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Newborn Sleep - What is "normal"?


Mother holding baby's feet
Mother holding baby's feet

So you’ve brought your newborn home and now you just don’t know what is “normal” and what’s not. Let me help you out with what to expect with your newborn.


SLEEP

Newborns have irregular sleep patterns, and their sleep is often divided into short periods throughout the day and night because they need to feed regularly. Newborns typically sleep for anywhere between 14 to 17 hours in a 24 hour period.


The length of each sleep depends on each baby and is often determined by how hungry they are. For newborns I recommend the following awake windows:

  • 1-3 weeks 40-60 minutes

  • 4-6 weeks 60-90 minutes

  • 7-12 weeks 90 minutes (give or take 15 minutes)

Remember that is a guide only and these sleep patterns will change regularly, especially for a newborn. Just remember to take it slow and be flexible, follow your baby’s tired signs.


FEEDING

Your newborn’s tummy is tiny, so they will spend a lot of time feeding. Whether they are bottle or breastfed, you can expect to feed your newborn about 8-12 times over a 24 hour period. Some feeds will last up to an hour which may lead into your baby's sleep time which is totally fine! Despite what people say, it is okay to feed your baby to sleep.


CRYING

I know it's not what you want to hear, but your newborn is going to cry. But don't worry, this is normal and the way your newborn communicates with you! When they're crying, they may be hungry, tired, too hot or too cold, frightened, need a nappy change or just need a cuddle from their mum. Remember, they’ve just spent 9 months in your comfy tummy, the outside world can be scary and overwhelming. When your newborn is unsettled try the 5 S’s and 5 W’s.


5 S’s

The 5 S’s have been developed by paediatrician Dr. Harvey Karp to help to turn on your baby’s calming reflexes.

Swaddling

Tight swaddling is the cornerstone of calming, the essential first step in soothing your fussy baby and keeping them soothed. Wrapping makes your baby feel as though they have been returned to the womb and satisfies their need for continuous touching and snugness that they were used to. Swaddling also protects your baby by keeping them from accidentally flipping onto their stomach.

Side/Stomach

The side/stomach positions soothe your fussy newborn by instantly shutting off the Moro Reflex - the panicky feeling of falling. When calming and soothing your baby cradle them in your arms, on their side, their stomach to your stomach. When you put your baby to sleep, always place them on their back.

Shhhing

A loud, harsh shushing sound is music to your baby's ears. Shhhing comforts your baby by

mimicking the whooshing noise that blood made as it flowed through the arteries of the placenta. The louder your baby cries, the louder the Shhhing has to be in order to calm them.

Swinging

To your baby, fresh out of the womb, lying on a soft, motionless bed is disorientating and

unnatural. Rhythmic, monotonous, jiggly movement (swinging) is one of the most common

methods used to calm babies. To get your baby to stop crying, movements should be fast and small. Once they begin to settle down you can use slower, broader motions to keep them calm.

Sucking

One of the best ways to soothe a cranky baby is to let them suckle. Sucking takes a baby who is beginning to quiet and lulls them into a deep tranquil state. Sucking triggers a baby's calming reflex.


The 5 W’s

The 5 W’s are used to mimic the womb and help your newborn transition from womb to world.

Warmth

Inside the womb your baby didn't experience cool air or blowing on their tiny body. so at first try to keep the environment warm (18 - 22ºC), and try not to have fans or air-conditioners blowing directly onto them. Your baby will be more comfortable (And likely sleep better) in their bassinet/cot if the sheets are slightly warm. You can warm the sheets lightly with a heat pack before you place them into bed. Make sure you test the sheets with your forearm before you place them down, to make sure it's not too hot.

Wrapping

Just as your baby was snug inside your body, you can provide a sense of security by swaddling your newborn in a cotton or muslin sheet. Swaddling your baby can help them sleep longer as the 'startle reflex' can disturb them awake. Your baby will wake, even from a deep sleep, if their own flailing arm unexpectedly hits them. Ensure there is enough room for your baby to move their hips and flex their legs to help prevent hip dysplasia.

Wearing

Inside your body, your baby was lulled to sleep by your body movements. The motion of being carried in a wrap against your moving body and your comforting heartbeat as they breath your familiar body scent, will help your baby feel safe. This feeling will reduce stress hormones and help your baby be more relaxed. A more relaxed baby will sleep more easily.

Water

Help your baby recall the watery womb by having a bath together. Dimming the lights will help your baby recall the safety of the womb and as you hold them close and support them in the water, they will gradually relax. Bathing together is especially beneficial for bonding for dad too. Newborns can lose body heat quickly after a bath and a cold baby will be harder to settle. So, try to dry and dress quickly in a warm space.

Womb Sounds

The calming, repetitive sounds of white noise sound like the 'womb music' your baby could hear before birth (your heartbeat and fluids whooshing through the placenta).

Humming and shhhing can also help induce calm and sleepiness. Humming will naturally help slow your breathing, if you're feeling anxious, and help you feel calmer. Changing and calming your energy will also help soothe your baby as they feed off your own stress levels.

Time spent helping your baby adapt to life on the outside is an investment in sound sleep.


TOP TIPS FOR ESTABLISHING POSITIVE SLEEP FOUNDATIONS

  1. Sleep Environment: Create a safe and comfortable sleep environment. Ensure the room is dark, quiet and a comfortable temperature (between 18-22ºC).

  2. Swaddle your newborn until they begin showing signs of rolling.

  3. Learn your baby’s tired signs. They could be:

arching back

pushing parent/care giver away

turning head away

reaching out

eyes glazing over

rubbing eyes

red eyebrows

staring into space

yawning

hiccups

being irritable

exploding into being upset/crying when there seems to be nothing wrong and they are not due for a feed.

4. Establish a Bedtime Routine: Implementing a predictable bedtime routine can help babies feel safe, cooperate and relax into sleep as they begin to recognise the steps and anticipate it is time for sleep. Your bedtime routine may include:

Bath

Massage

Wrapping/Swaddling

Read a book or story

Music/white noise

A short sleepy phrase that can be repeated at every sleep time

  1. Differentiate between Day and Night: Newborns will often have day and night confusion. Expose your newborn to natural light during the day, including sleeping in the light for naps then keep nighttime calm and dark.

  2. Responsive Nighttime Care: Newborns will need overnight feeding and nappy changes. Respond to you baby overnight, but keep the environment calm, quiet and dark (use a small lamp or red light when feeding and changing) to encourage them to return to sleep quickly.

  3. Follow Safe Sleep Practises whether you’re co-sleeping or your baby is sleeping in their own independent sleep space.

  4. Enjoy those newborn cuddles! Contact nap and babywear when you both need. They won’t always want to sleep on you.


Remember, newborn sleep patterns can vary from one baby to another. Their sleep will gradually develop and change overtime. Be patient. Be kind to yourself. You’re doing a great job!


Want some more, personalised support for your little one? Book your FREE Discovery Call today https://www.soundsleepbaby.com.au/book-online

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