Newborn Sleep Tips For Exhausted New Parents
Your baby will learn a lot from you over the years. Perhaps the first and most important skill youll teach your baby is how to sleep. Does your newborn only want to sleep in your arms? If yes, dont panic its very common. Fact is, sleep isnt an innate skillit must be learned. And while we dont sleep train until 4 months from their estimated due date, those first few months are an opportunity to lay the foundation for healthy sleep habits. By doing so, youll help your baby take better, more consistent naps and sleep more soundly at night You can start these tips into action right away and theyll continue paying off for months to come.
Have you noticed that your baby sleeps like a rock during the day, but wants to party putting all night? This is a very common occurrence for newborns thats known as day/night confusion. Think back to when your baby was in your womb just a few days or weeks ago. While you were up and about during the day, the motion lulled her to sleep. Then, as soon as youd lie down to sleep, shed start kicking and moving because the stillness stirred her awake. Heres how you can help your baby work through day/night confusion so you can both catch more Zs after dark:
Feed Unswaddled During Day Swaddled At Night
As I talked about in my post on 11 things you can do now to have a baby who sleeps well for the long run, feeding swaddled at night is key.
If your baby associates swaddle with sleep, you want them to stay in sleepy mode for nighttime feeds.
During the day take off the swaddle so they can feed awake. Or at least more awake.
Ill even strip baby down to diaper if he is nodding off every few minutes and that works a charm.
Being free is associated with daytime and being snuggled is associated with sleep.
Have A Bedtime Routine
A consistent bedtime routine can help your newborn develop natural circadian rhythms. This could include cuddling them, reading a bedtime story, bathing, massaging, or singing them a lullaby. Following a fixed routine will help your newborn understand that it is time to go to sleep.
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How Long Can You Go Without Sleep
The record for most days without sleep is 11 days, but no human should go without sleep for that long. Sleep deprivation can lead to poor reaction time, loss of memory, daytime drowsiness, and anxiety. After 3 nights without sleep, you can even start to hallucinate. In short, you cant go without sleep for longer than a full day without facing some negative effects.
Get Realistic Expectations About Your Babys Sleep Habits
Whats the right bed time? How long should your baby sleep? When should your baby begin sleeping for long intervals at night?
If you knew the answers to these questions, it would help you avoid pitfalls and needless frustration.
For example, when your baby isnt sleeping the way youd expect, its easy to assume that youre doing something wrong. New parents sometimes worry that there is something developmentally awry if their young infants are waking up multiple times at night. In fact, night wakings are perfectly normal.
Parents can also make the mistake of setting the wrong bedtimes, and try to force their babies to fall asleep at a time thats out of sync with their internal clock. As noted in baby sleep tip #4, the resulting conflict can create lasting sleep problems.
And sometimes parents are overly complacent about certain things like a babys vampire-like, nocturnal schedule. If you assume this is something you cant change, it can become a self-fulfilling prophesy. You might not employ important strategies, like the baby sleep tips about light cues.
So it helps to learn about normal course of infant sleep development, and the wide range of variation that healthy babies can show. For baby sleep tips about whats typical, see opens in a new windowthis baby sleep chart, as well as these Parenting Science pages:
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Have Fun During The Day
Help your baby understand that fun things happen during the day. Keep them active and engaged all day. Sing, talk to them, make coo sounds together, and toss them around. If you have older kids, ask them to play with your baby. Help your baby associate fun activities with the day.
Nighttime should be the opposite of day. Avoid any stimulation during the night. This means you should keep things low key. When singing and talking to your baby, do so in a soft, soothing voice. You want to teach them that night time is rest time. What if your baby wants to play at night? It would be best if you neither ignored nor engage them. However, help them understand there is a distinction between nighttime and daytime.
How Should Babies Sleep
During the first weeks of a baby’s life, some parents choose to room-share. Room-sharing is when you place your baby’s crib, portable crib, play yard, or bassinet in your own bedroom instead of in a separate nursery. This keeps baby nearby and helps with feeding, comforting, and monitoring at night. The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends room-sharing without bed-sharing.
Follow these recommendations for a safe sleep environment for your little one:
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Unleash The Giggle Monster
Unleash your baby’s inner giggle monster! Have you ever heard the popular saying that laughter is the best medicine? Just as it’s true for adults, this age-old wisdom is equally true for your baby… especially when it comes to helping your baby sleep!
Stress is often largely to blame for why your baby won’t sleep. Release your baby’s built-up stress with laughter! Plus, what’s cuter than hearing a baby laugh?
If your baby isn’t laughing much, our baby sleep method is for you! You will learn the best ways to make your baby laugh. Most importantly, you’ll discover WHY laughter is such a powerful tool in helping your baby sleep.
How To Reset Sleep Schedule Disruptions: When To Seek Help
If you regularly feel drowsy during the day, you may be suffering from sleep deprivation. When youve made changes to sleep habits and hygiene, and youre still not sleeping, it might be time to consult a sleep specialist.
Falling asleep immediately when you lay down is a sign of sleep deprivation. Nodding off during conversations also indicates you are dangerously sleep-deprived.
Sleep deprivation is dangerous because it can cause microsleeps or brief periods of sleep that a person doesnt notice. These can take place while driving, bathing, or in another precarious situation that could lead to injury.
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If Your Baby Seems To Cry Inconsolably Dont Blame Yourself Learn About Infantile Colic And Consult With Your Pediatrician
All babies cry, but some babies cry excessively for no apparent reason, and that can make nighttime especially stressful.
Whats going on?
Although these babies are often diagnosed as colicky, that term is little more than a label for we dont know why your baby cries so much. To figure out what might be bothering your baby, see my overview about the possible causes of infantile colic, and discuss your concerns with your pediatrician.
