How to Survive Sleep Deprivation With Your Newborn

How to Survive Sleep Deprivation With Your Newborn

Published on February 28, 2022

Welcome to the wild, wonderful, and, yes, often exhausting world of early parenthood! If you’re reading this, chances are you’re a new parent with bags under your eyes deeper than the Mariana Trench, desperately searching for tips on how to cope with newborn sleep deprivation. Trust me; we’ve all been there.

In these first precious months, your adorable bundle of joy has a knack for transforming nights into days and days into a bleary-eyed blur.

Sleep? That feels like a distant memory, doesn’t it? But we can’t stress enough how essential sleep is—not just for your bub, but for your own health and well-being too.

In this post, we’ll explore practical, osteopath-approved strategies that have helped us and many of our clients at Growing Bones not only to survive but to actually reclaim some of that vital, restorative sleep.

Understanding Newborn Sleep Patterns

Navigating the sleep landscape of a newborn can feel like decoding the most intricate of puzzles. Let’s shed some light on the whys and hows of those mysterious midnight awakenings.

Why Newborns Wake Frequently

First things first, let’s have a quick biology lesson. Newborns have shorter sleep cycles than adults and their circadian rhythms, which are our natural internal clocks, are still developing. This is a big reason why new bubs wake up often.

Now, let’s add external factors into the mix. Your baby might be hungry, need a nappy change, or be responding to environmental changes like noise or temperature.

They’re still getting used to this big, bright world, and sometimes they need a little comfort and reassurance from you—no matter what time the clock says.

The Correlation Between Baby’s Sleep and Parental Sleep Deprivation

Oh, the ‘fourth trimester.’ It’s a term that sounds mystical, but it’s actually about adjusting our expectations to the raw and real early months of parenthood.

During this time, your newborn is adjusting to life outside the womb, and you, dear parent, are adjusting to a new (and intense) lack of sleep.

It’s not just about feeling tired. This level of sleep disruption takes a physical and emotional toll that can sneak up on you. You might find yourself more emotional than usual or constantly feeling under the weather. This isn’t you failing—it’s your body telling you that sleep is a priority.

Our biggest advice here? Be gentle with yourself. Your body, like your baby’s, is going through a massive adjustment period. And while sleep deprivation can feel endless, it’s a season of life that will evolve. Just like you are evolving as a parent.

Practical Tips to How to Cope With Newborn Sleep Deprivation

Feeling like a character from The Walking Dead thanks to the sleep deprivation with a newborn? Don’t worry, we have been there, and we have some tried and true tips to help you feel more human again.

1. Share the Load

Parenting is a team sport, and tackling newborn sleep deprivation should be no exception. If you have a partner, co-parenting and taking shifts for night duties can be a lifesaver. Think of it as tag-teaming—while one of you is up with the bub, the other gets some shut-eye.

If you’re a single parent or your partner can’t help, don’t hesitate to enlist support. Family, friends, and professional help can be invaluable. Remember, it takes a village, and there’s no award for doing it all alone.

2. Create a Conducive Sleep Environment

Your environment plays a big role in the quality of sleep for both you and your baby. A cool, dark, and quiet room can work wonders.

Invest in some blackout curtains, a comfortable mattress, or white noise machines—whatever helps your family sleep better. Think of it as crafting a little sleep sanctuary amidst the chaos of newborn sleep deprivation.

3. Sleep When the Baby Sleeps

We know, it sounds cliché, but this advice is golden. Sync your sleep cycle with your newborn’s when possible, and grab those short bursts of sleep to get optimal rest. This is your permission slip to let the dishes wait and snooze when your bub does.

After all, how long do sleepless nights last with a newborn? It varies, but every bit of rest you can get in the meantime is precious.

4. Don’t Forget Diet and Exercise

Postpartum sleep deprivation can leave you reaching for sugary snacks, but nourishing your body with nutrient-rich foods can boost your energy and improve sleep quality.

Think leafy greens, whole grains, and lean proteins. Pair that with simple, effective exercises like walking or gentle yoga—just enough to stay active without overexerting yourself during this delicate time.

5. Seeking Professional Support When It’s Overwhelming

Look, no sugar-coating here: the sleep deprivation with a newborn can push you to your limits. It’s crucial to recognise signs of serious sleep debt and understand that it’s absolutely okay to ask for help when you’re feeling overwhelmed.

