Newborns and Sleep

As you gear up for baby’s arrival, you may start to recall all the horror stories your mom friends shared about newborns and their sleeping patterns. “Sleep while you can.” “I got maybe four hours of sleep all week.” “I’m exhausted.” We’ve all heard the tales, and they’re true. Newborns don’t sleep much, and you’ll certainly be adjusting to a different level of sleep than you’re used to. But it doesn’t have to be all bad. With a little research and preparation, you’ll be better set for those long nights, and be able to see that light at the end of the tunnel. Trust us, we’ve got the lowdown on babies and how they snooze.

Why Don’t They Sleep?

Newborn bodies are (obviously) wired differently than ours. They don’t need quite as much sleep at one time, and also can’t hold enough food and nutrients to tide them over for long periods. Therefore, your newborn will need to wake up periodically in order to get milk to keep that tiny tummy full.  

However, there can also be a number of other reasons why your newborn isn’t sleeping as much. If you think your little one is under-sleeping, there could be a few different problems.

  • Overtired. Sure, this might sound ridiculous, but sometimes little ones can become too tired to fall asleep easily. Learn your little one’s cues early — does she rub her eyes when she’s sleepy? Does she yawn? Keep an eye out for this cue, and make sure you put her to sleep as soon as possible.
  • Startled Reflex. Did you know babies have a “startle” reflex? It typically occurs while they’re beginning to fall asleep, and then jerk themselves awake with a motion of their hands or whole body. This is easily remedied by swaddling. You can learn our top swaddling tips here.  
  •  Overstimulated. If baby’s surroundings are too noisy, busy or generally overwhelming, it will definitely have an impact on the ability to sleep. Try to keep baby and her crib as far away from any commotion as possible.
  • Uncomfortable. Make sure your little one seems comfortable in her crib. She may be swaddled too tight, overheated or even a little too chilly. Keeping an eye on your baby will clue you in to a lot of these subtle issues.

How much should they be sleeping?

There is no right or wrong rule to how newborns should be sleeping, and you’ll learn to know them best. However, there are a few guidelines you can keep in mind to help you get that schedule on track.

  • 0-4 weeks. In these first few weeks, your newborn should be awake for about 45 minutes to an hour at a time, with about six 30-45 minute naps in between. You can expect them to sleep about 2-4 hours a night, waking up to feed several times.
  • 5-8 weeks. Around this time, baby should be spending about 1-2 hours awake, with three to five 45 minute to an hour naps. You should hopefully have moved up to about 4-6 hours of sleep a night.
  • 9-15 weeks. Much needed rest! Try to keep your little one awake for about 1-2 hours at a time, and schedule three or four naps around an hour to an hour and a half — perfect time to get your own things done.
  • 4-8 months. Hopefully you and baby have quite the schedule down.  She should be spending about 2 hours awake at a time, napping for about 1.5 hours two to three times a day, and sleeping through the night — about 6-12 hours.
  • 8-12 months. This is the timeframe when most little ones settle in to their routine for the next few months. They’ll spend about 3 hours awake at a time, nap once or twice a day for up to 2 hours, and are definitely sleeping through the night.

How can I help them sleep?

If you’re still struggling to get baby to fall asleep and stay that way, there are a few simple things to do that may help.

  • Get them on a schedule. We know how hard this can be, but the sooner you can get your little one on a sleeping schedule, the better off you’ll both be. Try to use the guidelines from above, and find a routine that fits with your family’s day.
  • Swaddling. As mentioned before, swaddling has many benefits to helping little ones sleep: keeping them cozy, preventing their startle reflex, etc. 
  • Noise machines. Noise machines are wonderful at soothing newborns to sleep, and can also cover up noises around the house that might wake them up.
  • A little bit of patience. Being a new mama is hard. Just remember that your little one is doing her best, and your sleep patterns will get to a more normal cadence soon.

While you can’t prepare for the unknown, we hope that these tips help you feel a little more ready to take your newborn home and get your new life started. Plus, they’re so stinkin’ cute, you won’t mind too much!

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