Newborn sleep is very erratic. If you recently gave birth to a new baby, you know what I’m talking about!
At this stage, babies sleep a lot…close to 16-17 hours a day! Imagine sleeping that long.
The challenge at this age for some is that there is no set routine or schedule for your baby. Some naps may be 30 minutes long, some may be 2 hours long. One day they may wake up at 6 AM in the morning, the next morning maybe 8 AM. However, this pattern of sleep is NORMAL at this stage.
Another challenge that many parents face with a newborn is that they sleep great, long stretches in the day and then they are wide awake at night? You are exhausted and ready to sleep, but your baby is not. Let’s start with why babies at this stage of life sleep majority of the day and are awake at night.
Below, we will cover five of these challenges in depth:
Babies go through something called “day and night confusion”. While in utero, baby was familiar with mommy’s movements in the day, which would put baby to sleep, but when mommy was ready to settle at night, baby would be awake and kicking. If you think back to your pregnancy, do you recall baby being most active in your tummy in the evening hours when you would be getting ready to fall asleep?
Now that your baby is here, they are in that same pattern of sleep – sleeping majority in the day and awake at night. Day and night confusion can take up to 8 weeks to resolve. Tips to overcome this challenge is to help baby recognize daytime as a time to be up and nighttime as a time to be sleeping. How do we do this? A couple of tips are to: 1) Keep the lights on and blinds/curtains open in the day 2) Keep on some background noise ie. turning TV on, continue conversations, vacuum, etc. 3) Dim the lights at night 4) Have little to no noise in the background at night 5) Create a nice calming bedtime routine 6) Do anything you can to put baby to sleep if it is a challenge.
Another challenging time for parents with newborn baby’s is the “witching hour”. The “witching hour” is extreme fussiness during the evening hours. Although it is called the witching hour; it can last for a few hours. Some babies are fussy from 5 PM to 10 PM until they finally fall asleep. There is no clear reason why the witching hour occurs, but some theories include over-stimulation in the day, inability to fall asleep during these hours, or the need to feed more often to fill up for the night, therefore, many babies at this age will cluster feed before finally falling asleep. The witching hour typically lasts until about 3 months of age, but some babies do not experience it at all.
Putting your newborn baby to sleep at 9 PM may help them settle better at bedtime and throughout the night especially during this challenging time. You may need to push bedtime even later than 9 PM to ensure the witching hour has passed or you will be struggling for quite some time to get baby to sleep at a time that may be impossible for them to settle. You can do anything at this point to get them to fall asleep. Try your best to sleep when baby sleeps as this can be a very difficult time for families, especially when baby is not sleeping.
To overcome any of the above challenges, creating a short, calm bedtime routine at this age is extremely beneficial. A routine at this age can look like this: Feed, swaddle, lullaby, cuddles and book.
If you are experiencing any of these challenges, know that it does get better. At 3 months of age, you will begin to see more routine form. You will want to start pushing baby’s bedtime early to help maximize the sleep they get at night. This is a great time to start creating healthy sleep habits for your baby.