10 sleep tips for sleep-deprived new parents

The first few weeks with baby can be utter bliss — or utterly brutal, if you’re a sleep-deprived mom or dad.

Lack of sleep can make you listless, irritable and put unnecessary strain on your most important relationships. It can also cause you to miss out on some of the once-in-a-lifetime joy that’s part of being a new parent.

So how to function on little sleep? Well, you can’t — at least not for long, say the experts. A CBC article cited a Rand Corporation study that says sleep deprivation costs the Canadian economy $21 billion in lost work, productivity and health (not to mention playtime with baby!). Now that’s a wake-up call for new parents…and their employers.

Some tips to help you get better shuteye:

  1. Sleep when baby sleeps. Stands to reason, but for some it’s a tall order. If you have a hard time napping, at least lie down. It helps.
  2. Take shifts. Divvy up chores and feedings with your partner. If breastfeeding, consider pumping during the day for overnight feedings.
  3. Accept help. A parent, in-law or best friend offers help? Don’t hesitate. But make sure they’re helpers, and don’t expect to be entertained.
  4. Bring baby closer. Put a bassinet by your bed. Less time back and forth, and the baby may also fuss less, sensing your proximity.
  5. Get comfortable with a messy house. If baby naps, this is not the perfect time to wash the floor. Instead, immediately get horizontal and close your eyes.
  6. Avoid electronics. TV, computer, tablet and smartphone screens are stimulants, so avoid before bedtime. Consider some soothing music, a boring podcast or silence.
  7. No alcohol or caffeine. An early-morning java can disrupt naps, so go easy. And, while a glass of wine with dinner will help you sleep, it can affect quality of sleep and make you irritable.
  8. Take care of each other. Relationships are precious. You might get irritable and say terrible things. By mutual agreement, ignore them. It’s lack of sleep talking.
  9. Consider a consultant. If baby still isn’t sleeping, maybe you need expert advice. Baby sleep consultants work for some people.
  10. Keep calm. It may feel like it’ll last forever. It won’t. Adopt every parent’s mantra — “this, too, is just a phase.”