Newborn sleep schedules—the valiant effort to establish proper sleep patterns for our little bundles of joy. Achieving success is all about creating a calm and peaceful environment where your baby can wind down and prepare for dreamland.
Let’s dive into the world of soothing routines, warm baths, gentle massages, and soft lullabies that make a newborn’s sleep quality oh-so-sweet. Say goodbye to overstimulation and hello to the land of peaceful slumber by following this complete guide to newborn sleep patterns.
Newborn and Adult Differences
Recognizing and understanding the differences between beneficial sleep patterns for newborn babies and adults can help make sense of the best evening routines for you and your baby.
Newborns and adults have distinct sleeping patterns due to the differences in their sleep cycles. A newborn typically sleeps about 16–18 hours a day, divided across 24 hours, without distinguishing between day and night. Their sleep occurs in multiple short stretches, primarily driven by their need for frequent feeding.
In contrast, adults typically consolidate their sleep into a single long stretch, averaging 7–9 hours, predominantly at night. Adult sleep includes several stages, including light sleep, deep sleep, and REM sleep, occurring in a cycle that repeats several times at night. This structure aids in the process of physical restoration and memory consolidation.
The First Days
During the first few weeks of their baby’s life, parents can expect their newborn to sleep in short bursts for 2–4 hours at a time, intermixed with periods of wakefulness for feeding. Their sleep is primarily composed of active and quiet sleep cycles.
It’s also normal for newborns to experience what’s known as “day-night confusion,” where they might be more alert at night and sleepy during the day. This is because a 24-hour day is still foreign to their developing brain. As they grow, newborns develop a more predictable sleep pattern, which usually happens by the time they reach six to eight weeks of age.
The first few days of developing newborn sleeping patterns may make you feel like you’ve aged 20 years in two weeks. Unfortunately, you may need to put your standard sleep cycles on pause to cater to your newborn’s every need. But things will get better, and we highly recommend squeezing in a nap whenever possible.
Establish Safe Environments
Creating a conducive sleep environment is crucial for newborn babies, as it directly impacts their sleep quality, growth, and development. A peaceful and comfortable sleep environment helps regulate a newborn’s sleep patterns and can significantly influence their mood and behavior during their awake periods.
A good sleep environment—one that’s quiet, dark, and the right temperature—should mimic the conditions in the womb, providing the baby with a sense of security and comfort. Moreover, a consistent sleep environment can aid in establishing sleep associations, where the baby learns to associate their bed or sleep space with sleeping, facilitating smoother sleep transitions.
Set a Bedtime
Determining the right time for your newborn to sleep can be challenging due to irregular sleep patterns. However, over time, a more predictable pattern begins to emerge. Pay attention to your baby’s sleep cues, such as fussiness, yawning, looking away, and rubbing their eyes. These signs indicate that your baby is ready for a nap or bedtime.
Establishing a bedtime routine is recommended in the early weeks of the baby’s life when you notice these signs of tiredness in the evening. As your newborn grows and their sleep becomes more consolidated, a more regular bedtime—typically between seven and eight o’clock p.m.—is the norm.
Consistency is key. Establishing a consistent bedtime routine can signal your baby that it’s time to sleep. That said, every baby is unique, so what works for one might not work for another. It’s important to adjust your routine and cater to what your baby best responds to.
Explore the Benefits of Swaddling
Many parents turn to swaddling in an effort to create another womb-line atmosphere. Swaddling can help soothe and alleviate infants by creating a safe environment that provides them with a sense of security.
The snug wrapping can mimic the comforting pressure your newborn felt in utero and help ease their transition into the outside world. Secondly, swaddling can aid in promoting longer, more restful sleep. By inhibiting the startle reflex, which can cause babies to wake up, swaddling can allow newborns to sleep undisturbed for longer periods.
Swaddling can also help regulate body temperature, keeping babies warm but not overly heated. Lastly, swaddling can reduce the incidence of sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS) by keeping babies on their backs as they sleep. This is the recommended position to protect against SIDS.
However, it’s essential to swaddle correctly to avoid risks such as hip dysplasia or overheating. Always with your healthcare provider to ensure you’re swaddling safely.
As your baby grows and their circadian rhythm develops, you can gradually establish a more structured nap schedule. Aim to introduce daytime naps at regular intervals. For instance, you might put your baby down for a nap roughly two hours after each wake-up time, including after the morning wake-up. Keep in mind that newborns typically can’t stay awake for more than two hours at a time, so plan naps accordingly to help prevent overtiredness.
Creating a mini version of your bedtime routine can also be beneficial in signaling naptime to your baby. This could include reading a short book, singing a lullaby, or giving a gentle cuddle. Additionally, aim to make the nap environment comfortable and conducive to sleep. A quiet, dark room at a comfortable temperature can help your baby settle more easily.
When seeking to help your baby develop a healthy sleep pattern, limiting the amount of stimuli they receive is essential. Babies can wind down and get ready for sleep more easily when they’re exposed to a peaceful and quiet atmosphere.
Stimulation, especially in the hours leading up to sleep, might arouse their senses, making it harder for them to relax and drift off at night. High levels of activity, loud sounds, or bright lights might stimulate the baby’s interest or enthusiasm, which can interfere with their ability to get ready for sleep.
Therefore, ensuring your newborn has a calm atmosphere to sleep in and participating in calming pre-sleep habits like taking a warm bath, getting a light massage, or listening to quiet lullabies may improve the quality of their sleep and help them build a regular sleep pattern.
Establishing a newborn’s sleep pattern is a delightful journey filled with tender moments and triumphs, and we hope this complete guide to newborn sleep patterns aids in your efforts. Finding the right routine is like a sweet, slow dance between you and your little one, learning to sway in tune with each other’s rhythms.
As you navigate the lullabies and late-night cuddles, remember that patience, love, and consistency are your best allies. Make these special times even more memorable by cuddling your little one with lovey blankets from Bunnies by the Bay. Our collection of blankets is as adorable as they are soft!
Cheers to these magical twilight hours and the beautiful bond they foster.