Many parents say that being a parent is the toughest job they ever had. Having your sleep interrupted every night for weeks and months on end can make your life really difficult.
It is important to make sure you are taking care of yourself, especially if you plan to make some changes like going back to work.
When sleep is impaired your performance is reduced and you are less able to juggle the new challenges to your life.
- In the first few days after birth you may experience an increase in ‘deep’ sleep – a mechanism that sets in to help to help your body to recover from the huge effort expended during labour and delivery. You can only benefit from this if you have good support. Make it clear what time friends and family can come and visit you, and allow yourself time to have a nap so you can rest and recover.
- Roughly 3-5 days after birth you may feel more alert and have difficulty falling and staying asleep. This is due to withdrawal of the placental hormones which you had during pregnancy.
- During the next three months after birth, the random sleep-wake cycles of your newborn baby, and night-time feeding, means broken sleep will increase your sleep deprivation and fatigue.
- Daytime naps are not as restorative as night-time sleep – but every bit helps.
- Less than five hours sleep for seven or more nights on the row can cause you to feel stressed, angry, grumpy, sad and mentally exhausted. Over time, lack of sleep can cause symptoms of anxiety and depression.
It may take time to develop a routine for your baby, but in the meantime try to prioritise you own sleep for the sake of your baby, yourself and your partner. Place these “taking care of yourself” points up somewhere you can see them often as a reminder.
Improve your sleep:
- Try to go to your bedroom when you feel tied and switch of the light. Don’t just fall asleep in front of the TV.
- Avoid stimulating agents such as nicotine and caffeine – that includes coffee, tea, soft drinks, and chocolate.
- Try to drink eight glasses of fresh water each day – if you are dehydrated you will feel even more groggy and lethargic.
- Take as many cat naps as you can through the day – frequent mini-naps (5-30 minutes) are really helpful for tired bodies and can help you get through the tough days and nights.
Use relaxation techniques to prepare for sleep:
- Stretch your muscles gently before bedtime to relax tension – for tips click here (external)
- Try some breathing exercises that involve inhaling through the nose and releasing out through the mouth – for tips click here (external)
- Take a shower or bath before going to bed
- Drink a herbal non-caffeinated tea (e.g. chamomile)
Accept any offers of support from your partner, family members or friends to help look after your baby whilst you are having a nap. It will make such a difference if they can watch your baby, help prepare some dinner and/or put the washing on, while you have some uninterrupted sleep.
- Phone a friend, do deep breathing exercises, water the garden, listen to music, or grab a newspaper - whatever will make you relax before you take yourself off for a nap or a good night’s sleep.
- Learn how to pace yourself and adapt to the new demands of being a parent – even super woman needs to take it easy after having a baby. The ‘to do list’ can be left until you feel more rested!
- Have appropriate expectations of both yours and your infant’s sleep. Try to work out your baby’s sleep routine, so you can set a quiet time for napping and let you friends and family know not to call or turn up at this time. Unless these visits are for babysitting and to give you time to have a nap.
Other useful links and references
Raising Children Network has some great information to help you nd your family to get better sleep. See:
Ngala Books & DVDs
For families of babies and
young children who reside or work in W.A.,
if you need further assistance contact the Ngala Helpline
Telephone 9368 9368 or Country Access 1800 111 546
8am to 8pm 7 days a week or
or get support online via the My Ngala Forums
When: 20 Feb, 1:30pm
Birth to 4 months: A 5-week series of workshops for parents with a newborn baby. Each workshop covers a wide range of topics about you and your new baby and provides the opportunity to meet and connect with other new parents in your local area.