Newborn Sleep Schedule & Patterns: What to Expect and How to Cope

Sleep is the magic potion in life. It refreshes us, it relaxes us, and it leads to better productivity and happiness. It is a necessary function of life. Newborns spend most of the day and night sleeping, making it important to emphasize adequate and optimal sleep. However, the sleeping patterns of a newborn can be extremely difficult for new parents to adjust to because of the unpredictability.  

Even though newborns sleep most of the time, new parents seem to have no time for themselves. This is because newborns do not sleep continuously at a time, instead they only sleep for about four hours and then they wake up needing to be fed, changed and cleaned before they go back to sleep again. For the next three to four months this cycle repeats. Thus, it is understandable why it is quite difficult to have any kind of normal routine implemented in your own life after a baby is born.  

Your newborn will start to develop their circadian rhythm around 3 months. Circadian rhythm is our body’s natural clock that tells us when it is time to be awake and when it is time to go to sleep and it repeats every 24 hours. There are a few things you can do to help promote your newborn's circadian rhythm. Healthy and normal sleep patterns in newborns depend largely on a consistent routine. Proper organization of daytime and nighttime routine is vital in optimizing a newborns development and physiologic sleep requirements. This is different in every child, so it is important to remain adaptable.  

During the day, for example, include your newborn in daytime activities which will help your baby understand that daytime is for being awake and playing. Your newborn is fragile and will not "play" like normal toddlers. However, while you are doing your chores around the house let them tag along and watch you! A nighttime routine is also of importance, and this might include dressing them in their pajamas, a warm bath, reading to them a book, singing them a song, or kissing them goodnight! Generally, try to reduce activity at night. Your newborn will probably wake up during the night needing to be fed, maintain the nighttime routine by feeding them in the dark and avoiding anything stimulating such as bright lights, or loud noises. This will help the baby detect when it is day and when it is night. If a newborn is having trouble sleeping, interventions can be implemented such as light modification, sound modification, infant massage, and skin-to-skin contact.  

How to cope: 

The most important thing is to take it easy and to remember that things will get better. You are still healing and will probably be sleep-deprived for the first few months, so don't get frustrated with yourself for not being able to take on the tasks and life you had before the baby was born. A lot of us make the mistake of trying to be the same person we were before we had a baby and the truth is, this will only make us frustrated and angry with ourselves for not being able to cross off anything on that to-do list.  

Realize that newborns can't be put on a "schedule." You can have a good routine that you implement throughout the day and night, but newborn life and sleep are so unpredictable. Learn to be kind to yourself, eat well, let go of things that can wait, ask for help if you need it, and enjoy the sweet baby snuggles because they grow up too fast! Finally, continue to take care of yourself so that you can take care of your baby, because you cannot pour from an empty glass!