You’ve probably heard from friends and family that newborn sleep is erratic (if you haven’t I’m not sure where you’ve been hiding). Anyway, that said there are a few things that will help you understand and manage your expectations around your newborn baby’s sleep and help you manage the early days. So I’ve put together some short and easily digestible points I wish I had known when I had my children. Not only would it have helped me normalise the early days but would have helped me to have realistic expectations.
1. Firstly, newborn babies are not in any way, shape, or form supposed to sleep all night long. EVER!
They are programmed to wake as a survival mechanism. They have very tiny tummies and need to feed frequently to grow and develop.
2. Sleeping through the night is classed as a 5-hour stretch.
Typically midnight to 5.00 am. Some babies are capable of doing this at six weeks. For others, it can take six months. Sorry!
3. The world is very different for a newborn if we think about their existence before birth. (see my post on Womb to World) It’s really no wonder they like to be rocked and held by their parents.
4. A newborn can’t differentiate between day and night
They don’t produce the hormone melatonin known as ‘the hormone of sleep’ until they are approximately three months old. The sleep-wake cycle is regulated by hunger and filling their tiny tummy.
5. Newborn babies have very short sleep-wake cycles of approximately 45 minutes
According to new research from the National Sleep Foundation the normal sleep range for a newborn baby is between 14 to 17 hours per day.
However, because of their very short sleep-wake cycle and by the time you have rocked them to sleep and settled them in their cot they could soon be awake again. You may feel like your baby hasn’t been asleep very much at all.
Managing your expectations around your newborn and sleep is an essential coping strategy for managing in the early days. Make sure you have plenty of support available from family and friends. It’s a steep learning curve but by about 6 weeks new parents generally tend to find they have some sort of plan in place and are piecing things together.
Most importantly, look after yourself too and enjoy these precious days with your baby.
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