Baby sleep must be one the of the most common search terms on Google and Twitter amongst new parents. We are all so desperate to know more about it, how to get it and keep it and why we aren’t getting it. How our baby sleeps is a massive deal to many of us and yet it is one thing that we can never really do a lot about in the early days. It certainly helps if you know what to expect when it comes to how much your baby should be getting and how you can help your little one as much as possible. Hopefully our guide to baby sleep will help!
Newborn sleep patterns
- A newborn baby is not designed to sleep through the night. Their stomachs are tiny and so they need filling regularly. This is the truest fact of all. Expect your baby to wake at least every 3-4 hours in the early weeks, and prepare as much as you can for this. Go to bed a little earlier, share feeds if you can, and make sure you eat well. You need strength to cope with the night waking and the day time feeds too. Newborn babies are demanding but it really does only last for a short while.
- Newborn babies often are unable to distinguish between night and day. While we adults get most of our sleep at night time, babies have no preference and will simply sleep when tired and wake when rested. Don’t panic if at first your baby seems to want to be up all night. Don’t be tempted to keep baby awake more during the day in the hope of more sleep at night as this will only result in an overtired and cranky baby. Instead, make sure that you define day and night by keeping noises to a minimum and rooms dimly lit so that there are clear differences between daytime and night time.
- Newborn babies can sleep for up to 18 hours a day but they are most likely to be in blocks of up to 4 hours. Try to rest in between each waking, if you can, and accept all the help that is offered.
Encourage good sleeping habits from birth
Sleep experts do not recommend sleep training for newborn babies, simply because they are so tiny and are designed to wake frequently for feeds. This doesn’t mean that good sleeping habits cannot be encouraged though. Here are some tips:
- Know when your baby is tired. It’s hard at first, but soon you will come to notice the signs: rubbing eyes, fussing, crying, yawning etc. Act on these signs and get baby ready for a sleep as soon as possible.
- Encourage baby to fall asleep independently. This isn’t easy as lots of babies will fall asleep at the breast or during a bottle feed but if you can, try to put baby to bed drowsy but awake. This helps them to develop good independent sleeping habits that you’ll be thankful for later on.
- Safe sleeping. Always put your baby to bed on his back, with his feet to the end of the bed. Keep the cot clear of loose bedding and toys and make sure that blankets are not near the face.
- Swaddling. Newborn babies can respond well to being swaddled as it helps to emulate feelings of safety and of being held.
- Be consistent. When your baby wakes in the night, change and feed as normal but do so with dim lights and minimal conversation. Try to be consistent with this so that baby comes to recognise that night time is time for sleep.
Ask any parent and they will have a tale or two to tell of sleepless nights spent pacing the floor or pushing the pram through the house in a desperate bid for an hour or so. There is no denying that some babies just do not seem to sleep much, and at the time it is little comfort to know that this stage does not last too long. Parents can try all kinds of different ways to get baby to sleep- rocking, swinging, cuddling, lullabies… you will probably try them all. The main thing is not to panic. Remember the mantra: this too shall pass. Now, go and get some sleep while you can!