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For Sleep-Deprived New Parents, These "Gifts" Can Be Priceless

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Sleep loss can be a serious issue for parents of newborns. The first few days at home with an infant can be exhausting, since babies don't develop regular sleep routines right away. This is normal. Still, the challenges of feeding, changing and comforting a tiny human 24/7 can leave parents feeling shredded!

Sleep is essential for healthy functioning, so a new parent's lack of rest becomes a safety issue too.

Tired grownups might drift off while holding a baby or skip a few of the steps that reduce a child's risk for sudden unexpected infant death (SUID)which includes sleep-related infant deaths from sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS), suffocation and strangulation in bed, and undetermined causes.

SUID happens most often in the early months of life. Babies born prematurely tend to wake more often than those born full-term, putting their parents in an especially rough spot when it comes to staying well-rested.

Consider giving parents of newborns the gift of time & support

Traditional baby gifts are wonderful, but sometimes the most thoughtful present is simply being present. Here are a few suggestions for gifts of time and care that won't cost you anything, but may be invaluable to a new parent in your family, neighborhood or friend group. (Just be sure to call or text first to ask when you can stop by, since unexpected visitors can cause stress for new parents.)

  • Baby break. Offer to care for their infant so parents can rest for an hour or two. Find out which time(s) would be most helpful: early morning, midday, dinnertime or an evening shift. Let them know when to expect you, and if needed, offer gentle encouragement so they feel comfortable focusing on self-care.

  • Sibling care. If there are other children in the family, you might take them to the library, park or gym, or even treat them to a weekend sleepover. This can let parents focus on their infant's needs (and hopefully catch a few extra winks).

  • Neighborhood stroll. Offer to take the new baby for a little excursion–maybe a walk outdoors or, if the weather's bad, a trip to a local mall. This gives parents a quiet spot in the day when they can safely close their eyes, knowing their little one is in good hands.

  • Fluff and fold. Infants generate a lot of laundry! Lighten a new parent's load by handling this everyday chore while they nap, read or shower. There's nothing more comforting than the sight of freshly folded clothes, sheets and towels, all ready to go.

    Ask what other household tasks you can take off their hands. Vacuuming? Washing dishes? Helping to tidy up can give new parents a little more time to rest and recharge.

  • Dinner break. Providing a meal can open a window in the day when parents can relax. Find out what they're craving and bring it over, ready to eat, a little before mealtime. (Takeout works just as well as homemade, so don't stress if you don't have time to cook.) Ask what siblings might enjoy and enlist older children in getting the table ready. Consider compostable paper plates and napkins to make cleanup easy.

  • Pet pampering. Family pets need love and care, and they may even act out when a new baby arrives. Relieve the pressure on new parents by feeding and walking dogs, playing with cats or handling vet and grooming appointments. Offer to stop by the pet store to refresh supplies that are running low.

  • Concierge services. Serve as the family's personal assistant for part of a day. This might mean picking up prescriptions, groceries or supplies for the kids, giving rides to and from school or lessons, even meeting a repair person or coordinating lawn and garden care.

  • Open and organize. Many parents feel overwhelmed by the deliveries that stream in right after a new baby arrives—everything from diapers, wipes and feeding supplies to gifts from friends and family. You can help by opening boxes, arranging items in the kitchen or nursery and keeping track of presents as they arrive, possibly even drafting thank-you notes for parents to send later.

When you're ready to give your gifts of time and support, be sure the parents know that the time is for them to rest and not to do other chores. A well-rested new parent is better prepared to safely get their baby back to sleep.

Bonus gifts: encouragement, hugs & a shoulder to lean on

Often, a new parent's laundry day or dinner delivery turns into something else altogether. The first few weeks with a newborn can be isolating and stressful. Combined with sleep loss, the pressures of caring for an infant may increase risks for postpartum depression (PPD), which can affect birth and adoptive parents of all genders.

When a new parent needs to talk, set aside any other plans and simply listen without judgment. There's no need to problem-solve or offer detailed advice. Just being there will help them feel seen and understood.

If you're concerned that a parent needs medical attention for sleep loss, PPD or any other health issue, consider offering extra help. Child care that makes it easy for them to schedule and keep appointments might be exactly what they need right now. This gift supports the whole family, since healthy parents are in the best possible position to keep little ones safe and healthy too.

More information

The Sudden Unexpected Infant Death Prevention Program is funded by Cooperative Agreement Number UF745730 from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS), Health Resources and Services Administration (HRSA), Maternal and Child Health Bureau (MCHB) as part of an award totaling $500,000 annually with 0% financed with non-governmental sources. Its contents are solely the responsibility of the authors and should not be construed as the official position or policy of, nor should any endorsements be inferred by HRSA, HHS, or the U.S. Government.

Last Updated
American Academy of Pediatrics (Copyright @ 2024)
The information contained on this Web site should not be used as a substitute for the medical care and advice of your pediatrician. There may be variations in treatment that your pediatrician may recommend based on individual facts and circumstances.
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