Days and Nights - How To Guide Your Baby's Sleep Rhythm

by Laura Klein

Newborns are wonderous beings. You can easily lose hours staring at that little face and breathing in their goodness.

But what happens if your precious babe is sleeping all day? And then wanting to party (ie be awake) all night?

New parents can quickly unravel and feel completely stressed if their sleepy day possum is ready to party after dark. 

Newborns have very immature nervous and neurological systems, and are unable to tell the difference between night and day. 

Newborns usually sleep 14-17 hours in every 24 hours. But Kristy The Sleep Teacher reminds us that newborn sleep is SO inconsistent, that every day can look different to the next. 

This is normal, so try not to get stressed. 

Generally, newborns sleep in short bursts of 2-3 hours through the day and night. But short cat naps are possible, as is a newborn who just wants to sleep all day. 

Most babies have their days and nights sorted out by about three months, and are sleeping for longer stretches (3-6 hours) at night.

But there are some simple ways to gently guide your little one's day and night rhythm from birth, to make those early weeks a little more predictable and manageable. 

It also helps your newborn regulate and develop their circadian rhythm. 


Daytime Sleep Routine for Babies

The goal is to aim for shorter, more frequent naps (of 1 - 2.5 hours) in the day. Keep the nursery semi-dark but not pitch black.

The days also incorporate some "play" time - reading a book, singing songs, tummy time, fresh air on the verandah or gentle movement in a baby swing. This play time for newborns may only be 15-30 mins, and may extend by 5 mins each week, between 1 and 16 weeks of age. 

The play time happens after a feed. Try for a "full" feed which incorporates the rich, high calorie "hind" milk, rather than a "snack" feed, which only lets the skim "fore" milk come through (meaning bub will not be satisfied for long, and will be looking for another feed rather quickly)


A good day time sleep routine for babies

Night-Time Sleep Routine for Babies

At night, we keep the room dark and quiet. We feed, burp and change as necessary, then swaddle and put straight back to bed (ie - no playtime). This encourages longer blocks of sleep 2-4 hours in the early weeks, which may extend to 5 - 7 hours of night sleep by 3 months of age.

Here are some more tips to get into a better day/night rhythm:

- wake your newborn after about 2 hours of day sleep to offer a feed and some play time. 

- newborns can be difficult to rouse, so unswaddle, tickle the feet and stretch the arms and legs.

- babies need a certain amount of calories in a 24 hour period. If they are sleeping all day they are missing out on those feeds and calories so naturally are going to be looking to make up for it overnight. 

- try to get most of those calories in during the day and it can encourage longer sleep overnight. 

- it can feel strange to wake your lovely sleeping baby during the day (especially if it took a lot of effort to get them asleep) but it will definitely help come 2am!

- don't panic if your baby isn't getting 2 hours naps during the day, but rather cat-napping for 40 mins. A "sleep cycle" lasts around 40 mins, but due to their immature neural paths, they are often unable to join 2 sleep cycles together to get close to that 2 hour mark, and will wake much earlier. This is a perfectly normal phase in those early months. 

- use a "white noise" style machine for every day and night sleep. Babies quickly tune into this sound and begin to associate it with sleep. Babies are very used to sound, as they have just come from the in-utero environment which has a constant hum of heartbeat, fluids swishing and outside voices. Silence is almost unsettling, so keep that white noise on for every sleep (and also during night time feeds for an easier re-settling process).

Gentle guidance of day and night sleep patterns from birth will help your baby develop a natural rhythm by 3 months, and make for a more predictable, happier and healthier household. 

Hush Ultrasonic Vaporiser with Light, Cool Mist and Sound


Good night time sleep routine for babies

How to promote better sleep with the help of a Nasal Aspirator.


Extra Tip: Newborns can only breathe through their nose, but if their nose is blocked they will struggle to feed and sleep. Clear the nostrils daily with a 2 step process:

1. Spray saline up each nostril

2. Suction any mucus and booger with Snotty Boss - the safest motorised nasal aspirator on the market. 


How to unblock a babies nose with saline spray   How to clear a babies nose using a nasal aspirator

References

The Sleep Teacher

Tresillian Sleep Advice

Little Ones Sleep