How I Got 8 Hours of Sleep During my Baby’s First Weeks of Life – 5 Simple Steps to Defeat Sleep Deprivation!
Every new parent is sleep deprived. In fact, sleep deprivation during your baby’s first few weeks in life is one major cause to postpartum depression. Does this surprise you? Since newborns sleeps a lot (typically up to 16 to 17 hours a day), how could parents still be sleep deprived? Well, the truth is, most babies in their first few weeks of life have way shorter sleep cycles than those of adults. Their inability to stay asleep for more than 2-4 hours at a time (day OR night) means that new parents are up several times during the night to change, feed, and comfort their new babies. The result? Lots of sleep for your newborn, and a very demanding, irregular, and tiring schedule for you.
Welcome to sleep deprivation!
Common tips to defeat sleep deprivation for new parents:
If you do a google search on the topic of new parent sleep deprivation (which I did many many times), you will probably find some common tips such as:
- Sleep when the baby sleeps
- Prioritize sleep over other chores
- Get help from family and friends
- Go outside and get some sunlight during the day
- etc. etc. etc.
Although these tips are all tried-and tested, they only provide new moms with short-term reliefs. Since your baby only sleeps for 2-3 hours each time, you are still getting fragmented sleeps all day long. For me, fragmented sleeps feel worst than no sleep at all as you are constantly waken up by your baby’s crying!
What didn’t work?
In a desperate attempt to get some quality sleep, my husband and I tried a day-shift-night-shift type of schedule where he would take care of the baby during the day and I’d sleep. When I wake up at night, he’d sleep and I’d take care of the baby.
This model DOES NOT WORK! Why?
First of all, my husband only has 3 weeks off after the birth of Kayden, so he wouldn’t be able to do day shift anymore after that. So we needed a long-term solution.
Secondly, this really took a toll on our marriage as we were not spending anytime together. Along with postpartum hormones, this could lead to more serious issues like postpartum depression.
Lastly, sleeping during the day for a prolonged period of time messed up my biological clock. I felt even more exhausted when I woke up from a daytime sleep.What’s worst was that it felt like I had no life at all when all I was doing was sleeping during the day and taking care of the baby at night.
Sleep Deprivation Solution – 5 Simple Steps
To truly defeat sleep deprivation, you need a good NIGHT sleep. This means sleeping AT NIGHT (what normal people do) and have at least 4-5 hours of UNDISTURBED sleep.
Many new parents try to sleep-train their babies to sleep through the night (5 hours of sleep without waking up). However, unless you are amongst the few lucky ones whose baby sleeps through the night naturally, most babies at this age are too young to sleep for 5 hours straight without feeding. So rather than having the baby sleep through the night, the key is to help the mommy in sleeping through the night.
Sounds like a mission impossible? Here’s how I did it:
1) Set a bedtime for your baby 2 hour before your partner’s bedtime: This plan requires the help from your partner. The first step is to determine what time does your partner sleep. For example, my husband sleeps at around 12am; so we aim to have a bedtime feeding for baby Kayden at 10pm.
2) Keep you baby up 2 hours before bedtime: During daytime, I usually go with a eat-play-sleep kind of cycle. But 2 hours before his bedtime, I’d skip the “sleep” part of the cycle so that he’s tired enough and ready for bed after his bedtime feeding. I suggest using a variety of activities to keep you baby engaged and entertained to help with this issue. For baby Kayden, a combination of musical mobile, baby music, bicycle leg exercise, bath, massage, and tummy time can usually keep him awake.
3) Give you baby a BIG bedtime feeding: The key to babies sleeping well is making sure that they are FULL. So when it comes to bedtime feeding, try to give your baby a little bit more than what he/she usually eats during the day. For a bottle-fed baby like Kayden, it’s easy to do this. Simply give an extra 15-30 mL of formula or expressed breast milk at the bedtime feeding. I usually give him his normal amount (120mL), burp him for 5 minutes, then see if he will take in the extra 15-30mL, which he almost always does. For breastfed babies, just nurse them for longer periods at bedtime. Either way, make sure you burp your baby very well at the end of the feeding and sit him up for at least 10 minutes before lying him down to prevent spit-ups. This extra big feeding will help your baby in sleeping for a slightly longer stretch.
Now, put on some white noise for your baby, and go straight to bed after this bedtime feeding. Leave everything else to your partner!
4) Dream feed: As both you and your baby are sleeping soundly, have your partner sneak into his/her room and give your baby an extra boost of milk (another 15-30mL) before he goes to bed himself. This is also known as “dream feeding“. The key here is to disturb your baby as little as possible so that he/she can fall back to sleep easily after the feeding. This extra boost of milk can extend your baby’s sleep by another hour. Along with the big bedtime feeding you gave previously, your baby will sleep with a full stomach. For baby Kayden, he could last for another 4 hours after having this boost. So if you do the math here, adding in the 1-2 hours of sleep you get between the bedtime feeding and the dream feeding, you would get 5-6 hours of undisturbed sleep each night. For breastfeeding moms, maybe consider expressing some milk for this step.
5) Sleep in a different room: Lastly, this plan wouldn’t work if you are sleeping in the same room as your baby as you’d probably wake up from every little sound he/she makes. Make sure you sleep in a different room. I usually have my husband bring in the baby monitor when he sleeps and it would beep when Kayden is crying for his next feeding. If everything goes well, it will be 5-6 hours later.
Sleep Deprivation Defeated!
As a new mom, having a 5-hour undisturbed sleep is like heaven! I’d then nap once or twice during the day depending on the amount of chores and work I have on hand and how much help I get from families and friends. I can usually fit in a total of 8 hours of sleep each day, which is more than enough to keep my sanity. In fact, I feel energized enough to go out of the house and even hang out with friends!
This was how I defeated sleep deprivation during the first few weeks of baby Kayden’s life. Hope this helps! Let me know your thoughts on my sleep strategy by commenting below!
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