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If you're a new parent, you've likely struggled with sleep deprivation. Happiest Baby and BabyCenter wanted to learn as much as we could about the ways exhaustion affects your lives. In our survey of over 1000 parents (with babies under 6 mos.), we asked a slew of questions about sleep habits, challenges, emotions and relationships to share the current "state of sleep."
Our biggest findings? Sleep deprivation is the top challenge for families, 62% of the parents told us—more so than lack of time (48%), money (34%) or sex (26%). Similarly, sleep is the main thing parents miss from their pre-baby days, more than “me-time” or sex. And, after having kids, parents feel more anxious (54%) and frustrated (47%) than before.
As a pediatrician who talks to young parents all the time, I’m not surprised. The advice I give new moms and dads is that they should never feel guilty about seeking help. Without extended family pitching in or finding other support, you end up paying the price in missed sleep—and ultimately with your health.
Just How Sleep-Deprived Are New Parents?
On average, parents get only 5.7 hours of Zzz’s a night, and more than 3/4 haven't slept a full 8 hours in months. Yikes! As a result, 78% report feeling tired or exhausted during the past week. Also, parents indicate that their babies wake an average of twice a night, with no improvement between ages 3 and 6 months!
Interestingly, moms and dads report feeling the same level of exhaustion. "A clear sign that partners are participating more equally in newborn care," comments Linda Murray, my partner in the study and BabyCenter’s Global Editor-in-Chief.
Today’s Parents Are Partners
Exploring that “partnership” theme further, shared baby-duty seems to correlate with the overall happier picture that we saw in 2017 compared to our first survey in 2012.
New parents report feeling positive emotions at higher rates than negative ones. They feel a whole lotta love (86%), joy (71%) and awe (70%) since baby entered their lives. And, 46% percent of parents feel “very confident” about the decisions they make as moms and dads. (That said, the lack of sleep puts significant strain on relationships. Of the parents getting the fewest hours sleep a night, 47% report feeling distance from their partner or spouse, compared to 33% in the most rested group.)
And what’s so heartening to this pediatrician is that messages about safe sleeping practices are being received. In our 2012 parent survey, 25% of parents reported that their baby slept in bed with them for most of the week. In the latest survey, that number dropped to 20%.
It’s my hope that we’ll see a steeper decline in bed-sharing by 2022. Let’s keep spreading the word that it’s safest for babies to sleep next to their parents' bed but not in it—and babies should always be laid down on the back to sleep. These are best ways we can protect our little ones in the first 6 months of life.
The good news? Happiest Baby is on a mission to help parents with their biggest challenges. And, we’ve developed several solutions to help families get more sleep! Learn about our educational classes, books, DVDs and SNOO, the world’s first smart sleeper! You can also read free articles on our site on how safe swaddling, the right kind of white noise and extra motion are the keys to boosting sleep and reducing the need for sleep training.