Sleep for New Parents: 5 Expert Tips

It’s 3:15 a.m. as I blink at the walls. The Mayo Clinic tells me that an adult human needs at least seven hours of sleep. My 12-week-old disagrees. I’m a father of two, an insomniac, and I’m building a startup. I am the walking dead...with caffeine.

My breast-feeding wife, however, is made out of magical unicorn horn shavings. She sleeps through the night and is able to nap. I’m amazed that the female body is able to produce nourishment, heal after childbirth, and still function. She wakes up looking like an actress ready to hit the set, and I look like a late night mug shot. 

Then there’s Ivy. At 12 weeks, our second female child is a more familiar exercise. I know that the madness will become another type of madness, and that sleep will eventually come. But until then, we cobble together the bandages of catnaps. I know that an actual schedule will soon appear and be enforced by the time she reaches 7 months, and then nighttime weaning can occur beginning at 9 months.

Here’s what my wife and I do to get (almost) adequate sleep:

1. Teamwork

There are nights when Lynette is up with the baby all night. Even if it’s hard, I up my game because I know that she’ll do the same for me. You have an external team, too. Call on family and neighbors for a break if you really need it. After all, it’s good to get your child accustomed to a bottle early.

2. Admit Defeat

Some nights don’t go very smoothly. Your other kids’ needs might pile on to the attention you need to give your infant, who’s having a five hour-long poop and scream festival in the next room. The next day, you catch yourself washing your hair with toothpaste. The truth is that you’re not a terrible parent if you let your child watch an extra hour of “Sesame Street” so that you can lie in a lifeless pile. You’ve got to take care of you, too!

3. Nap When They Nap

The dishes can wait. Leave them and get some sleep. You’re on someone else’s sleep schedule, so the best practice is to sleep when the child sleeps, and clean when the child is awake.

4. Exercise

I sleep best when I play hard. I’m kept pretty busy chasing after Poppy, who’s rapidly approaching 2, as well as streets, sharp objects, and fire. My exercise is often keeping the child alive. When I have time, I will go on walks or do pullups — but my favorite thing is to go to a yoga class.

5. Use a Bassinet

We have a co-sleeper, or bassinet, for the baby. My wife is able to pull the baby out and feed her in our bed, and then transition her back into the co-sleeper. I’ve seen Lynette execute this maneuver while still asleep. The co-sleeper is a wonderful way to alleviate the worries of sleeping in the same bed. In my opinion this is the best way to do it.

The Takeaway

Sleep, like anything, is a part of life that is relative to the rest of your practices. Our children sleep well after they’ve had fun and played hard throughout the day, had good meals, and gone through their bedtime routines. 

We’ll be sleeping regularly again…probably!