Newborn Care: Newborn Sleep
By Michael Schoenwetter, MD
Some babies are great sleepers and some are not. I can tell you from personal experience, my first child is an amazing sleeper and always has been while my second who is almost three is still waking up most nights.
Very soon, after your newborns arrival, you will learn that your sleep patterns will dramatically change. Newborns do sleep a lot but not in consecutive hours. It is very common to wake up multiple times per night for feedings and diaper changes. Also, a lot of parents in my practice tell me that their newborns have their days and nights confused. Thus, the newborn may be at his/her most alert period during the night when you are at your most tired state.
I feel that scheduling a newborn for sleeping is a difficult task. I try to tell parents to take a relaxed attitude when dealing with sleep. I also reinforce to new parents to try and sleep when their newborn is sleeping. The video will discuss newborn sleep in more detail as well as how much a newborn sleeps, when to consult your pediatrician for newborn sleep issues and other helpful facts.
New parents often ask if they should put their newborn on a schedule for sleep. For the first weeks, you should be on the baby’s schedule. Newborns sleep about 16 hours a day. Unfortunately, those hours are not necessarily the ones you prefer. In the first weeks try to sleep when the baby sleeps. Turn off the phone and restrict visitors to immediate family only so you can drift off when you have the chance.
Although day and night means little to a newborn, you can teach your infant that nighttime is for sleep. Make night feedings quiet, with subdued lighting; speak softly and minimize walking and jiggling. Sleep patterns change in the first weeks. Fortunately, your newborn will eventually sleep for longer and longer stretches. By 3 months, the majority of babies sleep six to eight hours. Periods of shorter sleep and more frequent waking that occur are probably due to growth spurts.
If you let the baby fall asleep at your breast or with a bottle, the same feeling will be necessary when she goes through lighter stages of sleep during the night. Start, right away, to put your baby down drowsy but slightly awake. That way you will avoid the infant not being able to get herself back to sleep. Most importantly, make sure your newborn sleeps safely: on the back, on a firm mattress, with no blankets, pillows or bumper pads that can trap the face. If you want to sleep with your infant, a co-sleeper is safer than having the baby in bed with you.