Let’s talk about newborn sleep!
Newborn sleep patterns and needs are quite different from those of older children and adults. Understanding these early sleep patterns can help parents create a more manageable routine and support their newborn’s sleep development.
Here’s a deeper look at newborn sleep:
1. Sleep Needs: Newborns have an incredibly high need for sleep, typically ranging from 14 to 17 hours a day (the first couple of days of life, a newborn sleeps on average 22 hours/day). However, this sleep is not consolidated into long nighttime stretches. Instead, newborns sleep in shorter periods, usually ranging from 1 to 3 hours at a time. This frequent waking is due to their tiny tummies needing to be fed often.
2. Sleep Cycles: Newborns have shorter sleep cycles compared to older children and adults. An infant’s sleep cycle lasts around 45 minutes to 1 hour. During this time, they move through different sleep stages, including REM (rapid eye movement) and non-REM sleep.
• REM Sleep: This is often referred to as “active sleep” and is characterized by rapid eye movements, irregular breathing, and increased brain activity. During REM sleep, babies might exhibit facial twitches, smiles, and other movements. REM sleep is believed to be important for brain development.
• Non-REM Sleep: This stage consists of several phases, including deep sleep and light sleep. During deep sleep, newborns are more difficult to wake up, and their bodies and brains undergo important restorative processes.
3. Day-Night Confusion: Newborns are not born with a fully developed circadian rhythm, which is the internal body clock that regulates sleep and wake cycles based on the day-night cycle. This is why many newborns seem to have their days and nights mixed up, sleeping longer during the day and waking frequently at night. Over the first few weeks, parents can help establish a day-night routine by exposing the baby to natural light during the day and keeping the environment dim, boring and quiet at night. This also means limiting eye contact at night. Change diaper, eat and back to sleep.
4. Sleep Environment: Creating a safe and comfortable sleep environment is essential for newborns. Place your baby on their back to sleep to reduce the risk of Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS). Keep the crib or bassinet free from blankets, pillows, stuffed animals, and anything else.
5. Cluster Feeding: Newborns often engage in cluster feeding, where they feed more frequently and for longer periods, particularly in the evenings. This behavior is normal and helps increase milk supply while satisfying the baby’s caloric needs before longer sleep stretches at night.
6. Sleep Associations: Newborns can develop sleep associations with certain actions, sounds, or sensations. For instance, they might associate being rocked or nursing with falling asleep. While these associations can be soothing, they can also become problematic if the baby relies on them to fall asleep. Gradually introducing independent sleep habits can help prevent over-dependence on external factors for sleep. Laying your baby down, drowsy but awake, is important to help foster this independence.
Overall, newborns have unique sleep needs and patterns that are centered around frequent feeding and shorter sleep cycles. As parents, it’s important to be patient and flexible, adapting to your baby’s needs while gently guiding them toward healthy sleep habits over time. In my professional opinion, sleep makes the world go ‘round 😊
For more information, visit the American Academy of Pediatrics: https://www.aap.org/en/patient-care/safe-sleep/