For emotional and mental support, consider reaching out to Beyond Blue and PANDA. These fantastic organisations offer specialised resources for postnatal challenges and are ready to lend a helping hand.

Here at Growing Bones, we’re more than ready to assist with osteopathic treatments and advice tailored for new parents. And techniques to Calm and Soothe Baby

When your little one is unsettled, the whole house can feel it. 

Techniques for helping your baby sleep

Here are several techniques that have worked wonders for us and the families we see in our practice:

Gentle Rocking and Swaddling

A soft, rhythmic rocking motion can be incredibly soothing for a baby, mimicking the comforting environment of the womb. Pair that with a nice snug swaddle that keeps your baby’s arms close to their body, and you’ve got a recipe for a calmer, more content bub.

The ‘Shush-Pat’ Technique

This technique involves gently patting your baby’s back in a rhythmic manner while simultaneously shushing softly in their ear. This mimics the rhythmic, whooshing sounds they heard in the womb and can be incredibly calming.

Warm Bath and Massage

A warm bath can work wonders to relax your baby. However, watch the baby’s cues after a bath. Are they more relaxed and sleepy or stimulated and irritable? Plan bath times based on how your baby responds to a bath.

The Role of Osteopathy in Infant Comfort

Wondering how osteopathy comes into play? As an osteopath, I’ve seen firsthand how gentle osteopathic treatments can help babies relax and sleep better.

These treatments aim to relieve tension and improve the overall alignment and function of your baby’s body, setting the stage for more comfortable sleep.


How long do sleepless nights last with newborns?

Every baby is unique, and healthy sleep patterns can vary widely among babies. Some babies start sleeping through the night as early as 2 months old, while others might not until they are 5 years old!

The main thing to remember is to ask for help and take care of yourself. If your baby is linking sleep cycles and gradually having longer blocks of sleep overnight, that’s great. If, however, they are waking very frequently (every 30 minutes) and this pattern is not changing over weeks or months, it’s important to seek support and advice from your local healthcare professional.

How do parents get enough sleep with a newborn?

It’s all about seizing opportunities for rest. Napping when your baby naps, sharing night-time duties with a partner or support person, and keeping your own sleep environment comfy and inviting can make a world of difference.

How to deal with sleep deprivation as a new mum?

Mothers, listen up: self-care is not selfish. Prioritise rest when you can, nourish your body with good food, stay hydrated, consider gentle exercise, and don’t hesitate to ask for help when you need it.

How much sleep do parents get with a newborn?

In the early weeks, parents often have to get by on several short bursts of sleep that may total up to 5-7 hours a day. Hang in there—it does get better!

What signs should I look for to determine if professional medical or therapeutic assistance is needed for my baby’s sleep?

If your baby is consistently struggling to sleep, is extremely irritable and unable to be soothed, or has trouble feeding, it might be time to consult with a healthcare professional, such as your paediatrician or an advanced pediatric osteopath who has experience working with babies.

Are there specific foods or drinks that can help improve my energy during sleep-deprived days?

Opt for nutrient-rich foods like nuts, fruits, and lean proteins. Stay hydrated with water, and try to limit caffeine—it can give you a quick boost but may interfere with the quality of sleep you do get.

Through Bleary Eyes and Tender Moments

The journey of parenthood is like no other—filled with the highest highs, the lowest lows, and a love that’s boundless. Through bleary eyes and tender moments, we understand that this chapter, though challenging, is fleeting and special.

It’s perfectly normal to find the early days with your newborn intense and exhausting. But remember, you are not alone. There are resources available to help, and reaching out for support is a sign of strength, not weakness.

When your baby isn’t sleeping, the whole family feels it. And that’s why it’s so important to take care of yourself, too.  

Embark on a journey towards better sleep and overall well-being. Because you and your little one are worth it, and brighter, more restful days are within reach.

This article has been written by Advanced Paediatric Osteopath, Melissa McDougall. The information contained in this article is intended to assist, not replace, discussion with your doctor or health care professional. Melissa McDougall and Growing Bones PTY LTD do not accept any responsibility, and will not be liable for, any inaccuracies, omissions, information perceived as misleading, or the success of any treatment regimen detailed in this article.

Copyright © 2023, Melissa McDougall, Growing Bones PTY LTD.

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