Your newborn will eat and sleep and eat and sleep again, for the next couple of months. But a few pre-sleep rituals might help, even at this early stage.
Newborns sleep up to 16 hours
Infants can have very different sleep patterns. Some sleep a lot, others not so much - too little, you probably feel. Newborns sleep an average of 16 hours out of 24. They do not know the difference between night and day. For now, food and sleep are closely related. Baby gets hungry and wakes up, feeds, then goes back to sleep.
While your baby is sleeping they go through various phases of sleep. That is why they sometimes sleep very quietly, and at other times seem restless.
Newborns’ sleep patterns
About half your newborn’s time asleep is spent in the active, light dream phase of sleep called REM (Rapid Eye Movement). Your baby breathes irregularly, moves, grimaces, moves his arms and legs and may whimper and cry in his sleep.
Your baby wakes up briefly many times during this phase although you may not realise it. You may easily disturb them if you think they are awake and go in to them. If you are unsure, you should perhaps hold back and see if they fall back to sleep without you.
If your baby is in the deep-sleep phase, they are completely relaxed, and it takes a lot to wake them.
Crying out of tiredness
Overtiredness is a common cause of crying. Newborns need a lot of sleep and experts advise parents to aim to have their newborns fed, changed, cuddled, played with and back in bed within an hour. Too many visitors can over-stimulate your baby – try to space them out, and don’t pass your baby around too many people at once.
It’s very important to watch for your baby’s tired signs and get them to bed as soon as possible after they appear. Tired signs include:
• Clenched fists
• Jerky movements
• Facial contortions
• Staring into space
Your local Plunket Family Centre will have a video that shows how to recognise these signs.
It is already a good idea to establish pre-sleep rituals. Babies love routines; it gives them idea about what’s happening and comforts them. More advice here.