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Pregnancy and baby

Sleep and tiredness after having a baby

Looking after a baby can be really tiring – especially in the first few months after the birth when your child is likely to wake several times during the night.

Most parents cope with a certain level of tiredness. But if you're feeling low, bad tempered and unable to cope or enjoy things, you need to find a way of getting more sleep, or at least more rest.

Here are some tips that may help you feel more rested.

Sleep when your baby sleeps

Try to rest when your child sleeps. It might be tempting to use this time to catch up with housework or other chores but sometimes getting rest is more important. Set an alarm if you're worried about sleeping too long.

Get an early night

Try to go to bed really early for, say, one week. If you can't sleep when you go to bed, do something relaxing for half an hour beforehand, such as soaking in a hot bath.

Share the nights if you can

If you have a partner, ask them to help. If you're formula feeding, they could share the feeds. If you're breastfeeding, ask your partner to help with nappies or dressing in the morning so you can go back to sleep.

Once you're into a good breastfeeding routine, your partner could occasionally give a bottle of expressed breast milk during the night. Find out more about expressing and storing breast milk.

Ask friends and relatives for extra support

You could ask a relative or friend to come round and look after your baby while you have a nap. 

If you're on your own, you could see if a friend or relative could stay with you for a few days so you can get more sleep.

Understand your baby's sleep patterns

The phase when your baby wakes several times a night won't last forever. As babies get older they will sleep for longer stretches. Find out more about how much sleep babies need, what to expect, and how to help your baby to sleep.

Try to do more exercise

When you're feeling tired, doing more exercise may be the last thing you feel like doing. But regular exercise can help you feel less tired. Walking is one of the easiest forms of exercise. Try to get out for a walk every day with your baby even if it's just to the shops. Read more about keeping fit and healthy after having a baby.

Try relaxation exercises

As little as five to 10 minutes of deep relaxation may help refresh you. You can learn relaxation techniques online, or go to the library for books or DVDs. Start by trying this simple breathing exercise that you can do anywhere.

Don't let stress get on top of you

Sometimes you can feel tired because you're stressed. If you can do something about the stress, you might find it easier to cope, even if you can't get any more sleep. Find out more about coping with stress.

Be aware of the symptoms of postnatal depression

If you can't sleep at night even when your baby is asleep or you feel tired all the time, these could be signs of postnatal depression. Other signs include feeling down or hopeless and not enjoying the things you normally enjoy.

If you think you may be depressed, talk to your health visitor or GP as soon as possible so you can get the help you need to make a quick recovery. Read more about postnatal depression

Where to get further help

  • If you are feeling really tired and struggling to cope, talk to your health visitor or GP. Find out about the many services and organisations that support parents.
  • Cry-sis offers advice on coping with a crying or restless baby. You can call their helpline on 08451 228 669. It's open seven days a week from 9am-10pm.
  • Family lives has a free 24-hour helpline you can call on 0808 800 2222 for information and support on any parenting or family issue.
  • Home-Start offers support to parents and carers through a parent-helper visiting scheme. Contact your local Home-Start.

How can I cope with a lack of sleep?

Media last reviewed: 20/03/2014

Next review due: 20/03/2017

Page last reviewed: 23/02/2016

Next review due: 23/02/2018

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