10 Tips for Better Sleep for New Moms

Oh baby! Motherhood is a little different from what you think. Of course, you love your baby more than you can imagine. But you haven’t had a good night’s sleep for weeks — maybe months. And it’s unlikely that this sleep deprivation will go away anytime soon!

Caring for your baby (not to mention your family) isn’t easy when you’re sleep-deprived. It’s also dangerous. Drowsy driving, such as driving a baby to the pediatrician with little or no sleep, is responsible for about 100,000 crashes each year, according to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration. And lack of sleep also increases the risk of postpartum emotional problems in new mothers.

So what can you do? A lot, experts tell WebMD. Follow these 10 expert tips to improve sleep while raising your baby.

1. Talk about your sleep needs.

Do it early before you bring your baby home. “Once you’re pregnant, talk to your partner about your ability to deal with sleep deprivation,” says Margaret Park, an assistant sleep specialist at Rush University Medical Center in Chicago. Her experience is both personal and professional: she is the mother of a 3 month old and a 2 1/2 year old. You may now want to consider saving for help such as a night nurse or babysitter.

2. Use the hospital’s nursery.

It’s there for a reason – don’t feel guilty. “This is when you recover from birth,” Parker said. “Let a trained professional take care of your baby for a night or two while you’re in the hospital.”

3. Just say no to the added responsibility.

If you feel guilty about spending less time with your older child, you may want to volunteer for a trip with their class or take them on a special tour of the museum. Think twice. “When you have a newborn at home, don’t take on any additional responsibilities,” advises Dr. Susan Zafarlotfi, clinical director of the Sleep and Wakefulness Disorders Research Institute at Hackensack University Medical Center.

4. Sleep while the baby sleeps.

Any experienced baby nurse will tell you that the key to avoiding postpartum sleep deprivation is to sleep while your baby is sleeping. “If your baby is napping, put everything aside and nap too,” Zafarofi said. “Everything can wait—except the baby.”

Park agrees. “It’s very tempting to try to do chores, do the dishes, do the laundry and clean the floors while your baby is asleep. But accept that your house is dirty and messy and go to bed, because once your baby wakes up, you also Gotta get up,” she said.

Do not use this time to make phone calls or rush for Grey’s Anatomy, 24, or other recorded episodes of your favorite shows.

“I don’t care if you have piles of clothing,” said Dr. Michael Breus, author and clinical director of Beauty Sleep, Sleep Department at Arrowhead Health, Glendale, Arizona.


5. Promise to help.

“Accept any help you can get,” Park says. “Many people resist, but whether it’s family, friends, or babysitters, accept Help so you can sleep for hours,” she said. “People think sleep is a luxury, but it’s a medical requirement.

“When you do take a nap, don’t watch TV, don’t watch the radio, don’t look at your clock so you don’t focus on how much time you’ve left,” she said. Cool, dark environments are also great for napping.

6. Don’t worry you won’t hear your baby’s cry.

“Babies are a natural alarm clock, and mothers tend to get used to their baby’s cries,” Park said. If you’re concerned about not hearing your baby, or if the nursery is far from your bedroom, buy a monitor and keep it near you. Remember, your baby is safe and if they cry for a few minutes before you hear them, they will be fine.

7. Outsource tasks.

If your baby needs a bottle, ask your partner to take on some feeding tasks. If you’re breastfeeding, Park says, “consider pumping and feeding someone else.” Try to share all your household responsibilities.

8. Keep an eye on the prizes.

One day—maybe tomorrow, maybe when your baby is 8 months old—they’ll have sleepless nights. You will too. Some babies go to bed earlier than others. If your baby is crying all night, talk to your pediatrician, as there may be a medical cause—such as acid reflux or excess gas—that can be treated.

9. Don’t ignore baby blues.

Lack of sleep can lead to mood changes, and new mothers are at risk for baby blues or more severe postpartum depression. “If you’re experiencing some of these symptoms, talk to your doctor to address these issues,” Park said. Sleep deprivation may exacerbate mood changes.

10. Exclude potential sleep disorders.

“A short nap should rejuvenate you, but if you don’t feel it, consult a professional as there may be an underlying sleep disorder that can be treated,” says Park. Sleep disorders such as sleep apnea (pauses of breathing during sleep) are very common in people who gain weight and can develop as a result of weight gain during pregnancy. A sleep study, monitored while you’re asleep, can identify sleep apnea. Provide treatment.