Newborn Sleep Patterns

Sleeping Baby

Newborn Sleep Patterns

Parents to a newborn baby know well, what sleepless nights mean and making baby sleep through the night is among their main concerns. However, there is not much that can be done till a certain age and there are sleep patterns for different stages of newborn baby.


Sleep patterns of a newborn till 3 months old

A newborn baby sleeps for 16 or more hours a day. Their sleep is interspersed with feedings. Most newborn babies need to feed every 2-4 hours. Breast fed babies feed every 2-3 hours, while formula fed babies may feed every 3-4 hours. This is because they have tiny tummies which can take very little milk that can provide nourishment for only few hours and they are hungry again. So the pattern is sleep for 2-3 hours > feed > stay awake for some time > sleep again. This gradually starts stretching out as they grow.

However, all babies are different and if your baby sleeps for longer durations at night, do not try to wake her up. You can let your baby sleep for 4 hours or so and be thankful. Some babies sleep less and some seem to be asleep all through the day and night.

These first few months will be difficult for you, but have patience and it will get better as your baby grows. As baby gets older she will stay awake for longer periods and take fewer naps during daytime.


Day and Night Confusion in Newborns

A lot of babies have mixed up day and nights. They sleep more during the day less during the night. This is not surprising, as there is no day or night in womb. As long as she is getting fed and her needs are being attended to, she doesn’t care.

To help your baby eliminate confusion between day and night, play more with your baby during the day. Gradually, increase feedings during daytime and reduce during night. E.g. feed every 2 hours during day and stretch to 4 hours at night. Baby will gradually be able to relate that it is playtime when it I light outside and sleep time is when it is dark. When you feed baby at night, make it just feedtime, no cooing or playing. Keep the room dark with maybe a small night lamp if your baby prefers.


Sleep States of a Newborn

Babies, like adults, have various stages and depths of sleep. Depending on the stage, the baby may actively move or lie very still. Infant sleep patterns begin forming during the last months of pregnancy – active sleep first, then quiet sleep by about the eighth month.

There are two types of sleep:

REM (rapid eye movement sleep)

REM is light sleep characterized by rapid and randon eye movements. Babis spend almost half of their sleep time in REM sleep. As they older, they sleep fewer hours and spend much less time in REM sleep.

Non-REM sleep:

Non-REM has 3 stages (earlier 4 stages) and does not have rapid eye movements :

Stage 1 – drowsiness – eyes droop, may open and close, dozing. Baby can be easily woken up from this state. Slow eye movement is there.

Stage 2 – light sleep – No eye movement occurs, the baby moves and may startle with sounds. Baby can be easily awakened.

Stage 3 – deep sleep – the baby is quiet and does not move.

A baby enters stage 1 at the beginning of the sleep cycle, then moves into stage 2, then 3, then 4 which is deep sleep, then back to 3, then 2, then to REM. These cycles may occur several times during sleep. Babies may wake up as they pass from deep sleep to light sleep and may not be able to go back to sleep.

 Read our tips on choosing good sleepwear for baby.


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