Kerrie Van Weelden, LMSW

Therapy and Consultation


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Tips for New and Expecting Parents and Sleep Hygiene Practices

Posted on February 6, 2017 at 8:25 PM Comments comments (4)

Tips for New and Expecting Parents and Sleep Hygiene Practices


Most parents unprepared for the reality of how much sleep changes after you have a baby. The more you talk about it and have realistic expectations the better off you will be. Taking care of a newborn takes its toll on parents. “Sleep when the baby sleeps,” they say. While this is good advice, it doesn’t address some barriers, one what if the baby doesn’t sleep, what if mom is breastfeeding and has little support, and last but not least what if you can’t sleep when the baby sleeps.

1. Expecting parents: Talk to parents and professionals about newborn sleep patterns, their experiences. Most new parents do not know how normal newborn sleep patterns. Allow yourself to learn this. Lower defenses, it is okay to not know about this.

2. Newborn sleep patterns vary greatly from 30 minutes and 4 hours. They sleep in active sleep, a lighter sleep state-fluttering eyelids, rapid irregular breathing, occasional body movements, make noises, brief cries and grunts. Most normal newborns are very noisy sleepers.

3. In first few days they sleep from 16-18 hours, at 4 weeks 14 hours. Some infants sleep as little as 9 out of 24 hours.

4. Newborns don’t have the same circadian rhythm of sleep you do. Although this can be developed and formed by 12 weeks. Sleeping, play, feeding cycle does affect this rhythm.

5. Lie down, when the baby sleeps. If you can sleep great. Even if you don’t sleep, a body resting can help your mind reset.

6. Don’t compare yourself to other new parents or get caught up on advice that is not helpful.

7. Crying is communication, not a sign that you are doing something wrong. Notice if you are taking the baby’s crying personal. Talk with your Dr. or therapist about this feeling to sort out it out. Feeling this way can be a sign that you may have worsened anxiety and depression.

8. Practice saying “Yes”. When someone offers help. Say, “Yes, that would be great!” People want to help and you need help. Doing less will allow you to rest. It can be hard to accept help, but you need it and people like to help.

9. If you can’t sleep when the baby sleeps you may have anxiety or depression. Talk to your Dr. or therapist about your symptoms.

10. If you are breastfeeding at night or getting up to pump, this is a challenge. Know that you will need support. If you feel you can’t go on with this routine, give yourself permission to know breastfeeding is a choice. If you want to keep up with it, that is great. If you are ready to stop, know that is great too. Breastfeeding is best, but not when mom or dad has severe anxiety or depression and sleep is part of the recovery. Check out this article if you want more support on making decisions. “Is Breast always Best.” By Karen Kleiman.

Sleep Hygiene


If you are pregnant or post partum, it is fair to say that most sleep hygiene traditional advice needs to be adjusted, but not thrown out. Know most new parents are for the most part completely unprepared for the reality of how much sleep changes after you have a baby. Research supports that the more you talk about it the better off you will be. If you have a chronic sleep problems you had a baby you are at increased risk for experiencing depression or anxiety symptoms. Know insomnia is treatable and you can get better.

Focus on environment

o Keep room dark and cool

o Use bed room only for sleeping and intimacy

o Ensure bed is comfortable with appropriate bedding

o Don’t have a TV in bedroom

o Don’t use Phone or other screen in bedroom (can be activating)

o Consider having the monitor turned down or off (if you can hear baby anyway)



o Set a bedtime routine. Be consistent and do it the same everynight

o Go to bed when sleepy and if not asleep in 20 minutes get back up and do something non-activating, leave the bedroom and do something else. For example, take a warm bath or read on the couch.

o Listen to a sleep guided meditation (available on Amazon Prime Music)

o Eat a spoonful of peanut butter and glass of milk before bed

o Avoid caffeine after noon

o Avoid alcohol (myth of the night cap). Alcohol is thought to help with falling asleep, but then when it metabolizes actually causes arousal.

o Finish meals 3 hours before bed

o Avoid napping during day when you already got 8 hours, in the post partum period it is important to nap when you can for missed sleep.

o Don’t stay in bed longer than 10 hours (too much sleep will make you more restless)

o Get exposure to natural light, especially in winter, get outside or stand by sunny window. Light exposure actually helps with sleep wake cycle

o Establish a health bedtime routine for you and newborn. Avoid stressful conversations/text exchanges/situations/events/TV shows before bed.