As any new parent will tell you, what you gain in love, hormones and nappies, you lose in sleep.
“Sleep now while you can!” was the most popular advice I received after falling pregnant – and as someone who was blessed with a solid 8 hours every night pre-baby, I can confirm chronic sleep deprivation awaits.
“Sleep should be called “Vitamin S” because it is so good for many parts of both our physical and mental health and wellbeing,” says Dr Harvey Karp, one of America’s most-trusted pediatricians and child development experts who is also founder and CEO of Happiest Baby, a smart-tech and parenting solutions company.
So what the hell are you supposed to do when your all-kicking-all-screaming-no-sleeping bundle of joy arrives? Whilst you’ll quickly become accustomed with insomnia and broken sleep, there are some handy snooze-inducing hacks you should know about, especially if you’ve already tried upgrading to one of the best pillows and had no joy.
As Lisa Artis, Sleep Advocate & Deputy CEO at The Sleep Charity, explains: “Chronic sleep debt can have a seriously damaging effect on your mental and physical health. A good night’s sleep is vital as a restorative time and plays a significant role in healing and repairing the heart and blood vessels. It also gives the immune system and the cardiovascular system a rest and allows other organs to be restored.
“As a parent, you may be short on time but maintaining a self-care routine has never been more important for both physical and mental wellbeing. The best self-care routine starts with getting good quality sleep which is fundamental to wellbeing.
“There are no magic solutions as a new parent, but you can develop healthy sleeping habits that should improve the sleep you do get.”
We’ve grilled a roster of experts for the best sleep tips new parents can glean. Take note…
1. Fresh air is paramount
Even if it’s the last thing you can be bothered to do, Dr Karp stresses the importance of getting outside for sunlight and fresh air in the daytime (even if you’d rather wallow in your PJs watching Loose Women). “Keep artificial lights to a minimum at night (including TV and phones as they have blue light which reduces your brains natural sleep hormone – melatonin),” he adds.
2. Step away from the coffee and booze
God, I miss coffee and Whispering Angel during pregnancy but any hopes I had of satiating that craving post-birth have just been dashed. “Avoid caffeine after midday,” recommends Dr Karp. “Alcohol may make you sleepy, but it can actually cause a less restful sleep and lead to more waking up in the night.”
3. Tap into the power of white noise
Dr Karp recommends listening to a rumbly white noise all night. “Start it one hour before bedtime and play on a low volume in a corner. Low rumbly sounds work best,” he suggests. Dr Karp developed a SNOObear for children that has a white noise sound machine in its tummy that plays the same magical sounds babies love in SNOO (his celebrity-adored responsive baby bassinet that boosts a baby’s sleep by combining gentle rocking with soothing white noise and snug, safe swaddling). “These shushing rhythms give children better sleep, sweeter dreams, and help settle fears,” he says. We’ll be borrowing that.
We also swear by the power of tonies’ new Sleepy Friends range, which have been designed specifically to help create blissful bedtimes. Try the Sleepy Sheep, which plays soothing and relaxing original instrumental music combined with different nature sounds to bring peace to bedtime – for little ones and their parents.
For something more purse friendly, try Misty the Smart Cloud (£59.99). The revolutionary 4 in 1 product includes a Nursery thermometer, soothing light show, sleep trainer and personal assistant, all combined into one cute and smart product. Misty links to both a mobile phone app and Alexa, meaning you can easily monitor your baby’s sleep environment, together with controlling the functions wherever you may be. It’s ideal for travel.
4. The ultimate wind-down regime
Rochelle Humes, mother-of-three and Founder of My Little Coco, has rather conveniently launched ‘Sleepy Head’ – a new collection of products to help parents with the daily bath and bedtime routine. The four products have been designed to encourage a calm and restful sleep for both baby and parents. How generous. Here are Calm and Bright Sleep Support’s top tips for the ultimate wind-down regime…
- Craft your own wind-down ritual that relaxes both you and your child and sets the scene for a rested night
- Give them a bath with your favourite products and a relaxing massage, perhaps with the lights dimmed and some soothing music (it will relax you too.)
- Help your child wind down by chatting to them about their day, sharing some stories or songs, and finding time to cuddle, soothe and bond with each other in a no phone zone
- Offer your child your undivided attention for a 10-30 minutes at the end of the day
5. Tailor your bedroom to help baby – and you – sleep soundly
“Once you become a parent, sleep (or more the lack of it!) becomes a highly discussed topic of conversation. The quality and quantity of your little one’s sleep can really affect the well-being of everyone in the family,” says Rosey Davidson (@just_chill_mama), a certified infant sleep consultant who is devoted to helping parents get a settled night’s sleep. Here are her top tips for ensuring your room is the perfect environment for a restful night sleep for both you and baby…
Embrace the dark side: It’s that time of year when the light starts creeping in in the mornings, and keeping our little ones awake at bedtime. Investing in a well fitted black out blind can make all the difference. Keeping it dark can help with the release of melatonin our sleep hormone, and it can help our easily stimulated little ones to switch off.
Keep it cool: The Lullaby Trust, the baby sleep charity, recommends a room temperature of 16-20C. If you can’t control the temperature of the bedroom, then make sure you adjust your little one’s clothing appropriately. Our body temperature naturally dips as part of the process of falling asleep, so a room on the cooler side can help with this.
