Whether they have children or not, everyone knows that the first few months of a newborn baby’s life are tough on the parents. Babies need to sleep for around 17 hours out of every 24, but they don’t sleep consistently, as adults do. Instead, they nap here and there, waking every few hours and needing to be fed and entertained.
The toll this takes on parents is well-documented. Every new parent knows to expect sleep deprivation, but few really know just how tough it can be. If you have recently welcomed a baby, or have one on the way soon, strategizing for how you’re going to cope with the sleep deprivation of the early days is a sensible decision.
Unfortunately, there’s no “one size fits all” approach when it comes to managing the sleep deprivation that often goes alongside living with a newborn. Babies are different; their parents are different; and a strategy that suits one family may not be sufficient for another.
To try and address this variance, we’ve put together three different sleep management strategies for coping with the early months of a baby’s life. The strategies below can be used alone, or in conjunction with more established methods. Hopefully, one of these will be suitable for your circumstances.
STRATEGY #1: Early riser / late riser
Here’s an example of how this can work:
- Mom gets up at 5am to feed, change, and play with the baby
- During this time, you stay in bed and catch up on some much-needed sleep
- In the evening, Mom goes to bed at 10pm
- You stay up for the final feed and go to bed around 11pm-midnight
This strategy does not limit nighttime disturbances, so it might be worth reading this overview of the Ferber method for assistance during the night. However, this strategy does guarantee that both parents are able to have a few undisturbed hours of sleep each night, which can make all the difference when it comes to fending off sleep deprivation.
STRATEGY #2: One night for Mom / one night for Dad
This strategy is simplicity itself:
- Monday night, Mom is 100% responsible for tending to the baby during the night.
- Tuesday night, you are 100% responsible for tending to the baby during the night.
- Wednesday night, Mom.
- Thursday night, you…
- … and so on.
The benefit of this strategy is that each of you is getting a full night of restful sleep every two days. While this alone is unlikely to be able to stave off sleep deprivation, it is far preferable to struggling to sleep consistently every night.
However, it must be noted that this strategy tends to cause another issue: loneliness. The parent who is tending to the baby during the night can often feel isolated from their partner. If you wish to try this strategy, it’s important to ensure you talk to one another about how you are feeling during the “solo” nights. If one of you expresses any misgivings, then opt to switch to another strategy immediately.
STRATEGY #3: In turns through the night
This method is simple:
- The first time the baby fusses or cries, Mom gets up to tend to him.
- The second time the baby fusses or cries, you get up to tend to him.
- The third time the baby cries, Mom gets up to tend to him…
- … and so on.
This strategy is incredibly common, and many parents find themselves lapsing into it without outright calling it a strategy. Superficially, it seems fair: you take it in turns, and thus you both have the opportunity for an adequate amount of sleep during the night.
In truth, this strategy often causes more problems than it solves. It results in both parents being tired, as both are consistently having to deal with nighttime disturbance and sleep deprivation. It can also be difficult to keep track of whose “turn” it is to tend to the baby and, if you’re both awake to try and establish whose turn it is, then you’ve both had your sleep disturbed anyway. However, it does work for some families, so it’s worth trying— but it’s advisable to try one of the above two strategies before you give this one a try.
The sleep deprivation faced by new parents is always going to be difficult, but there are ways and means of minimizing the distress it can cause. Hopefully, one of the options above will be a suitable strategy to help address sleep deprivation for your family, so you can all focus on enjoying the early days as much as possible. Good luck!