A Parents’ Survival Guide to Sleep Deprivation, While Sleep Training
Updated May 19th 2022 | 9 min read
Updated May 19th 2022 | 9 min read
Written By Mandy Treeby Chief Baby Sleep Consultant
It’s true, sleep deprivation and parenthood sometimes go hand-in-hand. As our pediatrician friend Dr. Robert Minkus told us, “There’s no easy way around sleep deprivation at the beginning.” This is especially the case if you have a newborn, who typically wake an average of three or four times each night.
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Even though most babies start sleeping a six-hour stretch by three or four months, there’s still night-feedings and other disturbances. All of these add up and before you know it you’re suffering from lack of sleep, otherwise known as sleep deprivation.
Sleep deprivation can make you grumpy, forgetful and clumsy – many parents report they struggle to focus, cannot remain on task at work and relationships can suffer too.
You may be wondering, then, “How do parents deal with sleep deprivation?” Here we share expert tips and techniques on coping with sleep deprivation with a newborn and beyond.
If you want to learn more on how to maintain a healthy sleep schedule, consider the Smart Sleep Coach by Pampers™ app . Easy-to-use and science-driven, it offers both insights on how to rest while raising your baby and creates a personalized sleep training plan that matches your baby’s habits and your parenting style.
1. Prepare Ahead of Bed
2. Share the Load
3. Say “Yes” to Help
4. Try Not to Overcommit, it’s ok to Say ‘No’
5. Take a Night, or Two, Off Cooking
6. Offer a Feed Right Before Bed
7. Consider a Dream Feeding
8. Be Kind to Yourself
9. It’s Okay to Cry
10. You’re Not Alone
To make things a little easier for yourself at night, get all your night gear ready before bed.
If you know you’ll need to make a bottle at night, consider having your formula measured and the water at temperature in a thermos, so when your baby wakes you can make the bottle right away. Also smart to keep a diaper, wipes etc within arm’s reach - that way there’s less thinking at night and more doing, you take care of your baby’s business and get back to bed as seamlessly as possible!
Pro tip: Keep the lights low, use a quiet voice (if you need to speak at all) and that will help keep your baby in the land of slumber during feeding and diaper changes.
For more on how to prepare your baby for bed, the Smart Sleep Coach by Pampers™ app offers pediatrician-approved tips, techniques, and training methods that will help you and your baby sleep better in a week or less.
One excellent solution is for one parent to take one night, while the other takes the next. Or you can break the night into shifts - one parent takes the 10pm-2am shift, the other takes 2am-6am.
However you choose to slice it up, pooling your parental resources ensures your baby’s well cared for and that both parents get the rest they need to be better parents and partners.
If you’re a single parent, consider asking a best friend or trusted family member if they can take a “night shift” every so often. Even once a month would go a long way in helping you catch up on sleep.
But it’s okay if this isn’t possible. There are plenty of other ways to survive sleep deprivation.
There are few times in your life when neighbors and friends will sincerely ask “Can I do anything to help?” Having a new baby is one of those times, and you should definitely say “yes.” And, guess what? That “anything” can be time!
If you need an hour or so to yourself, it’s entirely okay to ask your bestie or a family member or even a trusted neighbor to hang out with your baby. It’s also cool to ask a grandparent to babysit while you take a nap or change a diaper – first, they’ll probably be thrilled; and, second, this gives you guilt-free - and potentially cost-free - quiet time without hiring a babysitter.
Taking some time for yourself doesn’t make you a bad parent. It provides an excellent time to recharge and recenter yourself so you can get back to being the great parent you already are - trust us, if you weren’t a great parent, you wouldn’t be researching this information in the first place.
It’s important to us that you’re supported and rested and happy, which is why we created Smart Sleep Coach by Pampers™ app . This easy-to-use app aims to help you establish healthy sleep habits for your baby, so you, your baby and your family can all get more rest!
In normal times you may be the go-to for bake sales, neighborhood meetings, or other non-family obligations. Well, these aren’t normal times: you’re a new parent with a to-do list a mile long and probably very little sleep.
