Navigating Newborn Sleeping Habits
There is no exhaustion quite like new parent exhaustion. You feel like your baby never sleeps, but – if you add all the hours of sleep together – newborn babies actually sleep between 14 to 20 hours a day. The problem is, those hours are sporadic and don’t allow the new parents to get much of a nap in!
Babies can fall into deep, REM sleep very quickly, and they are very light sleepers, so they wake up frequently. Also, babies’ stomachs are small and unable to digest anything but glucose for the first six to eight weeks, so they need to eat every two to three hours.
New parents receive advice all the time, and one of the most frequent topics people comment on is sleep training. Sleep training, during which parents try to get the baby to go longer between feeding sessions, will not work until the baby is at least two months of age. At six to eight weeks old, babies’ livers can store the glycogen needed to allow sleep for longer periods of time.
During the first two months of a baby’s life, pediatricians recommend feeding the baby every two to three hours, even if this means waking the baby up to do so. This should be done until the baby establishes good weight gain and gets above their birth weight.
There are a few things parents can do to assist with babies sleeping for longer periods of time, including:
- Maintain a schedule. Make feeding, bath, nap and awake time around the same time every day. This helps the baby fall into a rhythm and gets the baby used to the order of a schedule.
- Sleep train. After a baby reaches six to eight weeks, and the baby begins sleeping longer stretches of time, sleep training can begin. To learn more about sleep training ideas, Dr. Cliff James, a board-certified pediatrician, has created a course to help parents sleep train. The series is available for purchase on TikTok.
An important reminder for new parents: Stay patient, ask family and friends for help when you need it, and try to rest when you can. Remember that the newborn phase doesn’t last forever and you will get more sleep eventually!