As a new parent, the world of newborn sleep is a scary concept – you’re on the brink of exhaustion and desperately trying to figure this baby stuff out! Newborn babies spend most of their time asleep, on average 16-18 hours a day. Although they sleep a lot, they wake frequently and usually do not sleep longer than four hours at a time. This may seem strange to you but it’s perfectly normal. What you need to remember is that your little one has spent nine months in a dark womb and has yet to develop their own circadian rhythm. To put it simply, this is when your body clock reacts accordingly to night and day. For example, morning light helps give you more energy whereas a lack of light signals your body to produce melatonin (sleep hormones). The good news is that they will eventually develop their own circadian rhythm, though most likely when they are closer to twelve weeks old. So, the first few weeks of your newborn's sleep patterns might be confusing to you but don’t worry, we’re here to breakdown what to expect and provide some tips on how you can help your baby develop their own circadian rhythm.
What to Expect
At the newborn stage, babies have yet to develop sleep patterns which can be frustrating for parents as we’re constantly trying to monitor if our baby’s behavior is ‘normal’. Just remember that every baby is different so try not to worry too much as there are certain behaviors you can look out for:
Newborns tend to be restless while they’re sleeping, they may move around, make little whimpers and you may see their eyelids flutter. They can awaken very quickly too and that is because they’re not in the deep sleep that you assume. Most of their sleep is REM - a less deep, more active sleep state. So, if your baby murmurs throughout the night, that doesn’t mean they are awake.
Short Sleep Span
Although your little one sleeps 16-18 hours a day, this is done in short bouts ranging from 30 minutes to four hours. Their tummy influences their body clock and they will wake up when they are hungry. Typically your baby will sleep for 1 to 3 hours until their next feed. Quite simply, if their tummy is full, they will sleep. If they are hungry, they will wake.
Varied Sleep Times
A newborn baby sleeps on average 16-18 hours a day. When this sleep takes place within the day is completely random. Your baby might sleep soundly during the day and not get a wink of sleep come nighttime! This can be a trying time for sleep-deprived parents, but you must remember your little one has yet to get used to the day and night cycle. They’ve spent the last nine months in darkness snoozing whenever they see fit, as opposed to a normal day and night routine. Don’t stress too much though, within the first couple of weeks your newborn should start developing their own circadian rhythm. There are a few things you can do to nudge them in the right direction…check out our helpful tips below!
Wee Bean Sleep Tips!
Tip 1. Let the Sunshine In
To help your newborn distinguish between night and day hours, keep the shades and curtains around your home open to let light in. These light cues help to synchronize newborn sleep patterns; however, it doesn’t happen instantly, so a little patience and practice goes a long way.
Tip 2. Monitor Naps
Naps are important for all babies and it’s super important for them to get enough rest. However, if your newborn is taking marathon naps during the day, you can take steps to shorten the length of their daytime slumbers. You can wake your baby by holding them upright, tickling their toes, un-swaddling them, or if they’re still snoozing, try changing their diaper.
Tip 3. Let there be Darkness at Night
Similar to letting the sunshine in during the day, it’s important to help your baby associate darkness with the blissful land of nod. When your little one wakes up for a nighttime feed, do not switch the light on! Instead, create a quiet and calm atmosphere with as little light as possible.
Tip 4. Nighttime Quiet
Limit stimulation and interactions during the night, make sure the TV is off and noises are kept to a minimum. This a great way for your baby to learn that nighttime is for sleep and quiet. This will again help them get used to the day/night routine.
Tip 5. Swaddling
Swaddling is a traditional practice of wrapping up your baby in a light, breathable blanket. This helps your baby feel snug and secure like they did in the womb. It helps calm them and helps them sleep for longer periods. It’s also great for keeping them still and prevents unnecessary wake-ups caused by your baby’s Moro reflex. Learn more about the reflex and various swaddling techniques.
We hope these tips are helpful! Navigating the first few weeks of your newborn’s life can be tough and challenging. Just remember to keep calm, get plenty of rest and carry on! It gets better, trust us! If you have any tips or advice, please sound off in the comments box below, we would love to hear from you.