Immediately after birth, the child does not know that there are concepts of “day” and “night.” It is generally very difficult for a baby to get used to a new world in which there is no usual aquatic environment, darkness, silence and a constant temperature of 36 degrees. That’s why newborn sleep is a rather complicated issue which causes many questions in young parents.
From 0 to 3 months
Typical sleep at this age
At this age, a newborn sleeps quite a lot — from about 15 to 18 hours a day for the first few weeks and 15 hours a day by three months.
Children almost never sleep more than three or four hours in a row, day or night. And that means that you, too, will not be able to sleep for many hours. At night you will have to get up to feed and swaddle your baby; during the day you will play with him. While some babies sleep all night long at the age of 8 weeks, many babies do not reach this figure until they are 5 or 6 months old. Still, you can help your child quickly achieve this result by instilling good sleep skills from the very beginning.
How to Instill Healthy Sleep Skills?
Here is what you can do at this age to help your child acquire the right sleep skills:
Study the Signs of Child Fatigue
For the first six to eight weeks, your child will not be able to stay awake for more than two hours in a row. If you do not put him to sleep longer than this time, he will be tired and will not be able to sleep well. Watch until you notice the baby is getting sleepy – he rubs his eyes, tugs at his ear, faint dark circles appear under his eyes. If you see these or any other signs of drowsiness, put the baby to the crib. Soon, you will learn your child’s daily rhythms and behavior so that you will develop a sixth sense and you will instinctively know when he is ready for bed.
Start Explaining the Difference Between Day and Night
Some babies are owls (you may have noticed some hints of this during pregnancy). And while you want to turn off the light, the child may still be very active. In the first few days you can’t do anything about it. But as soon as the child is about 2 weeks old, you can begin to teach him to distinguish day from night.
When a child is up and active during the day, play with him, turn on the lights in the house and in his room, do not try to reduce the usual daytime noises (phone, TV or dishwasher sounds). If he falls asleep while feeding, wake him up. At night, do not play with the child. When you enter his feeding room, dim the lights and noise, do not talk to him for too long. Not so much time will pass, and your baby will begin to understand that night time is for sleeping.
Give Your Baby a Chance to Fall Asleep by Himself
When your child is 6 to 8 weeks old, start giving him a chance to fall asleep on his own. How? Put him in bed when he is sleepy, but still awake. Experts advise not to rock the baby to sleep and feed him before bedtime. Parents think that if they start teaching the child too early, it will not have an effect. But this is not so. Infants acquire sleep-related habits. If you lull your baby before bed each night for the first eight weeks, why should he expect something else later?
Newborn Sleep: What Difficulties May Arise?
By the time your child reaches 2 or 3 months, he can already wake up at night more often than necessary, and also develop negative associations connected to sleep.
Newborns must wake up at night for food, but some may accidentally wake themselves before they really need to be fed. To avoid this, try swaddling your baby (snug him comfortably in a blanket) before putting him in a bed for the night.
Avoid unnecessary bedtime associations – your child should not be dependent on lulling or feeding in order to fall asleep. Put the baby in bed before he falls asleep and let him fall asleep on his own.
Recommendations for Moms
- Help your baby know the difference between the time of day by muting the light at night and letting it into the house during the day. Thus, newborn sleep will be safe and sound.
- Always change the diaper before bedtime.
- Newborns spend so much time on their backs in a dream that it is very important to give them a long time to lie on their tummy or be upright when they are awake.
- Comfortable diapers that keep a baby dry for a long time can help avoid unnecessary awakenings.
- Your baby needs to be fed approximately every three hours around the clock. But do not worry – over time, he will learn to do without food and sleep during the night longer due to daytime sleep.
Facts About Newborn Sleep
Newborn sleep is not arranged like that of an adult, so immediately lower your demands and expectations – this will make it easier for you to accept the fact that the child wakes up often. He does this because the full sleep cycle takes him less than an hour. And if by the end of the cycle the baby freezes, feels hunger or discomfort from the diaper, he will wake up. That’s all.
The baby needs more time to sleep in a deep sleep than an adult. That is why he immediately opens his eyes as soon as you put him in the crib. It usually takes 20 minutes for a baby to fall into a deep sleep. Observe a child: if his eyelids move, his hands are tense, sometimes he moves, twitches, smiles and makes mouth movements, he has not fallen asleep properly. As soon as the baby’s body relaxes, his breathing becomes even, he stops making sounds, etc. This means that he is in a deep sleep. You can put him in the crib.
A child does not have to sleep all night. Moreover, he should rather wake up than not. This is an evolutionary mechanism to prevent the risk of sudden infant death, as well as a way to make parents understand that all systems in the baby’s body are working properly – it responds to hunger, discomfort or pain normally and adequately.
Children sleep poorly in order for the brain to develop well. During a light sleep (phase of rapid eye movements) brain activity increases due to the fact that the blood flow to it increases dramatically. This allows the child to quickly learn new things, adapt to a new infant life, and learn the proper skills.
Newborns do not understand the difference between day and night, so they don’t care when they wake you up at five in the evening or at five in the morning, etc. Of course, it seems to you that this is not the case, but the babies actually sleep quite a lot: the average newborn can sleep for 16 hours a day with breaks for food, wakefulness and cry. By four months, he will sleep from 12 to 14 hours a day and waking up in the middle of the night will occur less often. But getting up two or three times a night for a child before the year is quite normal.
One day the baby will sleep all night, it will happen. Just do not push and try to force things.