Sleep can be one of the most baffling issues for new parents. As many of us learn through gritty nights and zombie-like days, babies simply don’t snooze like the rest of us.
- Newborn babies sleep up to 18 hours per day.
Parents of new babies all complain about a lack of sleep. But this is really about the parents’ experience, not the baby’s! Newborns need a massive amount of sleep – fifteen to eighteen hours each day. They divide this sleep into chunks that are spread out over the entire 24 hours of the day and night. The good news is that over the early months, their biological clock kicks in and they start to consolidate more sleep during the night.
- Newborns can only stay awake for 45 minutes to an hour.
Brand new babies can only stay happily awake for very short periods of time – an hour or less. This gradually increases, and by six months, most babies can stay awake for two to three hours, but that is still a very short span of awake periods. If your baby stays awake beyond this happy awake time, he can quickly melt down into an overtired and fussy state. He’ll find it hard to sleep, yet won’t be able to stay happily awake, either. This becomes a pattern that can disrupt sleep, growth, and temperament. If you want your baby to cry less and sleep better, keep one eye on the clock and one eye on your baby. It’s easy to miss new babies’ tired signals and keep them awake too long. So watch your little one carefully and help him sleep whenever he seems tired. More sleep equals a happier baby.
- Newborns are noisy, active sleepers.
Newborns are not quiet, still sleepers. They grunt, groan, coo, moan, twitch, and shift during sleep. Some newborns even cry or nurse while they are sound asleep! These noises and motions don’t always signal awakening, and they don’t always require any action on your part. When you are awoken from sleep by your baby’s sounds or motions, take a minute to observe and listen. You may notice that all of the activity and noise are taking place while you are sleeping. If your baby is sleeping, don’t pick him up and wake him up – let him sleep! Constant motion can also result in a baby falling. To not let this happen, always use an anti-roll pillow for a newborn so that the little soul can sleep with ease. Comfy clothes and cozy booties help too. Babies tend to sleep a little longer when they are comfortably warmed.
- Newborns don’t need total peace and quiet to sleep.
The environment that your baby enjoyed in the ᴡᴏᴍʙ was accompanied by a continual symphony of sound, which is why many newborns find a totally quiet room disconcerting. However, sharp noises like clinking dishes, dogs barking, and television sounds can wake your sleeping newborn. These piercing sounds can jar your baby awake. Using a constant lull of a deep, humming sound, called “white noise”, can mask these noises in the household. The best sounds are actually in the “pink noise” spectrum. Pink noise is a variant of white noise that sounds full, deep, rich, and monotonous. Perfect examples of pink noise are the sounds of a heartbeat, a humidifier, ocean waves, or the pitter-patter of rainfall. This special bedtime noise should be at a volume that masks sharp sounds but not so loud as to harm your baby’s delicate hearing.
- Newborns don’t have their days and nights mixed up, they think you do.
It’s common for people to make this observation, but newborns don’t recognize day versus night because in the ᴡᴏᴍʙ there was little difference. This day/night compartmentalization is a brand new concept for them, and they probably think you are the one who’s mixed up! It will be a while before your baby’s biological clock matches up with your 24-hour pattern. Unlike adults who sleep in one big nighttime chunk, newborns break up their sleep into four to seven (or more!) sleep periods spread throughout the day and night. This is natural newborn sleep, and it will gradually and naturally mature over the early months.