You’ve no doubt heard the parenting horror stories of all the sleepless nights that come with taking your newborn home. But the more you know, the better you can cope with the long nights ahead. In this article, we’ll go over the different phases of the newborn sleep cycle. Here’s what you need to know:
What You Need to Know About Baby Sleep Patterns
The average newborn sleeps most of the day and night, waking up every few hours to eat. Most new parents aren’t sure how long, or how often, their newborn should sleep. There’s a good reason for that—there isn’t really a schedule at first, and a lot of babies get their days and nights confused. Sometimes they think they’re supposed to be awake at night and sleep during the day. There are things you can do, however, to help them get on the right schedule!
Typically, newborns sleep for a total of around eight to nine hours during the day, and eight hours at night. Their stomachs are very small at this stage, which is why they wake up every few hours to eat.
When Will Your Baby Sleep Through the Night?
Most babies don’t start sleeping all the way through the night until at least three months of age. This, like most things with babies and pregnancies, can vary. Some babies don’t sleep through the night until closer to one year! Your baby will most likely wake up and be ready to eat at least every three hours.
How often—and how much—your baby eats will depend on what they’re being fed and how old they are. Talk to your healthcare provider to find out if you need to wake your baby up for feedings during the night.
Make sure you’re always watching for any changes in your baby’s sleep pattern. If they’ve been sleeping consistently but start suddenly waking up more often, there could be a problem. Although, some sleep disturbances are simply a result of changes in development or because of overstimulation.
The Different Alert Phases of a Newborn
Babies are also different in how alert they are while they’re awake. Keep reading for information on the different alert phases; knowing what phase your baby is in will help you solidify a sleep schedule.
Quiet Alert Phase
This phase typically occurs right after a baby wakes up. They’re awake, but haven’t entered into their active alert phase yet. During this phase, your baby will be awake but very still. They’ll take in their surroundings, often staring at objects, and react to sounds and motion. During their active alert phase, they’ll be attentive to sounds and sights and will move actively.
After the quiet alert phase comes the crying phase. Your baby will move their body erratically, and will cry loudly. During this phase, your baby is easily overstimulated—so the best way to cope is to try calming your baby and their surrounding environment. Holding your baby close or wrapping them snugly in a blanket may help calm them.
Feeding your baby before they reach the crying phase can help as well. Especially because during the crying phase your baby could be so upset that they refuse to eat. In newborns, crying is a late sign of hunger.
Helping Your Baby Get to Sleep
As previously mentioned, babies have a hard time making their own sleeping patterns. But you can help your baby sleep by being aware of the signs of sleep readiness. This way, when they’re ready to go to sleep, you can teach them to fall asleep on their own.
The signs of sleep readiness:
- Rubbing eyes
- Looking away
As you can imagine, not all babies know how to put themselves to sleep. One of the best ways to help your baby fall asleep is to set up a bedtime routine. This can include feeding them and putting them in their beds, playing soft music, etc.
After the newborn period, most experts recommend allowing your baby to become sleepy in your arms, then placing them in the bed while they’re still awake. This way, your baby will learn to go to sleep on their own.
For more advice on all things maternity, check out the rest of our blogs.