May 16, 2022

6 Tips to Get Sleep as a New Parent

Babies, Newborns

There is so much to prepare for when welcoming a new baby into the world, and it’s so easy to focus on everything the baby will need that we forget to prepare for what we, as parents, will need! And sleep is one of those things.

Some people do a lot of research on newborn and baby sleep before their little one arrives, but few people think about how they, as parents, will get some sleep.

I certainly didn’t prepare for my own sleep before having both girls, which is why I’m so excited to learn alongside you in this guest blog post!

new parents sleep

I do think newborn parents (moms, in particular), have a crazy ability to function on little to no sleep – as if it’s part of our nature when we bring a baby into the world. But we are all human and sleep is a real need we all have, so that ability to function on less sleep does not last for long, and sleep deprivation absolutely starts wearing on us.

When both of our girls were born, my mom came to stay with us for a week or two and was hugely helpful in both Jason and me getting sleep in those early days. She would take shifts in the night of staying awake and holding our girls so that we could get a solid three hours of sleep and we knew that our newborn was being cared for.

There were also some nights we did little rotations (per my mom’s suggestion!), where Jason would either hold or watch our baby for a few hours, then I would nurse, then I’d take a shift, then nurse, then mom would take a shift, etc. It was so helpful to have an extra “shiftwork” partner in there with us, and she knew that when she went back home she could catch up on rest, so she took several shifts. That help was so invaluable to us and it gave us time to figure out what rhythms would work when we were on our own!

But not everyone has the help of family and friends, or some new parents don’t want many people around those first few weeks as they get to know their newborn and figure out their new rhythms. Which is why I’m excited to have Candy Baracat-Donovan and Tiffany Miller of Like A Sister on the blog today, sharing their top six tips for new parents to get sleep. When helping families prepare for a new baby and when walking alongside them in the postpartum weeks and months, they walk through these very tips to make sure the parents’ need for sleep is being filled as much as possible.

So on the blog, they will talk through:

  • Learning about safe sleep
  • Having a bedtime routine for yourself, as parents!
  • Getting lactation/baby feeding help
  • Using your support system where applicable
  • Getting creative with different sleep spaces
  • Maximizing day time sleep/rest


“Sleep when the baby sleeps” is one of those pieces of advice people love to give at baby showers, but that is not very helpful. How exactly are you supposed to do that? Of course, getting good sleep support for your baby is one thing you can do! But other than that, it’s hard to find tips and techniques to maximize your own ability to rest, especially in those first couple of weeks with a new baby.

As sisters and moms of five kids in total, we relied on each other for useful, practical tips about sleep in early postpartum. Sometimes we had the opportunity to sleep, but our bodies (or minds!) wouldn’t cooperate, and sometimes we were ready to drop but our baby was wide awake. And now, when we work with clients who are expecting, their number one question is, “How will I get sleep?” It’s an important topic, since sleep is an area that majorly affects your mental health.

Research tells us that adults need four- to six-hour chunks of consecutive sleeps most nights in order to not negatively impact their mental health. We also know that mental health issues like postpartum depression and anxiety can be exacerbated by lack of sleep. Before baby comes, start thinking about the sleep needs of everyone in your home. Make that a part of your postpartum plan. It might seem like you’re never going to be able to get decent rest after baby, but you can – you just have to think outside the box.

Here are six things you can do to ensure more rest for yourself.

1. Learn about safe sleep

No matter where you think your baby will sleep on a regular basis, learn the basics of safe sleep. That way, if you’re exhausted and decide to do something that’s not part of your regular routine, you’ll know how to do it safely. Trust us, the decisions you make at 3 a.m. might surprise you, and we’ve had more than one client who swore they’d never bedshare or fall asleep on their couch do just that out of a sense of exhaustion and desperation.

Do you know how to prepare different areas of your home to maximize your options? Prepare by setting up multiple areas for safe sleep, and learn about what that means. The University of Notre Dame Behavioral Sleep Laboratory resources is a good place to start, and more specific guidelines about co-sleeping safely can be found under the “Safe Sleep Seven”; but always talk to your pediatrician, too.

2. Have a bedtime routine (for yourself)

Especially in those early days when time has no meaning and day and night run together, choose an arbitrary time as the demarcation between day and night. Create a short bedtime routine to signal to your brain that it’s time to rest. For a brand-new parent, that could look like: changing out of your daytime comfy clothes into fresh pajamas, a quick face wash and maybe some moisturizer, brushing your teeth and turning on an oil diffuser or listening to a calming meditation app.

postpartum bedtime routine

3. Get lactation/baby feeding help

If you are nursing or pumping, you need to remove milk every two to three hours until your milk supply is well established. This means that your sleep will be disjointed for several weeks, if not longer. Make sure you get good lactation education before your baby arrives, and support afterwards. In our baby feeding class, we discuss how long you need to do this, how to know when you can sleep for longer stretches, and how a partner or loved one can help (see next tip!). Don’t let your feeding method be the reason you don’t get enough rest.

4. Use your support system

No matter how you choose to feed your baby, other people can help share the work! Partners or other support people can split feedings with you if you’re using formula/combo feeding. However, even if you’re nursing or pumping, another person can take all the jobs that come before what only you can do: bring baby to you, do the burping and diaper changes, clean pump parts, get baby back to sleep, etc. This is most likely to work if all those additional tasks are done outside of the room where you’re trying to go back to sleep!

5. Get creative

Sometimes, we have to think about nontraditional ways to get sleep. Have we pulled an air mattress into a large bathroom because it was the darkest, quietest room in the house? Yes. Have we encouraged clients to sleep in the nursery (you know, the quiet room that already has blackout shades on the windows and is sitting unused)? Absolutely!

You can also sleep in shifts – basically, dividing the night up in half and splitting it with a partner. The person who is “on call” does everything (except for feeding the baby, if they physically can’t, or you’re not using bottles) while the other person sleeps. For step-by-step instructions on this, check out our Postpartum Planning Toolkit for more!

6. Maximize daytime sleep and learn to rest

Cut your to-do list, then cut it down again. The less you feel you need to get done while your baby is sleeping, the easier it will be to prioritize sleep. If anyone has said to you, “Just let me know how I can help!,” delegate tasks to them, or outsource as you’re able to.

If you have more than one child, have your older kid(s) nap or have quiet time at the same time as one of the baby’s naps. We have had the best luck after lunch, when quiet time can overlap with an afternoon nap for the baby and for us!

Finally, even if you’re not able to sleep, remember to rest. Put your feet up, close your eyes, breathe deeply and relax your body.

Don’t demand perfection of yourself – that will just make it harder to take the break you need. Instead, use these tips to do what works best for your unique family, and be flexible in how you meet your goal for recharging!

About the Authors

new parents sleep

Written by Candy Baracat-Donovan and Tiffany Miller of Like A Sister. Tiffany and Candy are two real-life sisters that combine their training in new parent education, postpartum doula care and Certified Lactation Counseling to support new and expecting parents. Their 100% virtual services include postpartum planning, baby feeding education and consults, postpartum doula support and more. They’ve also created the 10 Secrets of Confident New Parents Class, Postpartum Planning Toolkit and Baby Prep Checklist Bundle to help parents feel more confident and prepared. Find their judgement-free, encouraging, and research-based resources at @likeasistersupport (FB and IG) and book their services at:

new parent sleep