Work on a predictable routine: A routine doesn’t have to feel restrictive or leave you clock watching all day, but working on a predictable rhythm can really help you and your baby. A routine can help baby feel safe and secure as they know what is coming next, and you can plan your day too! It really helps night time sleep to have a good balance of daytime sleep – not too much, and not too little.
Bathtime routine: A warm and calming bath around 30-40 minutes before bed not only signals to your baby that it’s sleep time, but it also helps your baby produce sleep hormones which will in turn get them prepared for sleep
Have a think about how your baby falls asleep: It is really normal for your baby to rely on your help to fall asleep at bedtime or naptime, but as they grow it can mean that they require this every time they stir. If you are struggling to get a settled night it can be worth practising independent sleep skills to achieve longer, more settled chunks of sleep.
Invest in some self-care: The saying is true – you really can’t pour from an empty cup. Try to get an early night where possible, and rest whenever you can during the day. It can often be an emotional journey to struggle with sleep and make the decision to work on it, but even the smallest of changes can make all the difference. Remember, you are doing a great job, but don’t be afraid to reach out for help.
Choose appropriate bedding: Lynda Harding, Founder of Sweet Dreamers, says choosing the right bedding is paramount. “Safety is of utmost importance when selecting bedding for babies aged 0-3 years. Follow the safe sleep guidelines set by The Lullaby Trust in the UK. This includes using a firm and flat mattress, fitted sheets that fit snugly, and avoiding pillows, duvets, and soft toys in the crib. Recommended bedding: Use a firm and flat, waterproof mattress with a fitted sheet specifically designed for a cot/ Moses basket or crib.” For newborns, she suggests considering using a baby sleeping bag or swaddle instead of loose blankets. “These provide a safer alternative as they keep the baby wrapped snuggly while reducing the risk of overheating or suffocation. Sleeping bags also prevent your baby from wriggling down under the covers.”
Struggling with insomnia? We’ve rounded up some of the best sleep products to induce a peaceful snooze, from This Works’ amazing sleep spray to the best summer duvet. Each of them will help you create the perfect environment from which to fall asleep more easily. My personal favourite? The Heavenly Candle by This Works. Nothing else relaxes me like it.
6. Try one of baby’s sleep aids (yes, really)
Founder of Sweet Dreamers, Lynda Harding, swears by her invention of the iconic baby sleep aid, Ewan the Dream Sheep. “Not only is it fantastic for babies, but we know of many parents that use it too, even purchasing one for themselves once their little ones are in their own room,” she reveals. Inducing sleep with pink noise in the low base frequency of 250Hz, even adults have been known to drop off several times before the end of the lullabies.
7. Focus on good nutrition
“One thing that most new parents need is a good dose of energy to help them get through the day and also to aid in the recovery post birth,” says Charlotte Stirling-Reed, author of new book “How to wean your baby”. Here are some of her favourite energy-rich foods that are quick, easy and grab-able for new mums who need it.
Kick the day off with porridge: Energy rich, filling and a really versatile option that you can add your own twist to. Try my carrot cake porridge recipe and add you own twist or for something a little quicker try Overnight Oats which literally take two minutes to put together.
Snack on nuts and seeds or monkey mix (a mix of nuts, seeds and dried fruits), which will help top you up with energy and offer plenty of important fibre and nutrients too
Wholegrain crackers and cheese: A great option post dinner or as a small evening snack – this option offers some wholegrains and proteins along with some of the all-important B vitamins. Serve this along with some tomatoes or celery sticks to add extra fibre too.
Peanut butter: This food is your friend if you’re needing a little energy boost! It also contains plenty of vitamins and minerals and fibre. Stir it into porridge, spread it on your toast or just simply mix it into your dishes (think satay sauce, stir fries or curries).
Add salmon into your meals: Baked salmon can be a fab and easy meal option, especially if you team with some frozen veggies and boiled potatoes. It’s also an energy rich food and contains healthy fats.
8. Lower your expectations
Heidi – The Parent and Baby Coach, says it’s important to lower expectations. “In the UK we are still well behind other countries in offering very little “time off”, especially for the supporting parent, but the reality is sleepless nights will continue into the first year. For those finding nights exhausting and broken, reducing the amount of tasks or social activity in the early months can help ease pressure on a new parent. It is easy to want to rush back into normal life but giving yourself time as a new parent to adjust and slowing down your pace can really help with levels of exhaustion.” She also believes it’s vital to ask for help where possible – in modern day society, we are not great at either asking for help, or indeed offering it out. Busy lifestyles mean we don’t want to be a burden for others, nor do we often have time to offer it up ourselves. Finding half an hour to hold a friend’s baby whilst she showers, or taking easy to cook ready meals over on an evening can really help new parents in the transition period where even cooking dinner can feel like too much.
9. Enjoy mindful moments
As Heidi explains: “We know that sleep deprivation is directly linked to mental health. Long and broken nights can increase anxiety, negative thoughts and overwhelm. Whilst each day may feel like a struggle, laying with baby and practising a few minutes of mindfulness even once a day, can boost mood and help mum focus on the smaller details; baby’s eye lashes, little wrinkles and creases and that newborn smell. This is enough feel good factor in small bursts to make the longer nights seem totally worth it.”
10. Limit screen time
Heidi says that whilst scrolling may seem like the obvious idea to help us stay awake during night feeds, the light levels from devices and screens can reduce our ability to fall back to sleep. Keeping a warm yellow light on, rather than using a phone light can help a mother fall back to sleep more easily – getting more overall ZZZ’s than using a phone otherwise.
Read the full article here