Close-up portrait of adorable baby boy sleeping in bed

If you have a newborn, you know that sleep deprivation can be a problem. But understanding your baby’s sleep cycles and learning how to promote consistent, more restful sleep can help.







Understanding Newborn Sleep Cycles

While adults experience several sleep stages, babies often have just three:

  • REM Sleep: Infants spend more than half of their total sleep time in REM or Rapid Eye Movement sleep. During that stage, your little one is likely to twitch, move, cry out and make facial expressions. All that physical activity might jolt him awake. In fact, one study showed that babies wake themselves up an average of 32 times per hour.
  • Quiet Sleep: In this stage, babies stop thrashing around and are much more restful. Their breathing and heart rates also become regular.
  • Indeterminate Sleep: When transitioning between active and quiet sleep, your little one might experience brief intervals of indeterminate sleep, which combines features of REM - like movements - with features of deep sleep, such as steady breathing.

Every baby is different, so your little one will have his own sleeping habits and they will change over time.

  • 0 to 4 Months: Newborns can sleep from 11 to 19 hours per day. That sleep is split between overnight and daytime naps, often waking for feedings, diaper changes and interactions with the family.
  • 4 to 6 Months: Your little one’s sleep will drop to 12 to 16 hours each day. His sleep and wake cycles will lengthen as he can go longer between feedings. And he may begin sleeping through the night.
  • 6 to 12 Months: At this point, your baby will likely sleep mostly at night. However, issues such as teething, growth spurts, illnesses and sleep regressions may cause frequent waking at night, which can lead to longer naps during the day. If you’re struggling to ensure everyone is sleeping well, you might consider sleep training.

Tips for Establishing Healthy Sleep Habits

Helping your little one find a consistent sleep schedule ensures that she (and every other member of the family) gets enough rest.

Here are a few tips for promoting better sleep for your newborn:

  • Introduce a Routine: Start an evening routine early on to signal to your baby that it’s time for bed. Your routine might include bath time, singing, reading, rocking or skin-to-skin time. Your little one will gradually begin to associate those cues with going to sleep.
  • Create a Comfortable Environment: Consider how bright the room is, any interruptive sounds and what your baby is wearing to bed. Ensure the room is dark, but not pitch black. If your baby prefers silence, do your best to minimize sounds outside the room. Or if she likes a little noise, use a sound machine to play white noise or calming music. Wrap her in a swaddle or dress her in a sleep sack to make her extra comfortable for bedtime.
  • Watch for Signs: As your baby gets tired, she may yawn, pull at her ears, flutter her eyes or have an unfocused gaze, make jerky movements or suck on her fingers. Watch your little one carefully for those signals so you can help her settle down and fall asleep to prevent her from becoming overtired.

Common Challenges in Newborn Sleep

These are some challenges you may face with your newborn’s sleep schedule:

  • Difficulty settling
  • Frequent waking
  • Sleep regressions
  • Getting days and nights mixed up
  • Colic

A few recommendations:

  • Sleep when baby sleeps, even if it means napping during the day.
  • Give him a big meal before bedtime to encourage him to sleep longer.
  • Don’t rush over to your little one the moment he’s awake. There’s a chance he may fall back asleep on his own.
  • If your baby wakes up fussing, he might be hungry or uncomfortable. He could also need his diaper changed. Quickly and quietly take care of his needs, avoiding bright lighting if possible. If he continues to fuss after you lay him down, do your best to soothe him in the crib by rubbing or patting his back or speaking softly to him.
  • If he falls asleep in your arms, wait a few minutes before transferring him to his bed. One study showed that sleeping babies are more likely to remain asleep post-transfer when parents wait at least 8 minutes to place them in their beds. That gives your little one the chance to drift into deep sleep.

If you have questions about your baby’s sleep patterns, talk with your pediatrician.

Creating a Relaxing Bedtime Routine

Establishing a relaxing bedtime routine will calm your little one and prepare her for sleep. As she becomes accustomed to the routine, she’ll eventually be able to fall asleep on her own.

There are many rituals you can incorporate into the routine, such as:

  • A bath followed by lotion or baby oil
  • Changing into pajamas and a clean diaper
  • Reading a book or singing a lullaby
  • Nighttime feeding
  • Goodnight kisses
  • Dimming the lights
  • Playing white noise or music

A tip: lay your little one in bed before she falls asleep. That will help her to feel less anxious when she wakes in the middle of the night and you’re not there, and she’ll be more likely to fall back asleep on her own.

Taking Care of Baby Begins with Taking Care of You

The right OBGYN can support your motherhood journey and help you maximize your health so you can care for your little one.

Northline Women’s Health Center has locations in Brownstown and Southgate, Michigan. Click here to schedule an appointment today.

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