Surviving without sleep

It’s normal and beneficial for babies to wake for feeding during the night, and they will need you to care for them when they do.

Sleep deprivation is hard, but it’s a normal and natural part of being a new parent. Set out below, though, are some suggestions which might help to make life a little easier:

  • Support each other when caring for baby at night: If mum is breastfeeding, you can help by making sure that she is comfortable when she feeds. A warm drink or back rub are usually welcome, too! If baby is bottle-fed, you can make and give feeds during the night, taking turns to sleep whilst your baby is awake. Either way, you can also help by comforting baby between feeds, and changing nappies.
  • Be responsive to your baby’s natural routine: The first six weeks of a baby’s life will usually seem to be very random, without set routines of day or night waking. However, after this, most babies start to show sleeping habits at certain times of the day and night. Keep your baby close and get to know them well – you will see that your baby has times when they seem sleepier. This is when you can build a routine into your baby’s day.
  • Try and wind down before you go to bed: Having a warm bath and a hot drink can help you relax. However, although you might think that a glass of wine will help you sleep, you’ll think otherwise when you get woken up at 2.00 am! You need to be alert and in control when your baby needs you.
  • We are creatures of habit: If we do something regularly, our bodies soon get used to it and the lack of sleep will become more manageable.


If you are alone with your baby and you start to feel harassed and angry, gently put your baby safely in their cot and go into another room for ten minutes until you calm down. Breathe calmly, and quietly play some of your favourite music.


Safe Sleeping

When they are first born, babies have no sense of time and will sleep a lot. As they get older, they will gradually need less sleep and fewer naps. It’s important to try and help your baby get into good night-time sleeping habits, as this will make them (and you!) happier during the day.


Becoming a parent is a very special time, but it can also be worrying, too.  Following these top tips will help to keep your baby safe and healthy, and reduce the risk of sudden infant death (also known as cot death). More information and advice on safer sleeping for your baby and you is available from organisations such as The Lullaby Trust:

Sharing a bed with your baby if you have consumed alcohol or drugs is especially dangerous. You could end up lying on top of your baby, causing your baby to die, which is a criminal offence,  so take care NEVER to do this.

Baby bedtime basics

  • The safest place for your baby to sleep for the first six months is in a cot in the same room as you. Keeping your baby in your room means that you will hear your baby wake, so you do not need to lie awake, waiting for them to stir.
  • Start a bedtime routine with a warm bath, night clothes and a breast or baby in the cot when they seem sleepy.
  • When putting your baby down for a sleep, place them on their back, with their feet at the foot end of the cot. Don’t let them get too hot – 16-20°C is comfortable.
  • It is dangerous for your baby if you fall asleep with them on a sofa or in an armchair, so take care never to do this.
  • Make sure that your baby is not exposed to cigarette smoke, as this increases their risk of sudden infant death. Stop smoking in pregnancy if you can (and this applies to dad, as well as mum!), and make sure that no-one else smokes around your baby.
  • Support baby’s mum to breastfeed for as long as possible.  Remember that night-time breastfeeds make more milk, so the effort that baby, mum and you put into these will pay off by increasing breastmilk supply, which will help your baby grow strong and healthy.
  • Breastfeeding also helps reduce baby’s risk of sudden infant death.
  • You can talk to your Midwife or Health Visitor about all aspects of the challenge of looking after your baby at night.