This post is sponsored by Owlet Baby Care. All opinions are 100% mine.
When you’ve just welcomed a new baby into your family, there are a lot of changes. Wonderful changes!
You have little toes to kiss and a soft fuzzy baby head to sniff. Your arms are full, and so is your heart.
But if you’re like most moms out there, you’re exhausted. You might have a t-shirt that reads, “But first, coffee.” You joke with your friends that you’re all “Mombies” from lack of sleep. And more than once, you’ve tried to fit your baby’s head through his onesie’s arm hole before you realized what wasn’t quite right, or latched your baby on to nurse, only to realize you were “nursing” his ear.
It happens to all of us. And as much as we laugh at ourselves, sleep deprivation is no joke!
While we can’t always get our babies to sleep more, there are things we can do to help ourselves to get more Zzzz’s.
How to Get More Sleep When You Have a New Baby
As a mom of 3 kids, I’ve learned some tricks that have helped me to get more sleep throughout these early months and years. Hopefully at least one of these tips will help you, too!
1. Go to bed when the baby does.
I know everyone says, “Sleep when the baby sleeps.” And all of us roll our eyes and say, “Right. Am I supposed to clean when the baby cleans? And cook when the baby cooks too?” I know, I know. I’m not talking about that.
I’m talking about at the end of the day, when you settle your baby into his bed for the first stretch of the night. Go to sleep. Even if it’s 6:30. Even if it’s 8. Even if you haven’t had any “alone time” at all and you want to stay up late pinning DIY furniture makeovers on Pinterest.
Even if you think that by the time you fall asleep, your baby will be about to wake up again anyway, so you might as well just stay up until the first wake-up. Don’t do that. Go to sleep. (This is how, when Anneliese was a baby, I often ended up staying up until 1:00 am or later. I’d wait until her first wake-up, then spend hours nursing and settling her again. Not cool for my body which desperately needed rest!)
It took me until my third child to learn to actually take this advice, and as a result, I was much better rested in Henry’s first months. When he would wake up to nurse (or my alarm to wake him up to nurse went off), I could watch some shows or play on social media if I felt like it. But in the meantime, I got several hours of quality sleep.
2. Wind down with an epsom salt bath.
I never have much trouble going to sleep when I decide I’m going to. But if you do, you definitely don’t want to waste hours of your precious rest time tossing and turning! Take 20 minutes to soak in an epsom salt bath before you go to bed. Your body will absorb the magnesium through your skin, and it will relax your muscles and your mind. Magnesium is kind of a miracle.
Just use two cups of epsom salt or magnesium flakes, 1 cup of baking soda, and optionally a couple drops of lavender and chamomile essential oils (always dilute in sweet almond oil, olive oil, or coconut oil before mixing into your bath).
It might not feel like you have time to take a luxurious, relaxing bath, but I promise 20 minutes of soaking instead of 2 hours making mental to-do lists and “trying to get comfortable” in bed is a smart trade-off.
3. Ask for help.
Usually, you’ll be asking your husband (or partner) for help. Or maybe he’s just awesome enough to do his part of the parenting at night without even being asked! Either way, please don’t feel like nighttime parenting is solely on your shoulders.
My husband and I have a pretty smooth newborn night routine. When the baby woke up, he’d bring him to me and then pass out in bed again, and I’d nurse the baby. When the baby was finished nursing, I’d wake my husband who would change the baby’s diaper if necessary, then soothe the baby back to sleep while I slept soundly (see again – me falling asleep at the drop of a hat when I decide to).
But let’s say your husband is working night shifts, or traveling for work, or you’re a single parent, or he works with heavy machinery and you don’t want him to die because of a sleepy mistake at work.
Ask someone. Anyone.
Your mother. Your mother-in-law. A great friend. A postpartum doula. A sitter or nanny. Your sibling.
Maybe they can’t help out every night, but they can come once in a while and help you get some sleep. Either at night, or during the day. If you’re behind on sleep, it’s totally worth it to ask for help.
I remember once when my first two kids were both under 2 years old, my husband was deployed, and I was a complete zombie. I called my babysitter and had her take the kids to a park so that I could sleep for a few hours in the middle of the day. Bliss.
