This section is about the amount of sleep you can reasonably expect your newborn to need. So many parents come to the studio and don’t really know what they are aiming for, and I’m regularly asked questions such as:
· How long will my baby nap?
· How many hours of overnight sleep can I realistically expect?
· When will they start sleeping though the night?
The first important point is that each baby is different and what your newborn does, is very likely not going to be the same as everyone else’s (so don’t beat yourself up if your friends are getting more sleep than you. Equally don’t gloat if it is the other way round!)
The second important point that it is a total rollercoaster. One day, you’ll think you’ve cracked it and then it immediately goes pear-shaped. You’ll spend your time analysing what you are doing and it can definitely be a bit hit and miss. But bear with it… it DOES get easier.
That said, below is a list of what you might reasonably expect for your baby's sleep.
DAY 1 BABY SLEEP REQUIREMENT
Most babies, if they’ve had a natural birth, will sleep a lot in the first 12 hours of their life. They’ve been squished and their brain hurts! Your brain will probably hurt too! So it would be reasonable to expect a tired and very sleepy baby.
DAY 2 TO 2-MONTH BABY SLEEP REQUIREMENT
Total Sleep: 16 to 18 hours a day.
When your baby’s needs are met, he will automatically develop a natural rhythm and routine. You won’t need to force the routine; you just have to be able to maintain what occurs naturally.
Let me give you some examples of a natural routine that you could expect.
Newborn babies over 8lb – 4 hours sleep : 1.5 hours awake routine
I LOVE ME A BIG BABY!! If you have a bigger baby, they most likely will fall into a natural routine of ‘up to 4 hours sleep, followed by 1.5 hours awake’ time. You should never worry that your baby is too big, is too squidgy or has too many rolls. We love them like that and the goal is to triple their birth weight in the first year so the more rolls the better! It also means that he will be able to sustain himself for a bit longer in the very beginning. Every other mum is going to be so jealous of you, you did that hard work growing them now sit back and enjoy the rewards.
Newborn babies under 8lb to 6lb – 2 hours sleep : 1.5 hours awake routine
Babies under 8lb will fall into an ‘up to 2 hours sleep, 1.5 hour awake’ routine. This is because they will burn through their food in approximately 2 hours, at which point they will wake because they need more. (If your baby is waking every hour, make sure he is getting a full 45-minute feed. Don’t let him fall asleep during a feed as this will result in it being cut short. Tickle him under their chin or rub his feet to get him to take more milk.)
Full term, low birth weight babies. Under 6lb – 1 hour sleep : 1 hour awake routine
If you have a baby that has a low birth weight, you might have had some time in the NICU and received some great support from your NICU midwives about feeding on an hourly basis. An important thing regarding tiny babies is to recognise when they have reached the 50th percentile on the weight chart and can therefore move their sleeping/feeding routine to be in line with their peers. (You would be surprised how many of my clients, who have full term low birth weight babies, stay in that mindset for years – whereas in fact their little ones catch up with their peers quite quickly.)
The ‘1-hour asleep : 1-hour awake’ routine is a pretty tough routine for those of you with teeny babies. Those with a low birth weight will burn through their food a lot faster because their body needs it. You can reasonably expect one hours sleep, followed by one hour of awake time – during which you should give another feed, followed by another hour of sleep. When your baby gets bigger, the sleeps will get longer. Make sure you swaddle to help keep your baby still during every sleep. This will help lower how many calories are being burned with unnecessary movement.
And Mummies, if this is your baby you WILL need help! This is the time to move your mum in, heck move the mother-in-law in too. This is not a drill, this is all hands on deck. But don't worry, it is not going to be like this forever; they will be this small for a very small window of time so enjoy every second of it, and don't forget to take lots of photos comparing their size to lots of things....so cute!!
Note that the starting weight and quality of food has a direct impact on your baby’s sleep patterns. If your baby isn’t fully satisfied, he won’t sleep as much as he otherwise could. A 10-minute breast feed, for example, won’t be enough to get the thick creamy hind milk that sustains your baby so try to feed for 45-minutes at every awake time. Once your baby is off to a natural start, and if mum is doing 45-minute feeds during the awake time, you will find a routine will naturally occur. You can encourage this with good sleep support.
2 TO 4 MONTH BABY SLEEP REQUIREMENT
Total sleep: 14-16 hours
As your baby gets older, his awake time will increase and his sleep will become less during the day. This will automatically happen as part of the natural routine and will be at around 3 months.