Sleep can be one of the most perplexing challenges of early parenthood. As many of us discover through sleep-deprived nights and zombie-like days, babies simply don’t snooze like the rest of us. Let’s explore the reasons behind this.
1. Newborn babies require a significant amount of sleep, ranging from fifteen to eighteen hours per day. While parents often complain about the lack of sleep, it is primarily their experience rather than the baby’s. Newborns tend to divide their sleep into shorter intervals throughout the 24-hour period. However, as the months pass, their biological clock begins to develop, and they gradually start consolidating more sleep during the night. This brings a sense of relief to parents seeking longer stretches of uninterrupted sleep.
2. Newborns have limited awake time, typically lasting for about 45 minutes to an hour. During this period, they are generally content and alert. As they grow, this awake time gradually extends, and by the age of six months, most babies can stay awake for two to three hours. However, it is important to note that even at this stage, their awake periods are still relatively short. If a baby exceeds their optimal awake time, they can quickly become overtired and fussy. Striking a balance between sleep and wakefulness is crucial for their well-being.
3. Newborns are active and noisy sleepers.
Newborns are not typically quiet and still during sleep. They often make various sounds such as grunting, groaning, cooing, moaning, and twitching. Some newborns may even cry or nurse while remaining sound asleep. These noises and movements don’t necessarily indicate that the baby is waking up, nor do they always require immediate attention. When you wake up due to your baby’s sounds or movements, take a moment to observe and listen. You may realize that all these actions are happening while the baby is still asleep. If your baby is sleeping, it’s best to refrain from picking them up and disturbing their sleep. Continuous motion during sleep can also result in a baby falling out of bed. To prevent this, always use an anti-roll pillow or positioner to ensure the baby sleeps safely and comfortably. Additionally, dressing them in cozy clothes and soft booties can contribute to their overall comfort and promote longer sleep durations.
4. Newborns prefer not to sleep in complete silence.
The environment that babies experience in the womb is filled with constant sounds, so many newborns find a completely quiet room unsettling. However, sudden loud noises like clinking dishes, barking dogs, or television sounds can startle and wake a sleeping newborn. To counteract these disruptive noises, using a consistent background of soothing sound, known as “white noise,” can help mask household sounds. Even better than white noise is “pink noise,” which has a fuller, deeper, and richer quality. Pink noise examples include the sound of a heartbeat, a humidifier, ocean waves, or gentle rain falling. This special bedtime noise should be played at a volume that covers sharp sounds but is not too loud to harm your baby’s delicate hearing.