4. Take a vacation in the guest room.
I wouldn’t do this too often, but every once in a while, when you really need to make up for lost time in the sleep department, assign your husband (or partner, or mom, or whomever) 100% baby duty for the night. Leave a bottle of expressed milk, take that epsom salt bath, then retire to the guest room to slumber in silence, all alone. Don’t take the baby monitor with you. Don’t read or watch shows or a movie before you go to sleep.
Note: Please don’t do this in the first 2-3 months, if you’re breastfeeding. You need to be waking to nurse or at least to pump every 2-3 hours in those first months to establish your supply. But after that, it won’t hurt to sleep through the night once in a while!
5. Room-in with Baby.
Instead of having your baby in a nursery or bedroom away from you, have baby’s bed in your own room. Whether it’s a crib, a floor bed like my little toddler has now, a hammock like he had for several months when he was smaller, or a co-sleeper (kind of like a crib safely side-carred and strapped to your bed), this is a technique that will definitely help you to get more sleep at night!
Instead of having to walk around the house whenever you hear your baby squeak or cry, your baby is at arm’s reach. Easy to nurse or feed, easy to settle both of you back into sleep afterward.
Also, here’s a related bonus tip – have a lamp with a red lightbulb in your room! In those early months, you often need to be able to see to latch baby on to your breast well, change a diaper, or adjust baby’s pajamas or swaddle. A red light bulb will let you see without making it harder for you to fall back to sleep afterward!
6. Turn off the screens.
I had to include this one because all of the sleep experts tell you this. Turn off the screens – television, kindle, phone, computer, everything – at least 30-60 minutes before you sleep. And when you wake up in the middle of the night, don’t use them then either.
I’m the worst at this. But I hear it helps.
It’s the blue light that’s the evil thing that keeps you awake… so if you don’t want to abstain from screen time while you’re settling down, at least wear blue-blocker glasses to allow your brain to relax and not think that it’s still daytime.
7. Use a monitor. No, not that kind.
Before I became a parent, I was a nanny. One of the families I worked for had a regular sound-only baby monitor. It drove me crazy. Some of the time, the monitor was completely silent, but the child was wide awake and getting into mischief. Other times, I could hear the child making lots of noises, but he was just talking in his sleep. But if I peeked into the room, he’d wake up and it was all over.
Another family had a video monitor which was great. So much better! So I used one for my first two kids, when they were babies and toddlers. I could easily see if they were awake or if they needed help. I could even talk to them over the monitor and soothe them with my voice sometimes!
But it didn’t always help me sleep. I would stare at the monitor, especially when my kids were tiny, scrutinizing the image of their little body, trying to figure out if they were breathing or not.
I’m not sure if my level of postpartum anxiety is normal or elevated, but I know MANY mamas who have the same thoughts and fears that I do. If our babies sleep through the night, we don’t. We wake up 4 or 5 times just to check and make sure our baby is still alive. If our baby has an epic 3-hour nap during the day, we’re terrified they’ve suffocated to death. We just want to peek into the room. To get close enough to see or hear their breathing. Or put our hands on their backs and feel their body move.
But you KNOW that’s when they wake up and our chance for sleep (or productivity) is ruined.
This doesn’t happen to me anymore, now that I have an Owlet Care Monitor. It’s a little sock with a sensor in it, which you slip onto your baby’s foot. It connects to a base station wirelessly, and to your phone through your wifi network. And if your baby’s blood-oxygen levels drop too low, or his heart rate is too slow or elevated, it is designed to alert you with a loud sound so you can help your baby immediately.
The peace of mind is ridiculous…
No more waking 5 times a night while my sweet baby snoozes away. No more accidentally ruining an awesome nap during the day.
Owlet is great for soothing mom-anxiety, and for helping us keep our kids safe. Such a help, for getting more mama-rest!
8. Be patient.
Eventually, your child will sleep, and so will you. I promise it happens.
It might happen at 3 months old for your neighbor’s child, but don’t let that frustrate you. Every child is different, and MANY more sleep through the night finally at a year old, 18 months, or two years old. I know it sounds like forever right now, but when it’s behind you, it will feel like a blip.
The memories of your zombie days and sleepless nights will fade and soften, and what you’ll remember the most are the nighttime cuddles, rocking your baby in your dim room, kissing those tiny baby toes, and sniffing that soft fuzzy baby head.
You’ll remember the times your arms were full.
And your heart still will be.