Sleep Deprived? 5 Tips for New Parents to Get More (and Better) Sleep
By: Dr. Ann-Louise Lockhart
Photo by: @bradleydevine
Getting little to no sleep as a parent shouldn’t be a badge of honor. You are not a better caregiver because you’re physically exhausted or sleep deprived—no matter what anyone tells you.
Sleep is important, not just for your little one, but for you too. When I was a new mom over 12 years ago, the advice I received most often was, “Sleep when the baby sleeps.” I thought it was great advice at first, but then I realized, “Wait…when am I supposed to get things done?” I couldn’t get them done while the baby was awake. So, I had to re-evaluate my strategy—and do it quickly.
So, if you’re feeling sleep deprived, here are 5 tips for new parents to get more (and better) sleep:
1. Ask for help when you need it.
When I was a new mom, before my husband left for work, he took care of feeding our daughter and made me breakfast while I took a shower, washed my face, and got dressed for the day. That way, by the time he left, our daughter’s needs were met and so were mine. It really set the tone for the day.
Why is this important? Because you’re important too, and you deserve support. You will show up more fully for your baby when you feel taken care of and balanced. Don’t be afraid to ask family, friends, and partners to lend a hand when you need it.
2. Get on a schedule for yourself and your baby.
This doesn’t need to be overly structured—make it as detailed as you need it to be. As a first-time and new mom, I had an extremely structured schedule at first, and even kept it in a 3-ring binder. It worked for us for about a month, then we kept the essence alive through habit.
Why is this important? Because parents are not superhumans. Doing it all, or trying to, leads to burnout which shows up as depression, anxiety, irritability, physical illness, and poor sleep. Instead, I’d suggest starting simple and staying consistent.
3. Take things off your list.
With all the responsibilities of a parent, we end up including too many items on our task list that are impossible to achieve with the time we have available. On the flip side, it’s crucial to keep things on your list that are most important to you. Remember: you cannot do it all.
Why is this important? Well first, because it’s physically impossible. But you’ll also sleep better during naps and at night when your stress level during the day is kept in check.
4. Be present.
Whether you’re nursing your baby, rocking them to sleep, washing the dishes, or brushing your hair, try to be mindfully present. Give your hands permission to feel the baby against your arms. Allow your nose to smell your baby’s head on your chest. Feel the warm soapy water against your hands. Look at the way your hair moves as you brush it.
Why is this important? When we are too busy thinking about what’s next, we don’t allow ourselves to live in the present. And this impacts sleep because it leads to feeling restless because you subconsciously recognize those missed experiences. Instead, choose to be present for each moment, and notice your feelings as they come to you.
5. Get your body moving.
Physical activity, exercise, and intentional movement throughout the day are great ways to decrease physical stress, improve mood, build endurance, increase flexibility, reduce health risks, and enhance cognitive functioning. Taking the time to go for a walk for 10 minutes with your baby in a stroller is a great place to start.
Why is this important? Physical activity will help you sleep better and feel better overall. We all want that!
Here’s the truth: you are doing the best you can. You are a good parent! To take better care of your baby, always remember to take care of yourself.
Dr. Ann-Louise Lockhart, PsyD, ABPP
Pediatric Psychologist, Parent Coach and Owner of A New Day Pediatric Psychology
Years of education, training and supervision in child development theory and evidence-based practices have cultivated Dr. Lockhart’s unique parent coaching approach. As a Doctor of Psychology (PsyD), and Board Certified (ABPP) in Child/Adolescent Psychology, Dr. Lockhart has helped parents reframe their parenting mindset – supporting them during the most challenging times. She believes in the power of sleep to help parents be the best versions of themselves.