Sleep is a basic need. We spend about 1/3 of our lives sleeping. It’s that necessary. We should have enough sleeping hours for us to be refreshed, energized and well-rested. Like adults, babies (especially newborns) need a lot of sleep, and I mean A LOT. A newborn sleeping schedule is about 14-17 hours, as opposed to adults who just need 7.5-9 hours of sleep to function normally.
It differs to parents, though. Parents are a whole different species when it comes to sleep. Rule of thumb: If you cannot sacrifice 8 hours of sleep during the night, then you’re not cut off to parenting just yet. Every mom and dad knows that being a new parent is the true meaning of sleep deprivation. Trust me, I know. I had a baby who literally wakes up every hour and just won’t agree to any trick I try to learn off books and websites. There are some things, though, that I can share to you which are generally basic even though newborn sleep is a very complex topic. Like adults, there is such a thing as newborn sleeping schedule. The sleep cycle applies to every age, though a little different through stages. Let me show you how.
Sleeping cycles applies to just about anyone. Normal sleeping involves two cycles:
Light sleep is literally what is sounds like, you are lightly asleep. During this stage, you easily wake up just by noises and movements. This is also the stage where you dream. Deep sleep, however, is more complex. 80% of our sleep is deep sleep. It is the stage where you are really beginning to rest and recharge your batteries. It is the stage of growth, healing and development. Some people are very hard to be awoken during this stage. If they are, they will feel tired and drowsy.
Every night, adults and children alike go through repeating R
EM and NREM cycles. But since newborns sleep during the day, too, it’s harder to know which cycle they’re going through at a time. That’s why parents are a little confused when their babies wake up easily, but sometimes they sleep through even the loudest noise.
Believe it or not, newborn sleep is very much disorganized. While in the womb, babies’ sleep are organized based on their own mother’s physiological cues. These include mom’s activeness during the day and her calmness during the night. How it affects the baby is through maternal melatonin (mom hormones that passes through the placenta that directs the fetuses’ internal body clock. But that is not always the case since some moms feel their baby kicking mostly when they’re already sleeping or lying down to relax.
After birth, however, maternal melatonin is gone and newborns have to rely on their own body clocks. This is when newborn sleep training takes place.
As proper sleep training should begin by 4-6 months, newborns can be taught to distinguish day and night starting at 2 weeks. Since newborns at this age are beginning to have “awake” times, they can sense through their environment by seeing and hearing.
You can help your baby’s internal clock by showing them the difference between day and night. That is, by letting more light into the house during daytime. Open the windows and curtains; let natural sunshine come into the house. It also helps when you take your newborn out during sunrise for her daily dose of vitamin D. Don’t be afraid to be loud. You can do your household chores and talk around the baby. Let her know that this is the time to be awake, but don’t be too loud that they won’t get any sleep at all.
During nighttime, however, be as quiet as possible and dim the lights. If possible, turn off all the lights. This will signal your baby’s brain to produce melatonin (the sleeping hormone) that will make them sleepy. If you are a breastfeeding mom, lay down with your baby. Breastfeeding and comfort sucking helps your baby sleep for longer. By getting accustomed to this, they will get used to sleeping at longer stretches during the night. White noise machines and lullabies also work too, to get your baby into a calmer state.
As much as possible, don’t resort to rocking your baby to sleep. If you start, you won’t be able to stop. Find other ways to help her fall asleep such as playing soft music/white noise, using swaddles, cuddling or breastfeeding. Lay her down before she’s too sleepy and tired. Overtired babies take much more time to fall asleep, just like adults. Also, lay her down as soon as you see her becoming sleepy. Let her have her naps during daytime because contrary to our beliefs that the longer they’re awake during the day, they’ll make up for it during nighttime. Nope. It’s the opposite. They need naps to have a peaceful transition, thus avoiding mood swings, over-tiredness and irritability.
Though our little ones have their unpredictable newborn sleeping schedule, it gets easier as time goes by. They develop their own sleeping patterns based off on their environment. Newborns typically sleep in 2-4 hour naps, as they will only wake up to feed. As they get older, naps will become shorter and their nighttime sleep would become longer until such time that they can sleep through the night.
