How to Get Some Sleep: Night Shifts with a Newborn

Getting sleep with a young baby in the house is tough!

My husband and I live with our two sons in a decently small house with, like, zero insulation or sound barriers. My husband, the lightest sleeper in the world, had a hard time actually sleeping when he was ‘off duty’ during those early months with our sons. When it was my turn to be ‘off duty’ to sleep, I had my own concerns – like pumping and my fears about baby still breathing.

We came up with a few solutions to these problems in order to get more sleep!

Best Sleep Products for Parents

  • Use the sleep band (The Sleep Band) connected to a iPhone or iPad sound machine to raise your threshold of sound when it is your turn to sleep.
  • Earplugs and extra loud sound machines for that matter, work wonders.
  • Eye Mask are ideal for daytime naps or those hitting the hay when the sun has not yet set – in order to catch up on some sleep whenever baby sleeps.
  • To keep things dark, quite and routine in the house we used night lights and door silencers. To keep my sanity on baby’s well-being,
  • I used Angel Care and I highly recommend the Angel Care Monitor with the motion sensor.
  • Nursing pads helped me not ruin every single pajamas shirt I owned when trying to ‘train’ my body to sleep a 3-4 hour stretch without nursing or pumping during that period.

Our Routines:

  • Mom: Get ready for bed around 7:00 p.m. / Pump at 7:30 p.m. / In bed for 8:00 p.m.
  • Husband: Feeds baby between 8:30-9:30pm (new diaper, off to bed), partner climbs into bed (I realize that doesn’t work for mother’s who do not pump or formula feed, of course).
  • Both Parents: Cross your fingers for the “The big stretch” between 8:30 or 9:30pm and 12:30/1:00 a.m. or so
  • Mom: Throughout night, feeds when baby wakes, as needed
  • Partner: 4:45am Morning Duty Begins
  • Mom: Sleep ‘off duty’ until 7:45 a.m./8:00 a.m.

This schedule promised me at least 5 hours of sleep all together, but in the end, it would work out to be 6-7 off an on. Honestly, you get use to sleep deprivation and then 6 hours is like a dream come true!

When my husband went back to work, which was pretty right away, our weekday routine was more like this:

  • Husband: Bed by 8:00 p.m.
  • Mom: Last pump and baby feeding by 9:30 p.m. / Crawl into bed / Up throughout the night for nursing/pumping as needed
  • Mom: 4:30 a.m. – Switched the monitor to my husband’s side and put in earplugs / eye mask
  • Husband: 4:30 a.m. “Morning Duty” began, up when baby was up
  • Mom: Wake-up for 7:30am or so – Husband out the door for 7:30 or 8:00am

Some couples like to get up together throughout the night. I get that! Although I would have loved that extra help and that system works great for some couples, it worked better for us to each get our share of rest, sharing the burden of getting up by hours and not togetherness.

There are also plenty, millions, of couples whose partner does not, will not, cannot, share the night with them by getting up at 4:30 in the morning (honestly if it was a terrible night, it might have been 4:00am). I thank my lucky stars for having a great partner and teammate but know this method is not how it works best for everyone.

If your partner does not/will not/cannot share the night with you, or you do not have a partner to do so, resting when the baby rests and avoiding unnecessary wake-ups (like pumping when the baby is not awake or bathroom visits) is key. Try using nursing pads and limiting your night water in-take. Try a monitor that gives you peace-of-mind like the Angel Care did for me (so you can actual rest easy!).

Training Your Body

A friend of mine was in her residency at a hospital when he baby was born, she had to return to her program only a few weeks after birth. She told me she ‘trained her body’ to produce milk for evenings/nights and early mornings and almost none during the day when she couldn’t nurse or take breaks to pump. Although I don’t know the science behind this and cannot encourage or vouch for anything that could interrupt anyone’s supply – I did, indeed, not nurse or pump between 4:00-8:00am everyday to ‘train my body’ to drop supply during that period so I could sleep. Overtime that worked really well for me. Everyone should do whatever is best for them and baby to find the right balance of shut-eye.

Remember: This is Not Forever

Often when I tell people that my husband and I would go to bed at 8:00 p.m. or get up at 4:00 a.m., or that we would sleep apart some nights, they would shake their heads. “I couldn’t do that! I couldn’t get in bed at 7:30pm!” or “I couldn’t get up at 4:30am and then go to work!” But, yes, you could. First of all, plenty of people do it without kids – depending on their job/career. Also, it is not forever. It is not the rest of your life. For some people it is a month or two, for others it might be 4 or 5 months. A system where you are going to bed when the sun is still up, or go to work with only 6 or 7 hours of sleep, or sleep apart from your partner is not a solution for the long-haul but it does work in the short-term. Getting through the first few months is challenging for many new parents, but you have to remember, it is not forever.