mum waking up

If you have disturbed nights, getting through the day can be challenging. We share tips to help you cope with sleep deprivation as a new parent.

Mums and dads across the country will agree that going without sleep or having disturbed sleep is physically and emotionally draining. One thing to keep in mind is that this period of sleep disruption – however difficult and tiring – won’t last forever. Babies do eventually start to sleep for longer stretches at night (BASIS, 2018).

Watch tips and advice from other parents about the early days with a newborn

Until then, here are some suggestions to help you get through the hazy fog…

Rest when you can 

Don’t worry if you can’t actually sleep when the baby sleeps. We know how frustrating it can be when everyone around you keeps telling you to. Maybe just aim for some rest or a lie down. Simply switching off your phone could help you relax while your baby’s sleeping (Healthy WA, 2018).

Accept help

Leave any non-essential jobs around the house. And always accept help from family and friends when it’s offered or just ask (Healthy WA, 2018). This isn’t a time to take on too much or feel like you have to manage everything.

Couples tend to cope with tiredness better if they share parenting and domestic tasks, as well as taking it in turns to have a lie-in at the weekend (Relate, no date).

Get out and about

Getting out for a walk and fresh air could help blow away the cobwebs (Healthy WA, 2018). Daylight during the day has also been shown to improve a baby’s sleep at night (Harrison, 2004).

Tiredness can make it more difficult to feel motivated and might mean some mums find it easier to stay at home. But getting out during the day could help you feel less isolated and give you something to aim for, even look forward to, each day (Gay et al., 2004).

Nourish yourself

Take extra care of yourself in the day-time with nourishing food and some gentle exercise when you’re ready (Healthy WA, 2018). It's normal to find yourself craving high-fat or sugary snacks for a quick ‘energy fix’, however, the slump afterwards can leave you feeling more tired. Snacks such as flapjacks, toast, fruit or vegetables will help provide you with energy for longer (BNF, no date).

Social support is the best tonic

Social support is not just about making new friends; it can also help with mental health problems (Corwin et al., 2005).

Do speak to your GP if you’re finding sleep difficult even when you’re exhausted. It’s common but in some cases, this could be a symptom of postnatal depression.

There are lots of baby classes or groups - often free - where mums can make friends and enjoy a stimulating activity for their baby. NCT postnatal courses and drop-ins also offer an opportunity to find out more about your baby's development from a qualified practitioner, as well as a much needed cuppa!

Further information

Our support line offers practical and emotional support with feeding your baby and general enquiries for parents, members and volunteers: 0300 330 0700. 

You might find attending one of NCT's Early Days groups helpful as they give you the opportunity to explore different approaches to important parenting issues with a qualified group leader and other new parents in your area.

Make friends with other parents-to-be and new parents in your local area for support and friendship by seeing what NCT activities are happening nearby.

BASIS (Baby Sleep Info Source). (2018). Normal sleep development. Available from: https://www.basisonline.org.uk/normal-sleep-development/ [Accessed September 2018].

Corwin EJ, Brownstead J, Barton N, Heckard S, Morin K. The impact of fatigue on the development of postpartum depression. J Obstet Gy- necol Neonatal Nurs. 2005;34(5):577-586. 

Gay, CL, Lee, KA, Lee, S (2004) Sleep Patterns and Fatigue in New Mothers and Fathers. Biological research for nursing 5 (4) p: 311-318.

Healthy WA. (2018) Sleep 0-3 months. Available from: https://healthywa.wa.gov.au/Articles/S_T/Sleep-0-3-months [Accessed September 2018].

Harrison Y. (2004) The relationship between daytime exposure to light and night‐time sleep in 6–12‐week‐old infants. Journal of Sleep Research. Available from: https://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/full/10.1111/j.1365-2869.2004.00435.x [Accessed March 2019].

Relate (no date). How to maintain a healthy relationship after a baby has been born. Available from: https://www.relate.org.uk/relationship-help/help-family-life-and-parent…

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