During the first few weeks of her life, your baby will sleep a lot, usually about 16 to 17 hours a day. This sleep is needed for his quickly developing brain. But newborns sleep lightly and need to be fed often, so they don’t stay asleep for more than 2 to 4 hours at a time.
Your newborn does not know the difference between night and day. As a result, your babies sleeping patterns will be unpredictable and it will be difficult to make your baby sleep more, less, or at certain times of the day.
Since your newborn is feeding every 2 to 3 hours, you both will be awakened often in the middle of the night. But at around 2 weeks you can help your baby start to learn the difference between night and day.
Play with your baby more when he is awake during the day. Keep the lights on or open the curtains or blinds so your baby begins to know when it is daytime. Designate your baby’s awake time in the night for feeding only; no playtime. Keep the lights low and calming even when feeding or changing your baby. And although you are tired too, do not fall asleep with your baby after a feeding. Put him back in his crib or bassinet to sleep safely.
Your baby does not need to be in completely quiet surroundings to sleep soundly. Ordinary noises and activities are not disturbing at this age and can encourage baby to be more awake during the day and sleep more at night.
Do not try to keep your baby up for longer periods of time hoping he will sleep longer at night. He is not ready yet and if you let him get over-tired it will be harder to calm him down and get him to sleep. To help newborns settle down, you can try holding and rocking, playing soothing music or singing softly. And it’s never too early to start a sleep routine. Eventually your baby will begin to recognize it is time to sleep.
You can put your newborn to sleep in a crib, or a bassinet. The crib should be free of any heavy blankets, stuffed toys, bumper pads or pillows for safety. If you are concerned about your baby getting cold, you can use a sleep sack.
Research has shown that the safest position for a healthy full-term infant to sleep is on his back. Healthy babies should not sleep on their stomachs. Do not be tempted to buy a sleep positioner though. Most are unsafe and not needed.
If your newborn has had problems with breathing, swallowing or vomiting, check with your healthcare provider about the safest sleeping position.
Some babies may fall asleep in a swing or car seat easily. Although it may be tempting not to move your baby once he is asleep, to reduce the risk of Sudden Infant Death Syndrome, the safest place for him to sleep is in his crib or bassinet.
When your baby lies down to sleep, use this time to rest yourself.
Because your baby is spending so much time lying in one position while sleeping, the back or side of her head may appear flattened. Switch head positions when putting your baby to bed and give her lots of “tummy time” while she is awake. This is good for his head, but also encourages upper body strength.
It may seem never-ending, but this period of unpredictable sleep patterns will soon start to fade away. Babies around 6 to 8 weeks of age begin to sleep for longer stretches of time. For now though, get rest when you can so you can enjoy the times when your baby is awake.