Let A Friend Or Family Member Watch Your Baby While You Take A Nap Even If This Means Your Breastfed Baby Will Take Some Meals From A Bottle
Lactation experts often discourage breastfeeding mothers from bottle feeding babies for the first 3-4 weeks. The worry is that supplemental feeds will lead to a decreased milk supply and endanger successful breastfeeding in the long-term.
But you need to balance this against the negative effects of severe sleep restriction. Lack of sleep puts parents at increased risk of illness and opens in a new windowpostpartum depression, which is bad for parents and babies. If you are at the end of your rope, get help.
Excerpt The Newborns Happily Awake Span
How do you help your newborn to be happier, sleep better, and be more peaceful? By paying attention to how long she stays awake and making sure she isnt up too long.
The length of time that your baby is awake from one sleep period to the next will have a powerful impact on her temperament and behavior. It will also affect how easily your baby falls asleep and how well she sleeps, so it is a very important consideration.
Newborns shouldnt stay awake very long
The natural span of awake time is very, very short for a newborn baby and gradually increases over time. Newborns can only stay happily awake for forty-five minutes to an hour or two at the most. At about three months of age some babies still need a nap every hour or two, but some can be awake as long as three hours, if they are routinely sleeping well at night and getting good, long naps. By six months most babies can stay awake for two to three hours. However, most newborns good sleepers and frequent-wakers alike do best with short awake spans interspersed with plenty of naps.
I call this the happily awake span because your baby can stay awake longer, but typically if she does shell be unhappy fussing and crying and working herself up so much that its hard for her to fall asleep, yet hard for her to stay awake. Its an unpleasant situation for babies and their caregivers, too!
Long awake times can be detrimental to your newborn
Short awake periods = Happier baby
Establishing A Baby Bedtime Routine
You may feel ready to introduce a bedtime routine when your baby is around 3 months old. Getting them into a simple, soothing bedtime routine can be helpful for everyone and help prevent sleeping problems later on. It’s also a great opportunity to have one-to-one time with your baby.
The routine could consist of:
- having a bath
- changing into night clothes and a fresh nappy
- putting them to bed
- dimming the lights in the room to create a calm atmosphere
- giving a goodnight kiss and cuddle
- singing a lullaby or having a wind-up musical mobile you can turn on when you’ve put your baby to bed
- brushing their teeth
As your child gets older, it can be helpful to keep to a similar bedtime routine. Too much excitement and stimulation just before bedtime can wake your child up again. Spend some time winding down and doing some calmer activities, like reading.
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How Can I Tell If A Newborn Is Sleeping Too Much
A baby occasionally sleeping for longer than usual is not a cause for concern unless there are other symptoms.
In general, it is uncommon for a newborn to consistently sleep through feedings or to sleep for longer than 19 hours per day unless they are ill or are having feeding difficulties.
Some of the most common reasons that healthy babies sleep for longer than usual include the following:
- They may experience a growth spurt or developmental leap.
- They may have a minor illness, such as a cold.
- They may have a serious infection. This is rare, but it can happen. A newborn might not have a fever or other symptoms of illness like an older baby might.
- In very rare instances, a baby may have another medical condition that causes them to sleep too much. Breathing and heart disorders may affect sleep, and premature babies often have different sleep patterns from full-term infants.
- Some babies sleep too much because they have jaundice. A newborn who has jaundice will have a yellow color to their skin and a yellow cast to the whites of their eyes. Other symptoms of more severe jaundice include being lethargic, having difficulty eating, and being fussy or irritable.
- Sometimes, babies may sleep too much because they are not getting enough to eat. They may get dehydrated, lose too much weight, and even experience a failure to thrive.
However, in the early stages especially for first-time parents the signs of a potential problem may be easy to miss.
Fill Up During The Day
Offer your baby regular feeds during the day every 3 hours or less even if it means waking her up. Some babies will naturally do a 4 hour sleep stretch somewhere in a 24 hour period, just dont let her do it during the day!
You can gently wake your baby by picking her up, unswaddling her , or removing some of her clothing, stroking or tickling her arms and legs, or go straight to changing her diaper. Shell still need to feed during the night but hopefully shell start to stretch out her feeds when its dark
When thinking about the day you may realize that times between feedings were stretched out to accommodate a busier schedule, or that your baby was distracted and didnt ask for milk as often. This is one reason why newborns wake up at night.
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Dont Buy Those Cute Crib Bumper Sets You See On Blogs And In Catalogs
This ones pretty easy to follow: dont use crib bumpers. They are a SIDS risk, the sale of them is even banned in some US states, and doctors have been lobbying against crib bumpers for years. Yes, some babies flail around a lot in their sleep, especially when theyre on the verge of learning to roll, crawl, or walk. But they probably wont seriously injure themselves by bumping their heads on a crib rail. While those breathable mesh bumpers do a good job of keeping soothers from poking out of the crib slats, they are not recommended due to the risk of entanglement and strangulation. And while were at it, you shouldnt use a DockATot or infant lounger for unsupervised sleep inside the crib, either. Theyre technically no longer available in Canada, but similar products are still on the market.
Further Help And Support
If youre struggling with your own sleep, you might find our information about coping with sleepless nights helpful.
The Lullaby Trust has lots of useful information about safer sleep for babies.
You may also find it useful to talk to other new parents to share your experiences. Speak to your health visitor about parenting groups that are happening in your area.
Heraghty JL, Hilliard TN, Henderson AJ, Fleming PJ. The physiology of sleep in infants. Arch Dis Child. 93:982-995. 6
NHS. Helping your baby to sleep. www.nhs.uk/conditions/baby/caring-for-a-newborn/helping-your-baby-to-sleep/
BASIS . Normal sleep development.
Unicef UK Baby Friendly Initiative. Theory of change.
