Newborn babies sleep a lot and would sleep for around 16 to 18 hours a day. However, their schedule in sleeping is also very irregular since they don’t remain asleep for more than two to four hours every day, whether daytime or night time, during the first few weeks of life.
Newborns also tend to be awakened very easily. The reason is because a huge portion of their sleep time is referred to as “active sleep.” It is a light sleeping state which is displayed by your baby through his occasional body movements; rapid, irregular breathing; fluttering eyelids and “baby sounds” such as grunts and brief cries.
Babies, like everyone one, have varying phases of sleep. You can find your baby showing some drowsiness, light sleep, REM (rapid eye movement) sleep, deep sleep, and really deep sleep.
Sleep in the baby’s first few days
A newborn may have up to 18 hours of sleep a day and would wake up in between hours to feed. Babies who feed on breastmilk would feed as often as 8 to 12 times a day while bottle-fed babies would feed only about every 3 to 4 hours.
During this period, the baby’s need for food is stronger than his need for sleep. This means that it is important to wake your baby at least every 3 to 4 hours for feeding and continue to do so until your baby begins to gain some weight. You should be able to see some progress on your baby’s weight within his first couple of weeks.
This period is also the most difficult time for the parents as they need to get up several times at night just to take care of their baby. As new parents, you can expect to find yourselves being up several times in order to change, feed and comfort your newborn.
When your baby is 4 weeks old
At 4 weeks old, your newborn would sleep at an average of 14 hours a day. However, it varies among babies. Some babies at this age sleep as little as 9 out of the day’s 24 hours. There are those who even tend to sleep for as long as 19 hours a day.
Sleep during your baby’s 6 to 8 weeks of age
At this phase in your baby’s life, they start to sleep for shorter periods during the day and then longer periods in the evening. However, most babies seem to continue to wake up in the evening in order to get some feeding. Moreover, babies at this age are said to have shorter periods of REM sleep and then longer periods of non-REM sleep.
Sleep between 4 and 6 months of age
Babies who are between 4 and 6 months of age are said to be capable of sleeping a long stretch of 8 to 12 hours at night. There are cases when babies as young as 6 weeks are also seen with the capability to sleep for long stretches in the evening. However, most babies would normally reach that “sleeping” milestone when they become 5 or 6 months old. Lastly, the habit of waking up at night also tend to continue when the baby becomes a toddler.
Can I teach my baby to sleep through the night?
No matter how many hours your baby is asleep within the day, it may be helpful for him to know the advantages of sleeping through the night as compared to sleeping during the day. As parents, it would also be a good way to start teaching your baby some good sleeping habits which would eventually benefit not only your health but also your baby’s.
Babies sleep randomly and are unaware whether they are sleeping during the day or at night. They don’t think about waking up because it’s already daytime and it’s time to move. They sleep because they just want to sleep and wake up because they feel hungry or they just feel like waking up. Both sleeping and waking up are independent on what time of the day it is.
Teaching your baby some good sleeping habits will somehow help him realize the difference between daytime and nighttime sleeping. It is also a good habit that he may learn to continue doing when he grows up.
How can I teach good sleeping habits to my baby?
Babies as young as six weeks are already capable of developing good sleeping habits. This is the phase when your baby begins to develop the so-called natural circadian rhythm which is a type of regulating process on the baby’s sleep-wake cycle.
These are some of the few tactics that you can do to help your baby get some sleep.
- Look for the signs that show he’s sleepy. When you see the signs, you can try putting your baby down on his crib and allow him to take a nap.
Babies that are three months or younger would usually show the following signs of sleepiness: yawning, stretching, blank space staring, ear flicking, eyes rubbing, whining and crying, dark circles appearing underneath the eyes, remains quiet and still and loses interest in people and in toys.
- Show the difference between day and night. At two weeks old, you can start teaching your baby the difference between day and night.
During daytime when your baby is expected to be more alert, you can do certain activities that are only exclusive for daytime. These include: changing the baby’s clothes as soon as he wakes up; talking and playing with him; keeping the room and the house bright and well-lit; making daytime feeds more social by chatting and singing to your baby; allowing your baby to hear regular daytime noises such as the sound of the washing machine or the TV; and waking him gently when he dozes off to sleep while you are feeding him.
Your baby can learn that it’s already night time and that it’s time to settle on his crib with these activities. You can: keep the lights low and the room free from noise; try to avoid speaking to him while you feed him in the evening; and change him into his sleepwear in order to tell him that the day has already ended and for that reason, he has to sleep.
- Allow your baby to learn how he can fall asleep on his own.
At three months old, your baby should be able to fall asleep on his own. What you can do to encourage him to settle himself to sleep is to simply put him down when he feels sleepy but is still awake. It is important to know how you plan to settle your baby to sleep as he may expect you to do the same in the succeeding days. While some parents would feed or rock their baby to sleep, experts warn against doing such. Find the best routine that suits both you and your baby before making the final decision on what you want to do as parents. Lastly, adopting the same strategy every night is certainly a good idea for developing a bedtime routine that is consistent and definitely habit-forming.