There are so many things you must be excited about now that your newborn is home. Playing with the baby, bathing him or her and dressing the baby up: all of these activities are enjoyable. What is not is sleep deprivation.

Managing to get sleep and feeling well-rested enough to take care of a baby is quite a challenge for new parents, especially during the first few months. What’s more, not getting enough sleep and feeling overwhelmed are among the contributing factors for postpartum depression: both new moms and new dads could be at risk for this!

You need to understand precisely what your baby’s needs and sleeping habits are and then work around them to get enough sleep yourselves.

  1. Understanding your newborn baby's sleeping pattern
  2. Signs of sleeping problems in babies
  3. How to help your baby fall asleep
  4. Tips for new parents
  5. Takeaways for getting more sleep when you have an infant in the house
Doctors for Tips on getting more sleep when you have a newborn baby at home

Handling a newborn baby means getting used to unusual sleeping hours and dealing with the effects of less sleep, too.

Newborns usually sleep for two-thirds of the day (and night), but they sleep for very short durations. As your baby grows older, the total amount of sleep time decreases, but the night-time sleep duration increases and stabilises. Here's what to expect:

  • Newborns: Generally, newborns sleep for a total of 16-17 hours throughout the day and night in short spurts of an hour or two at a time.
  • At three months: Babies sleep through the night for six to eight hours only after they are three months old, or weigh six to seven kilograms.
  • At six months: Most babies learn to sleep through the night by the time they are six months old. Until this happens, you need to tailor your sleep time according to that of your baby.
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While most babies learn to sleep through the night by the time they are six months old, there are also a number of infant sleep problems that can show up at this age. And if your baby can’t sleep peacefully, neither will you.

One of the major reasons for sleeping problems in babies is separation anxiety: they are unable to understand that separation from you while he or she sleeps is only temporary. This induces anxiety and lack of sleep in babies. You need to look out for the following signs of separation anxiety around bedtime in your baby:

  • Waking up and crying more than once during the night, if they were previously sleeping through the night.
  • Crying inconsolably when you leave the room and quieting down the moment you pick him or her up again.
  • Refusing to go to sleep without you or your spouse being close by.
  • Clinging to you or your spouse right before bedtime to avoid separation.

Sleeping problems might also be related to illness. It is best to talk to your paediatrician if you observe such an issue with your baby.

Research shows that infant sleep apnea, congenital central hypoventilation syndrome and benign neonatal sleep myoclonus are some of the conditions that can cause sleeping problems in infants. Laying the baby down on his or her side (rather than on the back) is highly recommended.

Babies can also have trouble sleeping if they are over-tired. Make sure you learn to recognise your babies signals for bedtime, to help your baby get all the rest he/she needs to grow big and strong.

You can tell your baby is ready to sleep if he or she shows the following signs:

  • Rubbing eyes
  • Yawning
  • Fussing
  • Looking away when you talk to him/her or try to play or read a book.

Not all babies know how to fall asleep on their own or create their own sleeping and waking patterns. Here is what you can do to help create a regular pattern for them:

  • Create a bedtime routine as soon as possible. Many parents breastfeed or rock the baby right before bedtime. You could also sing a lullaby, read a story and pat your baby's back lightly to help them fall asleep.
  • Make sure you don’t let your baby fall asleep in your arms. This will increase dependency: your baby might assume that he or she needs your arms to fall asleep, and they also won't be able to go back to sleep by themselves if they wake up during the night.
  • Make your baby feel secure by cuddling them, comforting them or playing with them during the daytime to help them handle the temporary separation during night-time sleep. This will help avoid separation anxiety through the night or whenever you are away.
  • Do not engage in stimulating and playful activities close to bedtime. This will delay the time of sleep, and create a break in the sleep routine you are trying to create for your child.
  • If your baby’s breastfeeding pattern has been established, you can give him or her a pacifier to help him/her fall asleep.

Making sure your baby sleeps well and regularly can be the best way for you to get sleep yourself. Here are some more tips you can keep in mind so that you get ample sleep:

  • Sleep when your baby sleeps. Do not try to do household chores or office work or read a book while your baby sleeps. Instead, take a proper nap yourself. This may feel strange in the beginning, but you'll soon get used it. 
  • Forget that you have to be a host when people come visiting to see your newborn. If your guests can take care of the baby while you take a short yet sweet nap, do it.
  • Don’t share a bed with your baby during nap time. You will inevitably get the urge to check on the baby constantly and never get any sleep yourself.
  • Split duties with your spouse or partner so that both of you can get some sleep. 
  • Instead of running off to soothe your baby every time he or she cries, you should let the baby settle down by themselves if possible. Unless the baby is hungry, wet or in pain, crying could be a sign of separation anxiety and you should not encourage it or stop you from having your nap.
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It's important that you sleep, so you can take better care of your baby. And your best bet for getting adequate sleep is helping your baby sleep well, too. So, go ahead, make a bedtime ritual and stick to it: dim the lights, sing to your baby or read a book, whatever works for you and toddler. There are very few rules to keep in mind here: 

  • Don't rock the baby to sleep in your arms; this can lead to dependence and possibly separation anxiety in the future.
  • Don't do anything super-exciting before bedtime: over-tired babies tend to sleep poorly.
  • Look out for any cues that your baby might be sleepy: rubbing of eyes, looking away, yawning are all classic signs babies use to tell us they're ready for bed.
  • Watch out for any signs of separation anxiety. Cuddle your baby during the day, so he/she is not so worried about being away from you at night.
  • Take turns looking after the baby: both moms and dads need their sleep. Pull close relatives in for baby-duty, too.
  • Take your baby to see a doctor if he/she seems to be having trouble breathing while he/she sleeps or if he/she gives any other indications of illness.
  • Make sure you lay your baby down on one side, instead of on the back.
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