New parent survival tips for a good night’s sleep

With September now officially the busiest birthing month of the year, the Sleep Council is offering some tips for new parents as part of its Sleeptember campaign.

According to the Office of National Statistics, over the past decade eight of the top 10 birthdays fall in September, with September 26 the most popular birthday of the year.

“Our Sleeptember campaign this year is focusing on children’s sleep but the arrival of a new baby can be tough on parents’ own sleep routines,” says Lisa Artis of The Sleep Council. “And it can be particularly difficult for mums who breastfeed as it’s a role their partners can’t share.”

“So while broken nights are almost inevitable, there are things you can do to help you cope, as well as setting early routines to teach newborns the difference between day and night. The most important thought to hang on to is that by the age of three months, many babies can sleep at least five hours at a time. By six months, night time stretches of nine to 12 hours are possible!”

Here are some tips on surviving those first few weeks:

• Sleep when your baby sleeps. Although they may wake frequently in the night, new born babies cram in lots of sleep during the day – so sleep when they do! Turn off the phone and turn a blind eye to all those chores: they can wait.

• Try to keep baby alert and active in the daytime and create a calmer atmosphere in the evening. Switch to lower lighting, quieter voices and reduce background noise such as TVs to help to establish the difference between day and night time routines and promote longer periods of sleep through the night.

• Share the night time wake-up calls. Harder to do if you are breast feeding, but even then your partner can help out by bringing baby to you and handling the nappy changes. If bottle feeding, take the duties in turn.

• Don’t be tempted to keep baby in bed with you. It’s OK to bring your baby into your bed for feeding – but really important that they are returned to their cot when you’re ready to go back to sleep. It may seem an easier option in the short term but can create other problems in the longer run.

• Don’t be afraid to ask for help. When family or friends visit during the first few weeks, cast the usual social niceties aside and ask if they’d mind watching baby while you grab a quick nap. They’ll understand and hopefully be happy to help.

• Learn to accept help. Don’t be tempted to ‘prove you can manage’ – if people offer help, take it! Give them a job to do – even something as simple as watching the baby while you wash your hair or have a leisurely bath.

• Prepare for sleep. Caring for a newborn baby can leave you feeling so exhausted that you expect to be able to fall asleep at the drop of a hat – only to find you can’t. If you have trouble falling asleep, make sure your environment is suited for sleep. Get rid of ‘electronic distractions’ (the TV, laptop/notepad, mobile phone etc) and keep your bedroom cool and dark. In addition, don’t get too hung up about falling asleep. If you’re not nodding off within a reasonable amount of time, get up and do something else until you feel sleepy. Then try going back to bed.

• Treat yourself to a great new bed. When sleep is in short supply, it’s more important than ever to make sure your bed is comfortable and supportive and an aid to restful sleep, whenever you manage to take it. If your bed is old and grotty, a new bed could be the best investment you make this year!

• Watch those hormones! Sleep deprivation can lead to mood changes at a time when hormones are already in overdrive which, in turn, can lead to the ‘baby blues’. So if you have any concerns about mood levels or a real and on-going sleep problem, consult your healthcare provider. Identifying and treating any underlying conditions can help you get the rest you need. Making sure you get a good level of sleep – even if it is more broken than usual – will help you take the best care of your baby.

National Office of Statistics’ ‘How popular is your birthday’ shows that if births were evenly distributed throughout the year, the average would be around 1,800 births each day. The average number of births on September 26 was around 2,000.

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Lynda Hamilton Parker is a Scottish PR expert and independent publisher

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