Babies from 0-3 months have sleeping patterns like this, but during the 4-6 months, parents start sleep training. They do certain methods to help their babies fall asleep and stay asleep through the night. Remember that every baby is different. Some may be more at ease on specific methods, while some cannot be trained at all. But as babies grow, their body clocks will eventually fall into good rhythm. You just have to be very patient and strong physically and emotionally.
Newborns are interesting little people. They do the strangest (but most adorable) things. But the same as adults, they also form sleeping habits that they take comfort in. Let me show you some examples:
Newborn babies aren’t really mobile yet. They grew in a tight space of liquid wherein they can just swim around to find their comfortable position. Do you have any other options when it comes to their positions? Let’s find out.
The answer is, yes and no. During my research a few years ago, I learned that getting your baby in side position while sleeping is a no-no. Pediatricians are concerned that a baby in a side position may roll over onto her stomach, thus being the cause of Sudden Infant Death Syndrome. Personally, though, it can be done. Being on your back for long periods is also not healthy. You may or may not have noticed that being in this position can cause your back to heat up. What I do with my newborn baby is that I put a small pillow to serve as a wedge to tilt her a little. This will cause air to circulate to avoid overheating.
This is, without question, a no-no, unless you’re doing it for just a few minutes with intense supervision. Do not put your baby at risk by not following simple guidelines. Sleeping on your stomach can cause shortness of breath and may totally cut off your air supply. It’s worse for newborns because they can’t maneuver their own bodies if they’re beginning to feel uncomfortable.
One exception to this rule is if the newborn sleeps on his mom/dad. Newborns need warmth to regulate their own body temperatures, and being closer to a parent is both soothing and comfortable.
Babies wouldn’t have a good night’s sleep if they’re wearing uncomfortable clothes. As a parent, you have to be sensitive with your baby’s needs especially when it comes to clothing. If your baby is one of the more overly sensitive ones, then you need to focus more on smaller details. This includes the texture and type of cloth, the coverage, the tags, and the right fit. Be more attentive and see to it that the clothes are very comfortable, like they’re wearing nothing. First, choose the softer and smoother fabrics. This includes cotton, polyester or cotton/polyester blends. More unique fabrics include fleece, cashmere and bamboo. Choose fabrics that is perfect for the season. Remove all tags and unnecessary inserts before putting it on your baby. Last but not the least, choose the right size. If possible, choose a larger size than your baby’s for comfort and air circulation.
Newborn sleep gowns are one of the most comfortable choices for your little one. It is form fitting on top and looser on the bottom part. The bottom part is loose so that newborns can still move their legs comfortably. It’s also has an easy access for diaper changing in the night.
When it comes to breastfeeding, there is no specific schedule. The beauty about breastfeeding is that you can give it on demand, without worrying about overfeeding. Overfeeding doesn’t really happen during breastfeeding because the baby eats what he can, whenever he wants it. If your baby is a deep sleeper, though, or not very hungry, general rule is breastfeeding every 2-3 hours. Newborn babies get quite hungry faster because they have small stomachs, so see to it that you feed them within the right hours. Newborn feeding schedule week by week doesn’t differ very much because the schedule only changes after a few months, though growth spurt can be a great factor.
For exclusively pumping moms, their babies should consume breastmilk within the “1-1.5 oz. rule”. This rule means feeding your baby 1-1.5 ounce of milk times the number of hours of interval. For example, if it has been 3 hours since his last feeding, then you should give him 3-4.5 ounce of milk. This rule applies to pumping moms who are either working or who just wants to exclusively pump.
The newborn feeding schedule for formula fed babies are different, though. They have a specific feeding schedule to follow to ensure that they’re receiving the right amount of milk. Formula fed newborns need to feed every 3-4 hours. So keeping in track with your feeding can greatly help in figuring out your own newborn sleeping schedule.
I am a part-time writer, but full-time mommy to 2 amazingly beautiful and high-strung babies. Being a mother has it's ups and downs, but seeing the smiles on your little ones' faces at the end of the day are enough to make you forget parenting even have downs. :)