Newborn sleep patterns: A guide by Paediatrician, Dr Moore.

A baby is considered a newborn from birth until about one month of age. Newborn sleep patterns vary significantly in the early days, but many new parents want to know when to put their baby on a schedule and what to expect. The below guidelines help guide parents about their newborn’s sleep patterns and how they will change over time.

Are my newborn’s sleep patterns normal?

  • For the first two weeks, you can expect your baby to sleep most of the time – some newborns sleep for up to 20 hours in a day, others less. They will wake intermittently to feed – this may be every 2 -4 hours depending on a number of factors, including how well they feed, the presence of discomfort and your baby’s temperament. If your baby falls asleep while breastfeeding, you can stroke his/her chin to get them going again gently.

Understanding newborn’s sleep patterns – What are they?

  • Newborn babies have no concept of night or day so he/she will, at least to begin with, not follow a schedule of sleeping at night and awake during the day. In the first few weeks, your baby will spend most of the time alternating between sleeping and feeding, with periods of wakefulness in between. Your baby may be especially sleepy in the first few days after delivery, but this will give way to longer periods of wakefulness.

Newborn sleep schedules and when can you put your newborn on a schedule?

  • There is no well-defined sleep schedule that can be applied to all newborn babies. It may be tempting initially to try to establish a predictable sleeping routine for your baby, but this will not work as newborn babies have no concept of night or day. The time from waking until your baby needs their next sleep is really determined by their age – as your baby gets older, he/she will be able to cope with longer periods of interaction and stimulation, and will gradually have more wakeful periods in the day and more sleeping time during the night.

What is day/night confusion?

  • Day/night confusion is a misleading term that actually refers to a normal process that your baby’s developing brain is going through. They have no idea of the difference between night and day initially they will sleep for periods of 1-2 hours and wake to feed – you may notice that if your newborn has frequent short naps, they may become over-tired during wakeful periods during which it may become difficult to get them to sleep again. A useful approach is to ensure that your baby gets as much sleep as she needs to. Create a healthy sleeping environment that is calming and consistent, spend as much time close to your newborn as they need to fall asleep, and try to develop a bedtime routine (even if he/she doesn’t seem to follow it).

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