If you Google “babies and sleep,” you’ll get 89,000,000 results. Most of them focus on how much sleep your baby needs and getting your baby to sleep through the night. But what about parents? With a baby (or babies!) at home, you need all the sleep you can get, too. Here, Cleveland Clinic sleep expert Michelle Drerup, PsyD, offers her advice for how you can get better sleep with a baby at home.
Where Should Baby Sleep?
“For the first one to three months, especially if you’re nursing, it’s typically easiest to keep the baby in your bedroom,” says Drerup. However, infants spend more time in REM sleep, which means more rapid eye movement, grunts and crying out, which can be disruptive to parents. If those sounds are apt to wake you, consider moving the bassinet into the hall just outside your bedroom door. Or use white noise to soothe both you and your baby.
To Co-sleep or Not to Co-sleep
If you’re considering co-sleeping (when your baby shares your bed), be mindful that for safety reasons, you must sleep on a large, firm mattress and keep pillows to a minimum. Also avoid loose-fitting pajamas, especially anything with a long tie or string that could endanger your baby. Lastly, ask yourself if you will be able to truly relax with your baby in your bed. If the answer is no, then co-sleeping isn’t for you.
Falling Asleep After Feedings
When babies are born, they’re not producing melatonin yet, explains Drerup, which means no circadian rhythm. “They have no sense of night or day,” she says. Your goal when they wake up to feed is to get both of you back to sleep as quickly as possible. If you’re bottle-feeding, Drerup suggests keeping a mini-fridge and bottle warmer in your bedroom (if that’s where baby is) so that you don’t have to take a trip to the kitchen in the middle of the night. Be sure to keep lights and sounds low.
If you find yourself unable to fall back to sleep after feedings, try not to become anxious. Do deep-breathing exercises or close your eyes and visualize yourself on a sunny, tranquil beach with warm sand between your toes. If you can’t get back to sleep within 20 minutes, get out of bed and do a calming activity.
If you need to know exactly what’s going on in your baby’s room in order to relax, there are plenty of monitors to help you see, hear, and know just about everything. Keep in mind, though, that too much information can sometimes be worse than too little, warns Drerup. You don’t want to be awake in the middle of the night staring at the screen or trying to analyze a certain noise.
Getting Good Shut-eye
If you have a partner who can share nighttime duties, Drerup advises that each of you take a few nights each week and move into another room where you can sleep soundly without worrying about the baby.
Whatever you do, know that every baby and every parent is different, which means you have to take into consideration your individual situation to find the best system for you and your family. Good luck – and good night!