When you have a baby, the single most common question you will be asked is, "How is the baby sleeping?" Sleep is an important topic for everyone, especially new parents. And while we may have all heard the phrase "sleeping like a baby", the truth is there really isn't such thing as sleeping like a baby. All babies sleep differently. Some babies come out as natural sleepers, some are cat-nappers, and some babies have to learn how to fall asleep on their own.
Managing Your Baby's Sleep
Your baby's sleep habits start with your baby's sleeping environment. Although the sleep environment may change over time as your family grows or your family needs change, it is helpful to evaluate how your baby's sleep environment is affecting his/her sleep. Everything from what crib you choose to what bedtime and sleep routines you set in place will make a difference. Here is some more information for you:
- The basics of infant sleep. How long do babies sleep? What should you expect for newborn sleep? Is it possible for babies to sleep too much? Learn the basics of infant sleep to help you feel more confident in approaching sleep challenges.
- Choose a crib. If you haven't chosen a crib yet, you can learn more about what style of crib might work best for your baby. A bassinet that is too small, for example, might be uncomfortable for your baby and affect his/her sleep and, just like adults, some babies may be sensitive to textures or sounds in their sleep environment. So, it may helpful to look at the very basics when it comes to infant sleep.
- Safe sleep. First and foremost, safety during your baby's sleeping times is the most important focus you can have. There are many updates and new guidelines for safe sleeping, so be sure to brush up on all the safe sleeping tipsfor your little one. This includes making sure your baby sleeps only in an approved flat sleeping surface, no co-sleeping, and that there is nothing in the sleeping environment, like crib bumpers, stuffed animals, or blankets.
- Crying it out. Crying it out is a controversial subject. But recent studies have revealed more information about how crying it out is really defined (does it mean two minutes of crying or longer periods of time?) and how exactly crying it out affects your baby.
- Sleep training. Is it possible to train your baby to sleep? Find out what sleep training methods exist and if sleep training might be right for you.
- Sleep routines. Establishing a sleep routine can provide your baby with sleep cues to help him/her learn when it's time to sleep. Cues like a bedtime story, a bath, or a sound machine can all serve as part of a successful sleep routine.
- Multiples. Twins and multiples will have different sleep needs that you may have some questions about. Learn more about twin sleep.
Feeling Your Best
If you are struggling with little sleep, it's important to take extra time for self-care. You don't need to have every aspect of your own life suffer because you're caring for little ones nonstop. You can incorporate these meaningful and healthy self-care practices to help you feel the best you possibly can, even on limited sleep:
- Exercise. Even a daily brisk walk can boost endorphins and lower stress levels so that what sleep you do get is sure to be a higher quality sleep.
- Join a support group. Sleep deprivation is linked to other health problems, including postpartum depression. So, joining a support group to keep in touch with other parents who can help you identify when you might need professional help is very important.
- Drink plenty of water. Hydration is always important, but skimping on sleep can also dehydrate your body.
- Keep up on your check-ups. Sleep is an important tool for your body to help repair damaged tissue and fight off infections. So, losing sleep might make you more susceptible to catching colds or getting injured. Be sure to continue scheduling your regular wellness checks with your care provider and get your vaccinations and booster shots as necessary to help you stay healthy.
- Limit caffeine. It might sound crazy, but too much caffeine and too little sleep can wreak havoc on your body. Treat your body well by only drinking caffeine in the morning.
- Nap when you can. Even a 10-minute break to rest your eyes can really make a difference.
Help When You Need It
It's pretty common to hear parents of all ages and stages complain about a lack of sleep. But the truth is, sleep deprivation is a very real health issue. We can joke about it, but there are times in our lives when a lack of sleep will seriously affect our health. You may have other children, health needs, or even postpartum depression that can be negatively impacted.
You might think that everyone loses sleep as a parent, but not everyone will have the same sleep struggles and not everyone will cope with them the same way. So, if a lack of sleep is affecting your daily life and health, don't be afraid to seek professional help. You might consult with a professional sleep therapist for your baby, talk with your own doctor about ways to help yourself stay as healthy as possible, or even look into the cost of hiring help temporarily. Knowing when and where to find help when you need it the most is key to successful parenting.
A Word From Verywell
Sleeping like a baby isn't always easy, even for babies. If you are encountering challenges in getting your baby to sleep, know that you are not alone. It may be a temporary season in your life, but it's still an important challenge that needs to be addressed. Resources, self-care practices, and professional support can help everyone in your family get the sleep they need to be healthy.
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