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Newborn Sleep Training & Bedtime Routines

Newborn Sleep Training & Bedtime Routines

Everything you need to know about newborn sleep

After having a baby, mothers enter into what’s called the fourth trimester, where we have to adjust in so many ways to having a newborn in the house. In line with adjusting to new life at home, is understanding newborn sleep patterns and newborn sleep cycles.

Newborn babies usually sleep for about 14-17 hours every 24 hours. Your newborn probably won’t be awake for more than an hour at a time, if even that long. Newborns can get very tired after being awake for more than an hour, so nap time can be anywhere from 15 minutes to 3 hours at a time.

Newborn Sleep Patterns:

A newborn baby’s sleep patterns may seem unusual in the sense that they may sleep most of the day and wake up a lot for most of the night. When you think about it, while pregnant, you were probably more active in the day and less active at night. So during the day while pregnant, your movements would have lulled your baby to sleep, similarly to falling asleep in a rocking chair or a moving car. Conversely, at night, when you would have been less active, your baby would’ve been able to move around a bit more, especially while you sleep. So newborns usually continue this sleep pattern until they mature and develop a circadian rhythm (differentiating day from night) of their own.

Newborn Sleep Cycles:

Now that your newborn is out of the womb, they may seem like restless sleepers. This is partially due to the sleep patterns developed in the womb that continue after birth. It’s also due to the fact that newborns have tiny tummies and need to wake up regularly for feedings. However, a large part of your newborns restlessness is coming from newborn sleep cycles.

Newborns typically have two sleeping modes: active and quiet.

  • Active sleep is the same as REM (rapid eye movement) sleep. Half of a newborn’s sleep time is spent in REM mode, which is very light, so babies may move around a lot, make noises and wake up feeling unsettled. They are easily stirred in this mode of sleep so they may wake up easily. As your newborn matures, his/her sleeping patterns will mature as well. Your newborn will eventually have less REM cycles and more stretches of deeper and quieter sleep.
  • Quiet sleep is deep sleep where newborns are very still and their breathing is deep and regular. They’re less likely to wake up easily in this sleep mode.

Newborns go through different sleep cycles as they sleep. Each cycle has both active sleep and quiet sleep, which can take about 40 minutes. Newborns usually wake up a little after each cycle. When awake, they may feel a little unsettled and you may have to help them settle in for the next sleep cycle.

Newborn sleep schedule:

Generally, newborns sleep a total of about 8 to 9 hours in the daytime and a total of about 8 hours at night. But because they have a small stomach, they must wake every few hours to eat. Most babies don’t start sleeping through the night (6 to 8 hours) until at least 3 months of age. But this can vary a lot.

What are the signs of sleep readiness?

Your baby may show signs of being ready for sleep when you see the following signs:

  • Rubbing eyes
  • Yawning
  • Looking away
  • Fussing

How can you help your baby fall asleep?

Not all babies know how to put themselves to sleep. When it’s time for bed, many parents want to rock their baby to sleep. Newborns and younger infants will fall asleep while breastfeeding. Having a routine at bedtime is a good idea. But if an older baby falls asleep while eating or in your arms, this may become a pattern. Your baby may then start to expect to be in your arms to fall asleep. When your baby briefly awakens during a sleep cycle, he or she may not be able to go back to sleep on his or her own.

After the newborn period, most experts recommend allowing your baby to become sleepy in your arms, then placing him or her in the bed while still awake. This way your baby learns how to go to sleep on his or her own. Playing soft music while your baby is getting sleepy is also a good way to help create a bedtime routine.

How to: Newborn Sleep Training

Sleep training typically starts when your baby is 4-6 months old, but here are some simple things you can do beforehand to help facilitate a smoother transition when the time comes:

Keep things bright during the day and darker at nights

Although it’s tempting to draw the shades when your baby is asleep during the day, the best thing you could do is actually keep them open. By having your baby get used to having daylight in the daytime, even as they sleep helps with sleep training them. It’s also easy to try and drown out the sounds from daytime activities, but newborns need to hear the buzz around them to some degree to help them differentiate day from night. So no loud noises, but birds chirping, cars driving by, or their sister or brother playing in the distance, will all help develop their natural circadian rhythm as they mature.

Develop a simple and consistent bedtime routine

Your newborn bedtime routine should not be a source of stress, so keep it simple, short and sweet. You know yourself and your newborn best so create a routine that makes you both feel at ease and ready for rest. You can include a warm bath and a massage after their last feeding. Or it can be as simple as just singing your baby to bed or reading a short bedtime story with some cuddles or talking about the wonders of the world and saying your prayers. The key is to keep it as consistent as possible.

Create an environment that nurtures baby’s sleep at night

As adults, we need a certain environment that promotes sleep and it’s the same for newborns. There are a few things you can do in your newborn’s surroundings to help nurture sleep like:

  • Little or no lighting
  • Calming scents
  • Comfortable temperature
  • Minimize night noises

Track Newborn Sleep Progress

You can use a journal to help monitor how much sleep your baby is getting each day, until they’re a couple months old. This will help you see the progress your baby is making, help you ensure your baby is getting adequate sleep and you’ll quickly be able to see when their sleep patterns change. It’s also helpful to have this track record of your newborn’s sleep when you need to visit the paeditrician for general check-ups or if your baby’s unwell.

A newborn baby may not exactly sleep like a baby straight out of the womb. However, once you understand the basics of newborn sleep patterns and sleep cycles, you’re one step closer to a lifetime of good sleep.

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