How to Support a New Parent

Heidi Cox, PhD on Dec 21, 2022 in Relationship and Family

A client of mine recently recounted to me how she had barely slept for more than one to two hours at a time in the week since we met for therapy. Her nights were filled with thinking about her new baby, checking on the baby, feeding and pumping and cleaning up after the baby. She expressed frustration at her inability to function well on such little sleep and didn't want to burden her partner with waking him either.

Sleep deprivation in early parenthood is no joke, and it is linked to an increased likelihood of depression, anxiety, stress, and other difficulties. You likely already know that sleep deprivation is both typical and difficult, but did you know there are things you can do to support a new parent so that they can function as well as possible given the newness of their situation?

If you are a new parent, set up a sleep shift routine so that each of you are "on shift" for four hours of the night, ensuring that the other partner doesn't have to feel like they are on duty all night. We function best with six to eight hours of sleep, at least three to four of those in undisturbed sleep.

If you are a friend or family member of a new parent, ask if they need help setting up a sleep shift schedule. When you visit, see what chores you can do around the house and expect to be a helper rather than a guest who needs to be hosted. Popular tasks include doing dishes, taking the dog for a walk, holding baby so mom can take a shower/nap, and doing laundry.

It truly takes a village, and new moms/parents are often uncomfortable asking for help, so bring this awareness with you on your next visit or check-in so that you can be a great support!

Heidi Cox is a Clinical Psychologist in Brooklyn, NY.

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