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5 Things You Didn’t Know About Newborn Sleep

1.  Newborn babies sleep up to 18 hours per day.

Parents of new babies all complain about of lack of sleep. But this is really about the parents’ experience – not the baby’s! Newborns need a massive amount of sleep – fifteen to eighteen hours each day. The problem for us is that they break up this sleep into chunks spread out over all 24 hours of the day and night. The good news is that over the early months their biological clock kicks in and they start to consolidate more sleep during the night.

 

2.  Newborns can only stay wake for 45 minutes to an hour.

Brand new babies can only stay happily awake for very short periods of time – a hour or less. This gradually increases, and by six months most babies can stay awake for two to three hours, but that still is a very short span of awake periods. If your baby stays awake beyond this “happily awake time,” he can quickly melt down into an overtired and fussy state. He’ll find it hard to sleep, yet won’t be able to stay happily awake, either. This becomes a pattern that can disrupt sleep, growth, and temperament.

If you want your baby to cry less, and sleep better, keep one eye on the clock, and one eye on your baby. It’s easy to miss new babies’ tired signals and keep them awake too long. So watch your little one carefully and help him to sleep whenever he seems tired. More sleep equals a happier baby.

 

3.  Newborns don’t have their days and nights mixed up, they think you do.

It’s common for people to make this observation, but newborns don’t recognize day versus night because in the womb there was little difference. This day/night compartmentalization is a brand new concept for them, and they probably think you are the one who’s mixed up! It will be a while before your baby’s biological clock matches up to your 24-hour pattern.

Unlike adults who sleep in one big nighttime chunk, newborns break up their sleep into four to seven (or more!) sleep periods spread throughout the day and night. This is natural newborn sleep, and is will gradually and naturally mature over the early months.

 

4.   Newborns are noisy, active sleepers.

Newborns are not quiet, still sleepers. They grunt, groan, coo, moan, twitch, and shift during sleep. Some newborns even cry or nurse while they are sound asleep! These noises and motions don’t always signal awakening, and they don’t always require any action on your part.

When you are awoken from sleep by your baby’s sounds or motions take a minute to observe and listen. You might notice that all the noise and action is occurring during sleep. If your baby is sleeping, don’t pick him up and wake him up – let him sleep!

 

5.  Newborns don’t like sleeping in a totally quiet room.

The environment that your baby enjoyed in the womb was accompanied by a continual symphony of sound so many newborns find a totally quiet room disconcerting. However, sharp noises like clinking dishes, dogs barking, and television sounds can wake your sleeping newborn. These piercing sounds can jar your baby awake.

Using a constant lull of a deep, humming sound, called “white noise” can mask these noises of the household. The best sounds are actually in the “pink noise” spectrum. Pink noise is a variant of white noise that sounds full, deep, rich, and monotonous. Perfect examples of pink noise are the sounds of a heartbeat, a humidifier, ocean waves, or the pitter-patter of rainfall.

This special bedtime noise should be at a volume that masks sharp sounds, but not so loud as to harm your baby’s delicate hearing. Locate the source of the sound across the room from your baby and test the volume yourself for a level that you would find soothing and restful for sleep.

 

For learning more about how newborn babies sleep, plus many tips and suggestions for helping your new baby sleep better check out The No-Cry Sleep Solution for Newborns: Amazing Sleep from Day One - For Baby and You.

No-Cry Solution Series Author

Elizabeth Pantley is a parent educator, mother of four, and the author of the now-classic baby sleep book, The No-Cry Sleep Solution, as well as six other books in the series, including The No-Cry Separation Anxiety SolutionThe No-Cry Potty Training SolutionThe No-Cry Discipline Solution, The No-Cry Picky Eater Solution, plus other successful parenting books. She is known worldwide as the practical, reasonable voice of respectful parenting.