Being a sleep-deprived parent with a baby can be hard, especially when you find yourself navigating the night shift. There were times with my first baby that I was so tired, I would just cry. The exhaustion just seemed to overtake me. I learned a lot about baby sleep during that time and set up some new habits that greatly improved my life. Here are a few of my tips to help you survive the night shift and make the most of your sleep-deprived nights.
- Establish a Consistent Routine:
Creating a bedtime routine can signal to your baby that it’s time to wind down and prepare for sleep. Consistency is key, so establish a predictable routine that includes soothing activities such as a warm bath, gentle massage, or lullabies. A consistent routine helps your baby’s body clock adjust and can promote better sleep patterns. If possible, go to bed right when the baby does. You don’t know how the night is going to go, and you will likely need the extra sleep.
- Nap When Your Baby Naps:
Daytime naps become invaluable for parents on the night shift. When your baby takes a nap during the day, try to seize the opportunity to catch up on some much-needed rest yourself. Prioritize sleep over household chores or other activities. Even short power naps can provide some rejuvenation and help you better cope with sleep deprivation.
- Share Nighttime Duties:
If possible, consider sharing nighttime duties with your partner or another family member. Create a schedule where each person takes turns being responsible for nighttime feedings, diaper changes, and comforting the baby. This allows you to get blocks of uninterrupted sleep and support each other through the night shift. I’ve seen some parents have one be in charge from 6 pm to 12 am and the other from 12 am to 6 am. That way each parent at least each got 6 hours straight of sleep.
- Optimize Sleep Environment:
Create a sleep-friendly environment that promotes relaxation and better sleep for both you and your baby. Use blackout curtains to block out light, invest in a white noise machine to drown out distracting sounds, and ensure the room temperature is comfortable. A conducive sleep environment can help improve the quality of sleep for everyone involved.
- Simplify Nighttime Feedings:
Streamline the nighttime feeding process to make it as efficient as possible. Set up a feeding and changing station in your bedroom or near the crib, stocked with essentials like diapers, wipes, burp cloths, and a bottle or breastfeeding supplies. Minimize unnecessary movement or time spent in bright lights to help your baby stay in a sleepy state. Don’t change their diaper at night unless they poop or you can tell the diaper is very wet. Consider putting them in a one-size-up diaper at night. It looks silly but it can hold a lot.
- Prioritize Self-Care:
Caring for yourself is crucial. While it may seem challenging, find small moments to prioritize self-care. Stay hydrated, eat nutritious meals, and engage in activities that help you relax and unwind during your downtime. Taking care of your own physical and mental well-being will ultimately help you better care for your baby.
- Seek Support and Delegate:
Don’t be afraid to ask for help and delegate tasks. Reach out to friends, family, or a support network for assistance with household chores, errands, or meal preparation. Consider having someone come over during the day and hold the baby while you take a long nap. Accepting help allows you to conserve energy and focus on taking care of your baby’s needs.
- Practice Safe Sleep Habits:
Ensure you and your baby practice safe sleep habits to reduce the risk of Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS) or other sleep-related incidents. Place your baby on their back to sleep in a crib with a firm mattress, remove pillows, blankets, and stuffed animals from the crib, and avoid overheating your baby with excessive layers of clothing or blankets.
- Embrace Power of Positive Thinking:
Maintaining a positive mindset can make a significant difference in coping with sleep deprivation. Instead of dwelling on the exhaustion, try to focus on the joy and precious moments with your baby during the night. Remind yourself that this phase is temporary and that both you and your baby will eventually settle into better sleep routines.