Knowing the Ins and Outs of Newborn Sleep

The most important thing for a baby to do is to sleep for a maximum amount of time. Babies spend about 16 to 17 hours sleeping. But that snooze time is frequent at the beginning of the week, hardly making it last for more than two to three hours.Uneven sleep patterns result in tired babies, which in turn affects the sleep patterns of the mother. Having a healthy sleep pattern can let you have a happy and healthy baby. However, committing and sticking to a sleep routine which works for both the baby and mom is not that easy to come by and it may require a lot of reassessment until you find a sweet spot which agrees with both of you.  Here is a brief guide to introduce you to the basics of newborn's sleeping pattern and how to get good at it:

Sleep pattern of a baby: Babies sleep most of the time and wake up only for feedings, and it happens every two to three hours. In the beginning, it’s a problem for parents to set the baby’s sleep cycle but at the same time, babies are pretty much confused between day and night hours. Some babies prefer to stay up at night, due to the inverted sleep cycle and this takes almost a year to change the timings bit by bit. The sleep cycle of a baby is affected by the changes which were happening in the brain of the baby, and it reflects in the form of REM sleep. Later when the baby crosses the six-week span, the sleep cycle gets reverse. Baby starts to sleep less in daytime and more at night. It’s not the identical case with every baby; the cases can vary from baby to baby.

Newborn sleep chart

Newborn-4 months

Total Sleep: 16-18 hours

Nighttime Sleep: 8-9 hours

Naps: 7-9 hours (3-5 naps)

4-12 months

Total Sleep: 12-16 hours

Nighttime Sleep: 9-10 hours

Naps: 4-5 hours (2-3 naps)

Perfect sleeping positions for a baby:

The scientists have established a connection between the vulnerability of SIDS (Sudden Infant Death Syndrome) to the babies who sleep on the stomach. In addition to this, the soft mattresses and pillows can be a great threat to the baby’s life. Here are some guidelines to keep your baby safe and sound:

  • Place the baby to sleep on her back rather than the stomach and side by side position. The chances for SIDS get diminished in the back sleep position.

  • Use a separate crib for the baby to sleep. It should be closely placed to the mom’s bed for an easy feeding.

  • Place a firm and tight-fitting mattress in the crib to avoid sagging.

  • Keep the crib vacant or less occupied. The toys, pillows, and the soft products need to be checked before laying the baby sleep into her bed.

  • The baby’s nose and mouth should not be covered while asleep.

  • Don’t use blankets to keep your baby warm, use sleepers that avoid the blocking of windpipes in babies.

  • Pacifiers reduce the risk of SIDS, and its use can increase the safety standard. But don’t force the baby to take it in her mouth.

What are the signs that show baby is sleepy:

In the first few weeks, it gets difficult for parents to know the exact sings when baby feels sleepy. The babies don’t get to stay awake for more than two hours at a time. But your impatience to putting him down when she wants to stay clung to your lap may get her noisy and tired at the same time. Here are few signals she might feeling sleepy:

  • Whining and crying

  • Staring at the ceiling

  • Yawning and stretching

  • Stay dull and inactive

  • Eye rubbing

  • Ear flicking

  • Dreamfeed: The dreamfeed is the solution discovered by expert moms who feed the baby right before her sleeping time. This helps the baby in sound sleeping for at least 3 hours before it snoozes to feed for the next time. This helps mom to get some rest time score for them.

  • Don’t let baby sleep long during daytime: It’s not right to break the sleeping time of a baby, but you can limit it to maintain the order of sleeping at night time. If the baby continues sleeping past two or more hours, you can create a disturbance to make him awake. This disruption in the daytime helps both mom and baby get better sleep at nighttime.

  • Mimic the womb: If the baby is having a hard time sleeping, swaddle her, take her to a dark room, and sway till she falls asleep. This action creates a similar effect as being in the womb, making the baby feel cozy and warm.

  • Don't overtire the baby: Take care not to overstimulate the baby during the day, so that by the time bedtime arrives, the baby is overtired and can't sleep. Don't overtire the baby and wake them up from naps

  • Limit your coffee intake: It will be an endless cycle of you having coffee, breastfeeding, the baby not sleeping enough, you being tired and needing another cup of coffee.  It might seem like caffeine is what you are running on and limiting caffeine might seem drastic, but hold on, you will survive.

  • Distinguish between day and night: Introduce a routine to your child and help them distinguish between night and day. Play as much as you can with the baby when he is awake during the day, show him the bright sunlight and keep the day noises like music, talking, television on. However at night keep the lights dimmed and noise low, and don't play and interact as much with the baby. Soon the baby will adapt to the changes between nighttime and daytime.

  • Sleepy but awake: Jodi Mindell, associate director of the Sleep Disorders Center at Children's Hospital of Philadelphia and author of Sleeping Through the Night suggests that around the timeframe of 6 to 8 weeks, the baby can be encouraged to fall asleep on his own by putting the baby down when he's sleepy but not asleep. However, there are many parents who still prefer to rock or nurse their babies to sleep. However, this approach can require having to get up with their child at night and coax them back to sleep.

Some of the tips to help mom sleep:

  • Catch up on your sleep when the baby sleeps. Chores can wait, as running on minimal sleep and coffee can be dangerous not only for you but also for your baby. During the time when the baby is taking short naps, rest, lie down or do something which is relaxing to you.
  • Pump whenever you can so that you can delegate nighttime feeding duty to someone else, like your spouse, or a family member. Also, keep the baby close by, so that you don't have to get up five times at night.
  • Don’t shy away from seeking help. If you ask your best friend to help out with the chores, she most probably will. Ask help from your older children, friends and family and delegate tasks. 

These are some of the parameters you need to follow to keep your baby safe and maintaining her sleep cycle both at the same time. If your baby is not getting too much sleep, then you can take suggestions from the doctor. It’s natural for a baby to awake and sleep every two hours, you can’t control it. As much a baby sleeps in starting, better it gives her time to shape the brain development.