Did you know that newborn babies can sleep anywhere between 16 to 17 hours a day?
When your baby is first born they will spend well over half the day asleep, but why do babies need so much sleep and how can you encourage your child to develop mature sleeping patterns?
Newborns and Sleep
Newborns can sleep a lot during the first two weeks of their lives. You will notice that your baby sleeps a lot, but also doesn’t sleep for very long periods of time. They will usually sleep in short bouts, anywhere between 30 minutes and 4 hours.
Newborns don’t stay asleep for long periods of time because the spend most of their sleeping time in an active sleep. This means that they are sleeping in a light state and can easily be woken up. They also don’t stay asleep for very long because they need feeding.
By four weeks, newborns often average about 14 hours of sleep a day. You need to make sure they have a comfortable place to sleep even when you are out on the move. Learn about baby carriers and find out which one is right for you and your sleepy baby.
Why Do Newborns Sleep So Much?
Unlike adults, babies aren’t governed by circadian rhythms (such as the changes in day and night).
Circadian rhythm refers to the physiological changes that follow a 24-hour cycle. These changes are often influenced by exposure to light. An adults body can tell when it needs to be alert during the day, thanks to sunlight, and when it needs to settle down for sleep when it is dark.
During pregnancy, the fetus relies on the mother’s heart beat rate and respiratory rate to determine day and night. So newborns need to establish their own circadian rhythms.
A baby will typically develop his or her circadian rhythm around or after 12 weeks. A study found that babies can take anywhere between 3 to 5 months before they settle (can sleep for up to 5 hours straight) at night.
How to Help Your Baby Develop Their Circadian Rhythm
There are a number of tips and tricks that can help your baby develop their own circadian rhythm, and thus sleep better. For instance you can try:
- Include your baby in your daily activities (so if you are going to the shops, make sure you take your baby with you in a lightweight stroller).
- Reduce stimulation at night, which means staying as quiet as possible when you are feeding him/her.
- Expose your newborn to natural light patterns (so do make sure they get to see natural light everyday).
- Try infant massaging before bedtime. One study found that massaging infants with lotion helped them fall asleep faster and stayed asleep for longer.
Baby Steps to Sleeping
Newborn babies sleep in very strange patterns compared to what we are used to, but this is only because they need to become accustomed to day and night and what that means.
Try to help your baby develop their own circadian rhythm by trying out our tips and they should be sleeping soundly within no time.
Remember to treat yourself to some time away from your baby, especially if you are exhausted from your lack of sleep. Hiring a babysitter can have many benefits for you and your baby.