Newborns tend to sleep at least 16 hours per day, according to the Mayo Clinic. That doesn't sound so bad—until you account for the fact they usually sleep for short, and often random, periods at a time. Most babies don't start sleeping through the night, or six to eight hours in a row, until they're at least 3 months old.
After suffering through months of erratic sleep, it's common for new parents to struggle with establishing consistent sleep schedules. Unfortunately, those months of random wakeups and very little quality sleep can wreak havoc on new parents' health. After all, sleep is essential to good health—mental, physical, sexual and otherwise.
The good news is new parents don't necessarily have to go three or more miserable months with no sleep. Thanks to infant sleep coaches like Devon Clement—a postpartum doula, parenting guide, baby sleep coach and the CEO of Happy Family After—moms and dads don't have to trudge through the newborn stage alone. While options vary by sleep coach, there are typically services available for any stage in your child's development—so you're not too late.
"Sleep coaching helps parents get their babies sleeping through the night, going down easily at bedtime, and getting everyone in the family out of sleep deprivation and into healthy sleep habits," Clement said. "Babies who get enough sleep are in better moods, reach developmental milestones sooner and have much happier parents."
Sleepless nights affect parents and baby
According to Clement, sleep issues with children can "completely take over your life." Rachel, a client of Clement's, corroborates that claim.
Rachel, who requested only her first name be used, sought Happy Family After's services for both of her children. After the birth of her son, she used Clement's postpartum doula services and he was sleeping through the night by 8 to 12 weeks of age. Her daughter, however, was a little more difficult because of her gastrointestinal issues.
"After much back and forth with the pediatrician and an eventual referral to a pediatric GI, we found out that Maggie had a milk protein allergy and severe acid reflux," Rachel said. "This caused Maggie to be a rather unpleasant infant, to put it nicely!"
"The trial and error of medications and formulas took months to figure out, and in the meantime, I was becoming what I referred to as a shell of a human being," Rachel continued. "At her worst, Maggie was getting up 10 to 12 times a night."
'Babies who get enough sleep are in better moods, reach developmental milestones sooner and have much happier parents.'
After months of sleep deprivation affecting the entire household, Rachel reached back out to Clement to seek her services again.
"One day it dawned on me to reach out to Devon, because I knew I needed help and I thought she could point me in the right direction," Rachel said. "After my conversation with Devon, it became clear that I needed the works, and this meant having Devon stay at my house for three days to sleep train Maggie."
Rachel said after Clement got Maggie to sleep through the night and on an established daytime nap schedule, her personality "changed overnight."
"She was content, not fussy and just so much easier to manage," Rachel said. "I honestly could not believe how just three days with Devon changed our lives and Maggie's life so much."
The intimate benefits of better sleep
When a baby gets quality sleep, their parents are more likely to get quality sleep as well, which results in a higher quality of life for all involved—especially in terms of the parents' relationship health. Maintaining intimacy in your relationship is of utmost importance when welcoming a new baby into the world because it's so easy to put your own and your partner's needs on the back burner, especially if you're sleep-deprived.
"Laundry isn't the only thing parents are missing out on," Clement said. "Sometimes, bedtime with the baby takes three hours, and by the time they're finally down, you're too exhausted to do anything other than shove cold leftovers in your mouth and pass out yourself."
When parents' entire evenings consist of attempting to get a fussy baby to sleep, they often have to forgo activities that keep them close as a couple. Rachel expressed that Maggie's complicated bedtime routine basically replaced any evening relaxation time she had with her husband. Once Maggie was sleep trained, Rachel and her husband got to resume bonding activities, such as catching up on their TV shows, which helped them reconnect.
"Once sleep training actually happened, I swear I was a new person in a matter of a week," Rachel said. "I was sleeping through the night, which was something that felt so foreign to me—like a complete luxury! It was a snowball effect. I was rested, and therefore I was happier and more patient, which absolutely made me a better partner."
You deserve quality sleep
Though it's been normalized by broad society, sleep deprivation is not a requirement of new parenthood. Sleep is of paramount importance to good health, and new parents and babies alike deserve to be healthy and happy.
"There's a lot of guilt and judgment around wanting a break from your baby, or wanting them to get a healthy amount of sleep," Clement said. "People all have an opinion about it. Working with a sleep coach gets you to your own goals a lot faster, shows you what's developmentally appropriate—which is often a lot more [sleep] than you think—and minimizes the drama as much as possible."