1. Lighten your load
It’s natural to feel tempted to take on extra commitments with an older child if you’re feeling guilty about the time your newborn is soaking up. Think twice – as Dr Susan Zafarlotfi from the University Medical Center in New Jersey USA told medical information site WebMD. “Don’t take on any extra responsibilities when you have a newborn at home,” she says.
2. Let your partner help
In its sleep-loss article that scored almost 2000 ‘likes’ on Facebook, the Family Education Network in the USA advises: “If you’re breastfeeding, your partner can change the baby’s [nappy] and then bring the child to you. After your milk becomes established, he could feed the baby a bottle of expressed milk. If you are bottle-feeding, he can feed the baby on alternate nights.”
3. Sleep when your baby sleeps
“If your baby takes a nap, put everything aside and take a nap, too,” Zafarlotfi says. While the pile of washing in the laundry may be beckoning, it can all wait, she says. The most important thing is to clock as much rest as you can, when you can – so that you’re alert should you need to drive.
4. Talk openly with your partner
Loss of sleep can strain more than just your mood. To dodge the added stress on your relationship, talk to your partner early about how you might handle sleep deprivation, Dr Margaret Park from Rush University Medical Center in Chicago USA told WebMD. She also advises saving up for a night nurse or a babysitter for those early days and nights of sleep loss.
5. Accept help
Forget coping on your own – it’s overrated. As Park says, “Accept any help you can get… Many people are resistant, but whether it is a family member, friend or babysitter, accept help so that you can get a few hours of sleep… People think of sleep as a luxury, but it’s a requirement.” A cool dark environment is best for napping – somewhere without a clock so that you don’t focus on how much time you’ve got left to kip.
6. Make nappy changes a cinch
Set things up so that middle-of-the-night nappy changes are as easy as possible. Have the nappy ready to go, make sure the baby’s clothes are easy to work around, and if the nappy isn’t too wet consider keeping it on until the next feed.
7. Exercise each day
Exercise can help release some of the tension that naturally builds up when you’re losing out on sleep. Walking around your suburb pushing your pram can also help you get back in shape and energise you – don’t view exercise as an energy drain!
Breast-fed babies and sleep
Worried that your breastfed baby is missing out on sleep, too? Don’t. A recent study presented at the American Academy of Paediatrics National Conference found that while breast-fed babies do wake more often during the night (and do so for longer) than bottle-fed babies do, their sleeping patterns stabilise during infancy.
“Families are often concerned that their baby will not sleep as well due to breastfeeding,” lead author Dr Jodi Mindell says. “Our study found that although it is true that bottle-fed babies wake less often at night and sleep for longer stretches than babies who are nursing, there are no differences in total amount of sleep. And more importantly, six months later there is no difference in sleep skills.”
References available upon request