Unveiling the Mystery: How Much Do Newborns Sleep?
Were you waiting to sing your favorite lullaby to your precious little baby when she…
Were you waiting to sing your favorite lullaby to your precious little baby when she is born? You will find yourself doing so more often than you ever imagined! A newborn baby sleeps from 14-19 hours in a span of 24 hours! Don’t worry, the time will reduce by the end of 3 months. Newborn babies wake up only to get fed, and when their nappies are soiled. Once they settle down, they are ready to sleep again. Sleeping for so long is very necessary for the baby’s growth and to adjust to her new environment.
In this article, we attempt to unveil the mysteries behind your newborn baby’s sleep. We also try to understand sleep patterns, and challenges, and provide some tips for a healthy sleep cycle.
The Sleep Patterns of Newborns
Sleep Duration in Newborns
As we mentioned earlier, on average, newborns sleep for 14-19 hours in a day. They have no sense of day and night and so they just keep sleeping, whatever the time may be. The duration of sleep may vary for individual babies. They mostly wake up when they are hungry, which is around every 2 hours for the first 3 months. Of course, they also get disturbed due to some discomfort such as by high or low room temperature, wet nappy, surrounding noise, etc. Many infants experience growth sprouts at about 2-3 weeks, 6 weeks, 3 months, and 9 months. They might be excessively hungry during this time, leading to shorter sleep duration.
Sleep Cycles in Newborns
Sleep cycles in newborns keep on changing. This is absolutely normal. Most babies get hungry in 2-3 hours. Around an hour after feeding, they go back to sleep. This goes on for almost 3 months of age. Sleep cycle stages are mainly classified as active sleep and quiet sleep.
During active sleep, your baby may cry, make noises, or be generally disturbed in her sleep.
Quiet sleep is when she is comparatively calm in her sleep and breathes quietly.
It is necessary to understand these sleep cycle stages and allow your little one to sleep as much as possible, especially for the first 3 months. Understanding the cycle can help you bring the baby gradually into a routine after 3 months.
Sleep Needs and Routines for Newborns
Establishing Healthy Sleep Habits
In the first month, the sleep and feeding cycles could be extremely stressful for you. However, there is no point in trying to push your baby into a routine immediately. Give her some time to settle. She needs your constant care to be able to satiate her hunger and be able to sleep. By the second or third month, you may try to set a routine, if the baby doesn’t already have one.
To begin with, let the baby understand the difference between day and night. Instead of covering up her room with heavy blinds to feel like night, let her feel the sunshine and daylight. Also, don’t try to hard to prevent daily household noise from reaching her during the day. This could eventually help her to stay awake for a longer duration of the day and sleep for longer during the night. This way, when the baby is 6 months, she would most likely start to sleep 4-5 hours at a stretch in the night.
You may use soothing techniques to help the baby sleep at a set routine hour. Here are some techniques:
Napping Patterns for Newborns
It might feel like a nap is all she does! But this is an important period of growth and development, and also for you to get some rest in between the feedings. Baby’s nap time ranges between 2-3 hours. She wakes up for some refreshment and goes back into her deep slumber very soon. To promote quality daytime naps, when she wakes up you can interact with her, play with her, or go for a small walk so that she is tired enough to sleep well. Babies often cry to communicate that they are hungry, need a change, or are sleepy. However, excessive crying could be stimulating. Short and irregular nap patterns could be as frustrating for her as they could be for you. This is why, studying the baby’s sleep patterns and understanding her needs at a particular time is important.
Common Sleep Challenges in Newborns
Nighttime Sleep and Sleep Associations
Is nighttime sleep different than daytime sleep for a newborn? Not really! Although, it is for you! After going through the continuous cycle of feeding, changing diapers, putting to sleep, and repeating, you would crave for a good night’s sleep. However, let us just face it- for the first 3 months, you will possibly not be able to sleep for more than 3 hours at a stretch. But, you can enjoy a quieter sleep if your baby is in a quiet and deep sleep too.
When you set a routine, as we suggested above, the baby will soon learn that it is night and time to sleep. For example, use pacifiers, or a specific song, or rocking only at night time. This helps the infant make a sleep association with an object, action, or song. Similarly, daily routines such as a warm bath and feeding until they sleep can do the same trick. In turn, the baby’s mind prepares itself to sleep.
However, it may become challenging to transition away from sleep associations such as pacifiers. Feed-to-sleep is a beautiful time for mothers, but it may be hard for the child to break away from the habit later.
Sleep Regression and Developmental Milestones
What happens when the routine you finally set up lapses again? It is not uncommon for a deep sleeper to suddenly start not to sleep so well. She may find it hard to sleep even after the routine drill or wake up in the middle of the night, disturbed. Worry not! This is just a period of sleep regression. It could last for 2-3 weeks. This may happen because the baby achieved a developmental milestone, is traveling, or has a growth spurt or teething pain. Any such factors could cause a temporary regression. Your baby should be able to get back to the routine if you continue to be consistent with it.
Promoting Healthy Sleep for Newborns
Safe Sleep Practices
Providing a safe and comfortable environment to sleep is also the responsibility of a parent. Here are some tips:
- Make sure the bed/crib is clean and dry. It needs to be firm and with a fitted sheet.
- The safest position for a newborn baby to sleep is on its back. Placing the baby on her tummy to sleep increases the risk of Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS).
- Instead of sharing a bed with the baby, it is ideal to share a room.
- Do not keep blankets, pillows, or toys anywhere close to the baby so that nothing covers the baby’s face or causes overheating.
- Maintain the room temperature at a level that is neither too hot nor too cold.
- Strictly avoid smoking near your baby.
Sleep Hygiene for Newborns
Sleep hygiene must be a significant part of your baby’s sleep routine. It not only makes them clean, but they also become calmer and aware of the fact that it is time to sleep. Here are some steps that you can follow daily as part of hygiene:
- Give a warm bath. If the baby is unwell and doesn’t seem ready for a bath, you may use a clean wet cloth to gently wipe her body.
- Apply a massage oil or body lotion and gently massage her body.
- Change into a fresh diaper and clothes.
Such routines often become part of children’s schedules even as they grow up. Therefore, it is best to inculcate these habits from a very young age.
Newborns sleep for over 3/4th of a day. Their day is a cycle of sleeping, waking up to feed or pass urine, and motion. They mostly sleep for 2-3 hours at a stretch and then wake up for a “break”. This duration changes with time. What we didn’t tell you until now is that in the first month, if the baby doesn’t wake up in 2-3 hours, it is suggested that you wake her up and feed her. Sounds crazy, right? Disturbing a baby’s sleep is not the best thing to do, however, your little one should not starve or get dehydrated. It could be harmful in many ways. This way you can also help the baby have a set sleep pattern soon. With a pattern, it becomes easier for you to understand why a baby is crying. It can also help manage your own time and sleep cycle.
We hope this article has helped you realize that there is no mystery in a newborn’s sleep pattern. If your baby has no pattern for months or too much before falling asleep, try consulting a doctor. In most other cases, you can support her to have a sleep routine and learn her pattern. Some basic steps can help your baby have a restful sleep and grow while she sleeps!