These unpredictable newborns: do they sleep at all?
Sleep - is the basic baby need. And all of the little ones and especially newborns are supposed to sleep a lot. At the same time the way how they sleep mostly does not correspond with new parents’ expectations. In early months the phrase “sleeps like a baby” along with all these sweet images with peacefully sleeping babies will rather look like a mockery for them.
The reality is that most of the newborns don’t have any sleeping schedule. In the first two or three month babies are unable to distinguish between day and night, and often sleep more in the daytime and less - at night. Newborns can sleep about 16 hours daily in total but this time can be divided into such small intervals as 15-30 minutes. Almost all the babies must wake up every few hours and it’s absolutely normal - as their stomach is small and they need more food. Some babies can sleep through the night already from 3-4 month of age. But most of them please their parents with more or less long night closer to 1 year or even later.
First months in a newborn's life often call “the fourth trimester”. That means that baby may not be mature enough for the new life and still needs that feeling of mommy’s womb. That’s why your little one, especially the breastfed one, may prefer sleeping in your arms, near the “source” of food, listening to your heartbeat, feeling your warmth and smell, and being tightly hug.
There is nothing wrong in letting baby to sleep in your arms, but it’s impossible to hold a little human for 15-16 hours daily. So it might be useful to recreate the similar conditions. For instance, you can use a cradle instead of a bed so the newborn can feel its borders. You can also add some gentle rocking motions as it was in your belly. Some babies feel themselves better being loosely swaddled, so their arm don’t wake them up. Also you can try to turn on the so called “white noise” - that will remind your newborn those sounds he or she has heard in your womb. You should also avoid too bright light in the sleeping room.
The way how your baby sleeps may be affected by many factors. Some of them are not subject to our influence like the level of nervous system maturation, temperament or some diseases. But there are also points that we are able to fix - like improving conditions for sleeping, conducting quality awake time, proper baby caring and on time responding to baby’s needs.
Before the childbirth future parents should decide how to organize the safe sleeping place. There are different options - from separate room to co-sleeping. But most of the pediatricians claim that the safest variant is in the middle: the separate crib or cradle in the same room with parents near their bed, so the baby will be in the arm’s length from adults. Newborn’s sleeping place should include a firm mattress and tightly fitting bedding to avoid the risk of suffocation. To have a cradle near you might be a great option for early month as you can comfort, change or feed your baby without leaving your bed (and you will definitely have to do this quite often during the night).
After 2-3 month of age most of the babies usually have longer night and more or less predictable daily schedule. At 4-5 month babies go through the so-called sleep regression that means evolving and shifting of baby’s sleep patterns. This period may lasts for a couple of weeks and might be quite stressful for parents. Your little one suddenly stops sleeping as before, becomes more nervous and in-quiet. For moms and dads that have already used to the routine, this step back in the sleeping behavior may be a big challenge. But it is important to remember that this time is hard for your baby as well and he or she needs your support even more than before. After the sleep regression your little one will have the similar sleep patterns as an adult (unfortunately that does not mean that baby will start to sleep through the night at once).
The older the baby becomes, the longer he goes without sleep. In 1-2 month your newborn’s awake time may lasts around 1,5 hours and in 6-7 month he may not sleep up to 3 hours at a row. The quantity of night awakenings will also reduce.
Baby sleep is always a source of stress for new parents. Not only because of the sleep deprivation but also because of constant anxiety about whether I am doing well. You can lose your mind in the sea of information and trying to bring to life all the tips from internet at once. And it is extremely hard for the first time parents to accept the idea that all the babies are different and that their little ones should not comply with all the prescribed standards. Of course you should monitor your baby development and contact pediatrician in the case of any concerns. But at the same time it’s crucial to catch the baby’s signals and do what you consider the best for your family.