If you’re a parent to a newborn or toddler and someone asks a favor, it’s okay to say “no.” Does your older kids’ school need a chaperone for a zoo trip? Sorry, you’re busy. Is your library having a bake sale? Oh well… You can contribute another time in another way.
For now, you have your baby and yourself to take care of, and that’s your most important priority at the moment. The bake sale will be there next year.
If you’re sleep deprived and too exhausted to cook, it’s okay to have a frozen or fast-food meal here and there. It may not be the best-tasting or healthiest meal you’ve ever had, but it provides energy to keep going, and sometimes that’s all that matters in times like this. Embrace it and think of this as an opportunity to indulge in something you wouldn’t typically eat.
It’s alright to have a quick and easy meal to save time and energy. The sleep you gain will be far more valuable to you than one homemade meal.
What’s better than “sleeping like a baby”? “Sleeping like a well-fed baby.” If you can, and your baby will eat, we recommend “topping them off” with their last feed shortly before setting them down for the night. This will help them sleep for a longer stretch at night.
It is important to give them a full feed, but not to feed or nurse them to sleep. You want to be able to set them down drowsy but awake with a full belly, ready for a good night of slumber.
If your baby is waking up to eat a few hours after you’ve put them down, dream feedings are another excellent way to keep your baby well-fed and sleeping well and for you to boost your sleep, too.
A dream feeding is when you gently rouse but not wake your baby and offer them a feed. Research shows this method is most effective if you dream feed between 10pm and midnight. Learn more about Dream Feeding here.
Seriously. Feeling tired or needing a break does not make you weak. It doesn’t make you a bad parent, person, or anything negative at all. It’s entirely normal and natural. And, actually, it means you’re doing parenting right: you’re attentive and caring and devote tons of time to your baby and family. You rock!
You’re also a human being who has biological needs and deserves kindness. It may sound silly or cheesy, but simply pausing and saying, “I’m strong and capable enough to thrive through this,” can really boost your mood. And it’s 100% true: you are strong and capable and will thrive through his!
And remember, as frustrating as sleep deprivation may be at times, there are so many glorious rewards ahead. You just have to get through this one relatively brief hump - and you will!
Sometimes you hit a wall. It happens. You’re overwhelmed and all you want to do is cry. We say, “Go for it!” Trust us, you wouldn’t be the first parent to go to the bathroom, turn on the faucet, and let the water works flow. This myth that we all need to be strong all the time - it’s just that: a myth. As the saying goes, it’s okay to not be okay!
Plus, crying is good for you: Crying releases endorphins and oxytocin, two natural hormones that help relieve tension and sadness. Releasing that frustration and sadness will be cathartic, providing emotional bandwidth for you to enjoy more quality time with your baby.
When all else fails – when you’ve tried everything and still feel burned out or exhausted or completely overwhelmed, keep in mind that there are millions of other parents out there who are also drained and exhausted. This isn’t to diminish your personal experience – instead think of it as solidarity. You are not alone!
Also, there are dozens of excellent online communities where you can discuss, vent, or rant about your sleep deprivation – and the other users will empathize immediately.
Sleep training a baby can leave already exhausted parents even more sleep deprived. To help you out, here we discuss how to optimize your own sleep when Sleep Training.
( Bonus tip: Make sure the volume’s not too high – first, high volume reduces the noise’s effectiveness; second, it may drown out your babies’ cries at night.)
And while you’re looking for ways to make the sleep training experience a bit smoother, check out the Smart Sleep Coach by Pampers™ . It’s an easy-to-use, science-based app that creates personalized sleep plans that work for any parenting style and any baby.
“Normal sleep patterns in infants and children: a systematic review of observational studies,” Sleep Medicine Reviews.
“Is Crying a Self-Soothing Behavior?” Frontiers in Psychology.
“Drowsy Driving,” CDC.
“17 Proven Tips to Sleep Better at Night,” Healthline.
“7 Midnight Snacks That RDs Say Can Help Lull You Back To Sleep,” Well+Good.
“What Is Dream Feeding?...And How Do I Do It?,” Happiest Baby.