Basic truths of newborn sleep
Your bundle of joy is finally here, so you can say sayonara to sleep for a while (sorry!).
But before you nervously pore over 47 different baby sleep books in hopes of finding a magic formula, breathe deeply and take in these basic truths.
1. Newborns sleep a lot.
The average newborn sleeps 16.5 hours a day – about eight hours at night and eight to nine hours during the day. But keep in mind that this is just an average and some newborns sleep a lot more or less.
2. Newborns need to eat often.
Discouraged that your baby won’t snooze for more than a few hours at a time? Relax – it’s completely normal. Because their tummies are so small, they need to fuel up on milk or formula every two to four hours.
3. Newborn sleep is fidgety and noisy.
Young babies are restless sleepers because they spend half the time sleeping in REM (rapid eye movement) – a light phase of sleep when dreams occur. As they get older, they spend less time in active REM and more time in quiet deep sleep. Newborns are also noisy when they sleep – the mucous in their noses can cause them to make strange sounds and their breathing can be worryingly irregular – but chances are there’s nothing to be concerned about. If in doubt, speak to your doctor.
4. Babies start to sleep through the night when they’re developmentally ready.
By six to eight weeks, your baby should start to sleep less during the day and more at night, but most babies won’t start sleeping through the night (six to eight hours) until they’re at least three months old. Between four and six months, most babies are capable of sleeping between eight and 12 hours at night, but some don’t get there until the age of one or even later.
Top tips to help your baby sleep
- Don’t keep your newborn up for more than two hours at a time or they could become overtired
- Learn to recognize your baby’s tired signs (rubbing eyes, fussiness, looking away and yawning) and put them to bed as soon as possible
- Swaddling your baby can control their startle reflex and help them sleep better
- Always put your baby to sleep on their back to reduce the risk of sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS)
- Teach your baby the difference between night and day by keeping the house bright and noisy during the day, and quiet and dim at night
- Establish a bedtime routine early on to help your baby learn that certain cues (bath, lullaby, cuddle, bed) mean it’s time for bed
- Put your baby to bed when they’re sleepy but still awake if you want to teach them to go to sleep on their own.