5 Things Every New Parent Should Know About Sleep

Sleep (or the quest for it) is probably the most talked about topic amongst new parents. It can completely take over your world.

At Wish I'd Known, we gather real experiences – anonymously – from a large group of parents of 0–3-year-olds, across a broad range of topics. Parents then get to see what the rest of the community said. As you would expect, we’ve asked a lot of questions around sleep!

Here's the scoop, straight from the heart of our community. And it may not be what you might expect.

There’s No ‘Magic’ Age When Children Start Sleeping Through the Night

It's the ultimate goal - a full night's sleep. Yet, it arrives at a different time for each child. Many in our community found their little dreamers began their all-night adventures between six to ten months, but it's perfectly normal for some to take a bit longer. In fact, over a third of two to three-year-olds were not sleeping through regularly.

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Most Parents Try Co-Sleeping at Some Point

Two-thirds of our community said they’d co-slept at some point, and some surveys suggest much higher. The Lullaby Trust, for example, found nine out of ten had co-slept. 

Much of the time, this isn’t planned – many co-sleep to adapt to their baby’s needs, and to get more sleep themselves. 

We also found that co-sleeping was higher for parents of one to two-year-olds, compared to zero to one and two to three-year-olds.

If you’re co-sleeping or thinking about it, make sure you follow safe-sleeping guidelines. The Lullaby Trust is a good resource for this, and they also outline when not to co-sleep.  

It’s Normal To Feel a Cocktail of Emotions During Night Wakes

Disrupted sleep can bring a flood of feelings.  Most parents (around two-thirds) across all age groups felt impatience. 

Anxiety about the following day was also a common concern. Feelings of defeat, often leading to tears, were slightly higher in parents with children aged two to three years old, compared to other age groups. 

You're not failing if you feel this way; you're human! You're not alone, and it doesn’t make you a bad parent.

Most Couples Experience a ‘Sleep Divorce’ at Some Point

Sleeping arrangements can change quite a bit after having a child, and ‘sleep divorces’ - a period of sleeping apart from your partner – are common. 

Among all parents we asked, about one in ten said they sleep separately all night, while around three in ten have had a 'partial sleep divorce' (such as sleeping apart on certain nights or for parts of the night). As you might expect, this is most common among parents of younger babies (0-12 months). 

The good news is this trend tends to lessen as kids grow, with parents much more likely to sleep in the same bed again by the time children are two to three years old. 

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Letting Go of Expectations Can Make Things Easier

We asked parents what ‘wish I’d knowns’ they had, which might help other parents, and relaxing control around baby sleep was a key theme. 

As one parent shared, "I wish I'd known that my baby might not sleep in the crib when he came home, and that was normal! I spent so many nights Googling, thinking I was doing something wrong." On that note, deciding "Never to Google anything about my child's sleep" was "Life changing" for another parent. 

In terms of top tips, one parent advised, "Instead of stressing about it, just work as a team so both parents get rest", while another similarly shared "The game-changer for my spouse and I was deciding to alternate nights. I feel so much more myself now that I'm getting a night off, and the baby monitor is on his side of the bed."

Our mission at Wish I’d Known is to reassure parents and normalise parenting ups and downs. We hope these insights from our community offer comfort and camaraderie.

If you're curious to see more from our free community and add your voice, we’d love it if you joined us! Be part of it at wishidknown.co.
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Articles shown are a mixture of informative pieces, anecdotal accounts and professional advice from our panel of Bloggers, Writers and Experts. The views and opinions expressed in these articles are those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect the official view of this site.