Trying to get a newborn baby to sleep well is the holy grail of parenthood for a lot of mums and dads. Hopefully, this post will explain about baby sleep patterns especially at the newborn stage and will give you some good tips on helping your baby sleep through the night.
All about newborn baby sleep
How long will my baby sleep for as a newborn?
It’s impossible to pinpoint what your baby’s sleep pattern will be as each baby has their own. However, what we can tell you is that newborns sleep a lot during the course of 24 hours, but only in short bursts.
On average, you can expect them to be asleep for up to 18 hours over the course of 24 hours, especially in their first few weeks. However, some will only sleep for more than two or three hours at a time, and of course, they will need to be fed frequently.
You and your partner should expect some sleepless nights. We promise this phase won’t last long, but it will probably feel like an eternity when you’re sleep deprived.
It’s also important to know what sleep cycles your newborn will have. They are much shorter than adults and babies spend more time in REM sleep than a deep slumber at first. This is a light sleep and means that they can be easily disturbed.
When will it end?
Once your baby has reached six – eight weeks their sleeping habits should change. They will sleep for shorter spells during daylight hours and longer, deeper spells during the night. It’s possible that your newborn will sleep completely through the night as early as this, but do be prepared for interrupted nights for at least the first few months.
Tips to make my newborn sleep better?
You may be wondering if there are any ways to encourage good sleep habits in these early days, and there are.
Humans have a natural circadian rhythm, meaning that they go to sleep at night and feel awake during the day. This develops in these primary weeks and there are a few methods to help move things along.
Teach them the difference between daytime and nighttime
When your baby is around 2 weeks old, they will be able to pick up your habits and behaviours. This means that you can start to show them how day and night differ.
You can achieve this by making sure you have an active daytime routine. As soon as they wake in the morning, change their clothes to mark the start of a new day.
Be sociable and play, talk and interact as much as you can, including during feeding time; simply sing a song or chat to them as they feed. Babies are likely to nod off when they are feeding, but after a few weeks gently wake them if they fall to sleep during a daytime feed.
Remember, babies are humans and we would get tired and groggy in a dark, quiet room. Make sure you keep the house bright and light, even during daytime naps. Let them hear everyday sounds, such as conversations, the TV or kettle.
Meanwhile, nighttime should be about winding down. In contrast, change them into their comfy sleepsuit and keep noise and light down to a minimum. This should be a therapeutic exercise for you and your partner too if you’ve been feeling the stress.
Know when your baby is tired
Recognising the signs that your newborn is tired before they get overtired can really help a baby settle. Putting down an overtired baby can result in them getting irritable and struggling to nod off.
Physical signs such as them rubbing their eyes, yawning and stretching and the obvious whining and crying will mean that it’s time to put them down. Babies can also become quiet and reserved when they are tired, losing interest in the toys and people around them. Many newborns even develop faint, dark circles under their eyes when they need to rest – probably matching yours and your partners’!
You’ll soon come to recognise their ways of telling you and their body language, so don’t worry if you miss some of the signs at first. Parenting is all about learning and no one is an expert.
Lastly, try to let them fall asleep on their own
By the time that your baby is around 3 months old, they should be able to fall asleep on their own. Of course, life isn’t always that straightforward. To settle your baby it’s important to put them down when they’re sleepy but not almost asleep. If you’re nervous at first, you can stay in the room whilst they nod off but don’t make this a habit.
It may be hard, but establishing a consistent bedtime routine is vital to get your baby to settle and fall to sleep. Changing their routine too much will result in even more sleepless nights and it will be difficult for a newborn to develop their natural circadian rhythms.
A good bedtime routine can be one that you are able to follow as they get older. A warm bath followed by their last feed and a bedtime story or lullaby is one that you can still do when your baby is a toddler. Just remember to keep things calm, and the lights lower so that they are more prepared to drift off to sleep when you put them down.
You can always ask for help
All babies are different and what works for your friend’s baby may not work for yours. However, it doesn’t mean you can’t ask for help or advice from people who have experience with children and most importantly from your Health Visitor or GP. Especially if you suspect there may be something stopping them from having a good sleep such as reflux. No question is a silly question when it comes to babies!
If you can offer some advice or tips to new parents about how to get a newborn baby to sleep, please let us know in the comments below.