Unicef UK Baby Friendly Initiative Responsive Feeding: supporting close and loving relationships.
Löhr B, Siegmund R. Ultradian and circadian rhythms of sleep-wake and food-intake behavior during early infancy. Chronobiol Int. 1999 Mar 16:129-48. doi: 10.3109/07420529909019081. PMID: 10219486. NHS. Reduce the risk of sudden infant death syndrome . www.nhs.uk/conditions/baby/caring-for-a-newborn/reduce-the-risk-of-sudden-infant-death-syndrome/
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Expose Your Baby To Natural Daylight
The sleep hormone melatonin isnt fully produced by infants until at least 9 to 12 weeks. This is when the pineal gland matures. Breastfed babies receive melatonin from breastmilk, with higher levels during evening and nighttime hours, and significantly lower levels during the day. Melatonin is broken down by light, which explains lower production during the day.
Our circadian rhythms a fancy way of saying our sleep cycles respond primarily to light and darkness. Your babys circadian rhythm is still developing over the first few months, which is another reason why newborns wake often. Exposure to natural light will help get things sorted out. Make sure the curtains are open and you move about your regular activities during the day.
Remember, your newborns naps dont always need to be in her crib. A bassinette in the living room will help reinforce her sense the daytime rhythm of your house. As your baby gets older and has a good day and night rhythm, youll find that she sleeps best in a dark, quiet place for naps.
Wake Your Newborn Close To Bedtime
Does it seem like your newborn can sleep through the whole day, including close to bedtime? This could be preventing her from settling for bedtime and sleeping long stretches at night.
Im not normally a fan of waking a sleeping baby, no matter how long the nap has been. That said, the exception Id make is the one close to bedtime. If shes supposed to sleep soon but her latest nap is running long, cut it short to give her time to be awake.
With my baby, I aimed for about 45-90 minutes of wake time between his last nap and bedtime so that he had enough time to feel tired by then.
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What About Cat Naps
Little babies are notorious for nodding off for a few minutes here and there. The most common complaint is that theyll fall asleep for a few minutes while nursing but then wake right up again when the breast is removed. Was this a real nap? Or do we wait for another hour before trying to put them down again?
Every baby is different but as a general rule, anything ~10 minutes or longer constitutes a REAL nap. Meaning if your baby falls asleep while nursing and then hangs out there for 10 minutes you will likely need to wait for an hour before trying to put her down for a nap again. Similarly if she falls asleep for 10 minutes on the way home from the mall, you will have to wait an hour to try to put her down for a nap.
Some babies transfer well from the car well they can be removed from the car while sleeping and continue to sleep happily in their car seat which is now sitting in the living room. If this is your baby, lucky you! If not you have two choices:
- Accept the occasional car cat nap as part of life.
- Plan for the car cat nap by bringing a nice latte and magazine with you. When your baby falls asleep in the car, park somewhere comfortable, leave the car running, and enjoy some quiet time while she sleeps.
What Are The Sleep States Of A Newborn
Babies, like adults, have various stages and depths of sleep. Depending on the stage, the baby may actively move or lie very still. Infant sleep patterns begin forming during the last months of pregnancy?active sleep first, then quiet sleep by about the eighth month. There are two types of sleep:
REM . This is a light sleep when dreams occur and the eyes move rapidly back and forth. Although babies spend about 16 hours each day sleeping, about half of this is in REM sleep. Older children and adults sleep fewer hours and spend much less time in REM sleep.
Non-REM sleep. Non-REM has 4 stages:
Stage 1: drowsiness, eyes droop, may open and close, dozing
Stage 2: light sleep, the baby moves and may startle or jump with sounds
Stage 3: deep sleep, the baby is quiet and does not move
Stage 4: very deep sleep, the baby is quiet and does not move
A baby enters stage 1 at the beginning of the sleep cycle, then moves into stage 2, then 3, then 4, then back to 3, then 2, then to REM. These cycles may occur several times during sleep. Babies may awaken as they pass from deep sleep to light sleep and may have difficulty going back to sleep in the first few months.
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Dont Play The Blame Game
Brooding about the situation will make it harder for you to fall asleep when you are given the opportunity. And its wrong-headed, too: You might be doing everything you can to get more sleep, and still be stuck with a baby who sleeps less than average.
Research suggests that the amount of sleep we get at night is strongly influenced by genetics , and, as mentioned above, there is a lot of individual variation among newborns.
Newborn Sleep Patterns: A Survival Guide
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As every parent knows, the world of newborn sleep is exotic and strange.
Babies rack up lots of sleep overall, averaging 16-18 hours a day during the first two weeks.
Yet they awaken frequently, and rarely sleep more than 4 hours at a stretch, even at night. Their internal clocks arent yet synchronized with the external, 24-hour day.
Its a recipe for exhaustion, but understanding the science of sleep can help you cope, and avoid mistakes that can delay your childs development of more mature sleep rhythms.
In this article, youll learn about
- fundamental differences between newborn sleep and adult sleep
- circadian rhythms, and how you can help your baby get in sync with the natural day
- sleep cycles in the newborn, and how to work around them
- tips for preventing newborns from waking up and
- advice for improving your own sleep.
Throughout, I focus on babies under four weeks of age. For information about older infants, see my article on opens in a new windowbaby sleep patterns.
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At Night: Newborn Sleep And Waking
In the first few months, newborns usually wake several times a night for feeds.
Between one and three months, your baby might start waking less often and have a longer period of sleep at night.
By the time your baby is around three months old, they might regularly be having a longer sleep at night for example, around 4-5 hours. But you can expect that your baby will still wake at least once each night.
If your baby is premature or low birth weight, your paediatrician or child and family health nurse might recommend that you let your baby sleep for only a certain amount of time at night before you wake them for a feed.