Newborns, ah They have a wonderful scent and are adorable. But why is their sleep so disorganised? As a paediatrician and the Infant Development Expert for Enfamil NeuroPro, I’m frequently asked the same questions about infant sleep patterns:
• When will they begin sleeping for extended periods of time?
• Why are they mixing up nights and days?
• When will I be able to put them on a schedule?
• Why do they wake up so readily in the middle of the night?
Knowing WHY newborns do what they do can sometimes help you understand and approach this very typical sleep phase with greater patience and understanding.
Sleeping Patterns of Newborns
Understanding the Stages of Sleep
Understanding sleep stages is the first step in understanding baby sleep patterns. Babies sleep in light and deep stages during the fourth trimester (0-3 months). They move to more sleep cycles after four months (similar to adults).
Infants’ eyes are closed but they are asleep in the light stage, and they are more prone to be awakened by noise or even their own arms in their faces. They are more readily startled during this period, but as they grow older and acquire additional sleep stages, this rapid arousal will lessen.
It is considerably more difficult to rouse people up when they are in a deep state of slumber.
Why is it so important to understand these sleep stages? Well, newborn babies frequently start out in a light slumber state, during which they may make grunts, deep exhales, or noises. The parents believe the infant is about to wake up and arouse them, causing them to lose sleep. Adults go through sleep cycles and toss and turn as well. Babies can go through sleep cycles and make noises, but they will fall asleep on their own. We can test if they’ll go down on their own or if they’ll need something like a feeding by pausing.
Pausing is something you should practise.
It’s crucial to practise pausing during the newborn stage and beyond. When your newborn is napping, pausing means taking a breather before responding. Allow 30 seconds to 5 minutes after they produce a grunt, wail, or other sound before attending to them in their safe sleeping habitat. You can minimise the gap if you know they are due for a feeding, but we often confuse noises in sleep with hunger or a desire to be awake, so stopping can help ensure they truly require our aid.
Recognize the Symptoms of Fatigue
Babies can sleep anywhere from 14 to 18 hours per day throughout their first three months. This includes naps and nocturnal sleep. They will be awake for shorter lengths of time at first. Many newborns under the age of eight weeks will be awake for 45 minutes to an hour before falling asleep. It’s critical to keep an eye out for indicators of exhaustion throughout that time range so you can put baby down to sleep.
Rubbing their eyes, zoning out or staring into space, or having red eyebrows and eyes are all indicators. When you observe these signals, it’s critical to place them in a secure sleeping environment, such as a cot or bassinet, to reinforce the concept of ‘downtime.’ Pause once you’ve placed them. If they cry, wait 30 seconds to 5 minutes before picking them up again. Allow them to gaze around if you’ve laid them down and they’re looking around. They become accustomed to their new sleeping quarters, which is necessary for teaching autonomous sleeping.
Assist Baby in Getting Nights and Days Straight
Because of a lack of melatonin, babies’ nights and days are frequently mixed up, with them sleeping more during the day and less at night. Melatonin is produced after four weeks, when they have established a routine. Parents frequently want to change things up right away, but be patient with them, especially in the first month. They WILL understand the difference between night and day, and the techniques below can assist you in guiding them and getting them to sleep for greater periods of time by the age of two months!
Accept the darkness.
Make sure your infant is resting in a dark environment. Blackout curtains are really effective. Keep lights to a bare minimum when changing diapers or nursing a baby in the middle of the night. Just enough to get the job done and then lay them back down. Allow sunshine and get outside with your infant when he or she is awake. Sunlight will assist children in preparing for sleep and establishing a sleep-wake pattern (we sleep during the night and are more awake during the day).
Allow the baby to sleep at night.
YOU DO NOT NEED TO WAKE THE BABY UP TO FEED THEM AFTER THEY HAVE REACHED THEIR BIRTH WEIGHT. If you’re not sure, check with your child’s doctor. This implies that if they are sleeping overnight, you should allow them to do so. If they are hungry when they wake up, feed them. Nighttime sleep is defined as 7 p.m. to 7 a.m. for the sake of this guideline, even if your baby will not sleep that long at one month of age. When you wake them up to feed them, you are interfering with their natural sleep habits and disrupting their sleep unknowingly.
During the day, wake up a sleeping baby.
What’s going on here? I merely told them to go to sleep! That’s what it looks like at night. During the day, feed them every 2-3 hours by waking them up. After one month of age, this rhythm may be feasible. For the daytime feeds, an excellent rhythm is to feed at 7 a.m., 10 a.m., 1 p.m., 4 p.m., and 7 p.m. This will most likely be their routine once breastfeeding is established, and it can also be utilised for formula-fed babies! This aids in the removal of day-and-night disorientation, which can take four to six weeks to resolve. Of course, babies may cluster feed or deviate from the regimen, which is perfectly normal! They aren’t robots at all! If they are hungry, please feed them.
Pausing is something you should become used to.
Yes, I’m saying it again because it’s crucial. Practice pausing if they are sobbing or making any noise. Pausing is beneficial because it allows you to learn what each cry means by stopping and listening to it. You’ll never know if your baby is hungry, needs a diaper change, or is entering another sleep cycle if you jump at every cry. If you’re trying to teach them to settle into a new sleeping place, pausing can help. It also helps when they are in between sleep cycles and you are trying to figure out if they are awake or if they will fall asleep on their own.
You could notice sleep stretches at two months of age if you use these techniques and understand baby sleep patterns. Every baby is different in terms of how long they will sleep at night by this age, but as parents, we can help them establish these beneficial sleep habits.
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