to others’ help. Postpartum (the time after baby) is a tough adjustment anyway, but let others help you. You might need to give them suggestions. They could clean, make a meal, run errands, go to the grocery store, whatever you could use help with.

3. Sleep when baby does. All parents can’t sleep when the baby does, and that’s OK. If you can’t sleep, at least relax and take a couple of minutes for yourself. Read a book, take a nice relaxing bath, or just do nothing. For some parents it’s a struggle—they want to use that time baby is sleeping to catch up on the dishes, laundry and household chores. As a mom, I can say those things replicate faster than you can believe anyway, so take this time and enjoy baby and rest yourself. If you can nap, researchers have found that a 45-minute nap helps you be more alert for six hours after the nap. They also found that even if it’s only 20 minutes (my hubby calls this his power nap), it can make a huge difference.

4. Watch for postpartum depression. In some cases baby is sleeping pretty well, but mom still can’t sleep. This can be a sign of baby blues and, if it continues, postpartum depression. I once talked with a mama who stayed awake at night to watch her baby sleep. This isn’t a normal behavior. I’m not saying it’s not normal to worry, because that just seems to come with parenting, but to not sleep herself and just watch baby sleep all night isn’t normal. This symptom for her, with others, led her back to her OB provider.

5. Know sleep loss will happen. You can’t really plan ahead for this, but do know it will happen and it’s normal. That way when it does happen it’s easier to handle. A mama recently was telling me all she planned to do on her maternity leave—a huge list! In reality, that’s not the time to play catch up, but the time to take care of and enjoy your baby.

6. Avoid exercise before bed. You want to try and unwind your body, not gear it up.

7. Set up your bedroom to promote sleep.

  • Put the baby bed close to yours for easier access to baby.
  • Having a rocking chair or another chair in the room can make it easier for feedings.
  • Close curtains or darken the room if this helps.
  • Use aromatherapy. Lavender can help you relax before sleep. This can easily be used in a diffuser.
  • Use your breathing learned in childbirth class to help you fall asleep. We listen and participate on the mats using a CD I found years ago. In class I use it to teach relaxation, but it was actually made to help you fall asleep quickly.

8. No screen time for 30 minutes prior to going to sleep. The light from the screen affects body hormones and delays the release of melatonin, which helps you sleep.

9. Know your iron level or ask to have it checked. Being anemic can also make you more tired.

10. Realize it won’t last forever, though while you are going through it, it can seem like it.