Newborn Sleep Cycles: Why Newborns Are Light Sleepers
When adults first fall asleep, we pass through a couple of light sleep stages, and then plunge into a bout of deep sleep.
Afterwards, we switch into REM, or rapid eye movement sleep, a sleep stage famous for its association with dreaming, and the loss of muscle tone. We dont move much during REM.
When REM is over, we either awaken, or return to light sleep and begin the cycle again. For the average adult, a single sleep cycle lasts about 90-100 minutes. We may partially awaken many times during the night. But were more likely to wake up all the way during transitions between stages, during light sleep, and during REM.
Newborn sleep is also characterized by sleep stages and cycles, but there are crucial differences.
First, babies typically begin their sleep bouts in the newborn equivalent of REM .
Second, newborns in REM dont usually experience muscle atonia.
Unlike us, they may thrash around, stretch, twitch, and even vocalize. The results can fool parents into thinking their babies are waking up, when they are actually experiencing normal REM sleep.
Third, newborn sleep cycles are shorter around 50-55 minutes for the average infant and REM makes up a much bigger proportion of sleep.
Its not unusual for newborns to spend more than half their total sleep time in REM . Indeed, several studies suggest that, over the course of a 24 hour day, some newborns spent may spend as much as 75% of their sleep time in active sleep .
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Whats Causing Your Irregular Sleep Schedule
When youre ironing out how to fix sleep schedule disruptions, the first course of action is to identify why your sleep cycle has gone off course. Some factors that affect your sleep cycle include:
- Staying up late, getting up early, oversleeping
- Napping during the day
- Not moving your body enough during the day
- Parenting or caregiving
- Shift work or switching shifts
- Getting sick
- Sleep problems and disorders
Some people have obligations preventing them from keeping a healthy sleep schedule. Nurses, construction workers, and others might work night shifts or do other shift work. Parents may be up all night with a sick or crying child and still have to go to work the next day after the sun rises.
Traveling to different time zones can also cause sleep difficulties. Jet lag can be a tough adjustment, particularly when you need to be productive after you land in a new time zone.
Still, there are some simple steps you can take to help alleviate some of the strain of sleep deprivation.
Exercise At The Right Time
If you want to be able to fall asleep at the right time every night, then you need to be active at the right hours during your day. Adding exercise to your day can help you go to bed on time without causing you to toss and turn in bed. Just make sure to time your exercise regime several hours before sleeping.
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Newborn Sleeping Feeding And Play: Letting Your Baby Lead The Routine
With newborn sleeping and feeding, the key is being flexible and following your babys lead. Your baby will let you know whether they want to sleep, feed or interact with you its OK to go with whatever feels right at the time.
Its also OK to try to do things in a similar order if that feels right for you and your baby. For example, you could trya simple routine of feed, play, sleep. Heres what this might look like:
If you try this kind of routine, its still important to watch your babys cues and respond.
For example, your baby might show tired signs soon after a feed. This means that its time for your baby to sleep, even if you and baby havent had much time to play.
Or your baby might show signs of being hungry after a play. In this situation, just give your baby another feed before settling baby for sleep. Your baby will sleep better with a full tummy.
Or your baby might have an extra-long sleep every now and then. Thats OK too. Unless your doctor or child and family health nurse has told you otherwise, theres no need to wake your baby for feeds.
And at night, a good option might be settling your baby straight back to sleep after feeds, rather than trying to play.
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Can Newborns Sleep Too Much
Usually, a newborn who appears to be sleeping too much is just sleeping on an irregular schedule. Nevertheless, health issues, such as respiratory infections that are minor annoyances in older babies can be much more dangerous in newborns. So anyone who is concerned about a babys sleeping schedule should consult a pediatrician.
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Why Having A Sleep Schedule Is Important
Current research supports an association between irregular sleep schedules and lower sleep quality.
Our sleep-wake cycle is regulated by two systems. The circadian rhythm depends on cues like sunlight to trigger sleepiness at regular points within a 24-hour period. In turn, the homeostatic sleep drive increases feelings of sleepiness the longer we stay awake. Going to bed and waking up at the same times every day can help align the circadian rhythm with the homeostatic sleep drive, making sleep easier.
It can take a few days for the body to settle into a new schedule, which may be why irregular sleep schedules are associated with lower-quality sleep and poorer daytime performance even when total sleep time is no shorter.
You should plan your bedtime accordingly in order to get the recommended seven to nine hours of sleep.
Stimulation During Day No Stimulation At Night
This is a big one.
Daytime is for play.
Nighttime is for sleep.
Dont treat days like nights, afraid to wake the baby up. If its naptime, protect the nap. If you are feeding or playing with the baby then its okay for some stimulation.
However, at night, keep lights out, voices low, and all forms of Wakey Baby off.
This can be hard since babies are so gooey and sweet, but its what makes the difference in the long run.
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Newborn Sleep Patterns: Are There Any
To the sleepless parent, newborn sleep might seem totally disorganized. For example, consider these points.
1. Newborns never sleep for long.
Newborns sleep in short bouts typically ranging from 30 minutes to 4 hours at seemingly random times throughout the day and night.
2. Newborns awaken easily.
In part, this is because they spend a large portion of their sleep time in active sleep, a light sleep state characterized by fluttering eyelids rapid, irregular breathing occasional body movements and vocalizations .
3. Newborn sleep times can vary widely.
In the first few days, the average newborn sleeps between 16-18 hours a day . By four weeks, newborn sleep averages about 14 hours. But the range is considerable. Some four-week-old babies sleep as little as 9 out of 24 hours. Others sleep for 19 hours a day .