Whenever you hear of someone sleeping quietly for a long time, they are said to be sleeping like a baby. That saying can be incredibly annoying to new parents because babies don’t sleep for that long and they can wake up at a drop of a hat. I can tell you right now whenever I heard that saying when my son was struggling with colic when he was a newborn- I would have gone out of my mind. Newborn sleep is very erratic. That being said how to help newborn sleep peacefully is tough, especially as a first time parent.
I mean I was going out of my mind anyway but even more so if I heard that saying. Getting him to sleep was a big struggle, as well as getting him to stay asleep! So the term sleeping like a baby to me meant like never sleeping at all! As a single mom, I was all by myself night after night so I had no other person there with me at night to “take turns” soothing my son, feeding him and rocking him back to sleep. It was all me. And I was slowly becoming more delirious and doing things such as dropping a cup, or tripping over a rug, and becoming very cranky because a lack of sleep. This is not good for a new mom. It happens to all new moms however.
Babies actually really do sleep a lot, which is typically about 17 hours a day. And a good rule of thumb is that you should probably catch some shut eye as well during the time your baby is also sleeping. However, most babies rarely stay asleep for more than 2-4 hours at a time during the day and at night until they are around 8 to 10 weeks old when they begin to understand the difference between day and night.
As an adult who is probably more accustomed to sleeping in larger chunks of time ( like nice 8 hour stretches, oh… those were the days!) when a baby comes along, and sleep is cut off. All you get is those 2 to 4 hour pockets of time, which do not allow you as an adult to acquire R.E.M sleep so its not very restful even when you sleep whenever baby sleeps.
That said, newborn sleep is unpredictable. New parents are usually very surprised to find out that it is not possible to develop a set schedule for the first few weeks of the baby’s life. Newborns will get hungry, need a diaper change or need comfort at any time of the night or day. This is the most exhausting time because of the baby’s irregular sleeping patterns.
However, there is more of a reason behind the fact that newborn sleep patterns are incredibly unpredictable other than them needing a feeding, a change and comforting at any time of the day or night.
The reason that baby’s sleep stretches last much shorter than the sleep stretch of a typical older child or an adult is that their rapid eye movement, also known as REM cycles takes up most of their sleep time. REM cycles are meant to last in shorter intervals, and babies need to go through a lot of that because it is crucial for their brain development. When the REM cycle is complete for that sleeping phase, the baby will wake up and will need a feeding or change!
Therefore, it is not possible to set a newborn sleep schedule until you see signs of your newborn sleeping for longer stretches. Like I previously mentioned, many babies that are approximately 8 to 10 weeks old learn the difference between day and night and as long as they are well fed during the day- they will sleep for longer stretches in the night.
Additionally, babies that are around this age begin to have shorter REM sleep periods and begin to develop longer deep and non-REM periods of sleep. This is a big milestone in your newborn’s development.
Some babies as early as 6 weeks of age begin to learn the difference and can start sleeping for longer stretches in the night. But you can start teaching them to sleep at night at that age, which I will get to in a bit!
However, by the time your infant is anywhere between 4 to 6 months of age, most babies are capable of sleeping for 8 to 12 hours in the night. But some babies still wake up in the night frequently into toddlerhood. But in order to lessen the odds of that happening, it is necessary to create a sleep schedule when your newborn is showing signs of sleeping for longer stretches.
Once your baby’s sleep becomes more predictable, it is necessary to establish some good sleep habits. Here are some tips to help your baby sleep better:
Now you understand why newborn sleep is so erratic and unpredictable. It is just how newborns are biologically made. There is not one single newborn baby out there in the world that settles down to sleep at 7pm and doesn’t make a peep, sleeps straight through until the next day at 10am. Lol nope…. not in a million years.
However, once your newborn becomes a little older, you can begin to establish good sleeping habits which will help encourage your baby to sleep through the night much better in the long run! With practice and patience you can train your newborn to develop good sleeping habits early!
Hopefully, this will have helped you figure out how to help your newborn sleep. How are you sleeping? Are you a single parent or are you and your partner taking turns at night with baby? Remember this time period with your little one is going to go by so quick! Before you know it they will be crawling, then walking, and then ….. oh my goodness,my son is already 16 months old! Where has the time gone!
Just remember to be patient, make sure you love on and always enjoy your babies.