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Newborn Sleeping Cycles

16 to 17 hours. That’s the typical amount of sleep required for a newborn. However, you might be wondering why parents of newborn always look so tired and weary even though their child is sleeping for almost two-thirds of the day. The simple reason behind this is because most babies don’t stay asleep for more than two to four hours in both the day and the night. This results in irregular and tiring schedule for parents, even though their child is getting lots of sleep.


Sleep cycle in newborn

Just like you, your baby goes through sleep cycles of different types of sleep. Starting with drowsiness to light sleep, then to deep sleep followed by dream sleep (also known as in rapid eye movement sleep (REM).  The main difference between a newborn and an adult sleep cycle is that babies spend more time in REM, also known as light sleeping, which is thought to be necessary for brain development. Babies are known to spend up to 50% of their sleep in REM stage, compared to only about 20% for adults. Also, newborn baby tend to go through this entire cycle about five times a night and the length of the sleep cycle depends on your baby.

Timeline of baby sleep

Things usually gets better at around the third month as your baby will tend to sleep more during the night and less during the day. They will sleep twice as long in the night as compared to daytime.

At the sixth month, daytime naps will gradually become longer and less frequent as the baby will enjoy close to 11 hours of sleep at night, with some odd brief waking.

Parent advice #1

Establish good baby sleep habits from birth. For the first 6-8 weeks, let your baby nap frequently as most babies are not able to stay up for more than 2 hours. Do not overtire your baby if not they might have problems falling asleep.

Parent advice #2

Teach your infant the difference between day and night. This can be done by interacting and playing with him as much in the day and not in the night. Keep lights bright in the day and dim at night. By doing so, the child will figure out that night time is for sleeping.

Parent advice #3

Start a bedtime routine from young. This can be done by simply getting your child into sleeping attire, singing a lullaby, and giving him/her a goodnight kiss.

Parent advice #4

Parent your baby to sleep, not just put him/her to sleep. The reason behind this is infants, unlike adults, goes through light sleep before going into a state of deep sleep. By rushing your baby to sleep while he/she is still in the initial light sleep period, there is a high chance that they will wake up in no time.

Parent advice #5

Do check on your baby when they are sleep. Check whether your child’s nose is block, whether the temperature is too cold as babies in deep sleep might not be able to communicate their need, and it may jeopardize their survival!

Parent advice #6

Night feeds are necessary and unavoidable, especially in newborns. Feed them every 3-4 hours since babies have tiny tummies, and mother’s milk is digested rapidly. Time the feeding time at the start of their bedtime routine as feeding them before parenting them to sleep makes the baby feel comfortable when they are sleeping and not going to sleep hungry.  Though some babies no longer need night feedings by two and three months, most two or three month old babies, particularly breastfed ones still need to eat once or twice during the night. Gradually reducing the number of late show feeding is an important step in preparing your baby to sleep food free through the night.

Parent advice #7

Take turns to care for your newborn since parents sleeping routine would be irregular in the first few months. This is crucial to fend off burn outs!  

Parent advice #8

In the first month or two of life, when baby is still breastfed or bottlefed as much as he is in bed, having him within an arm’s reach makes sense. It may also keep him safer and possibly reduce the risk of SIDS. However, sharing room with your baby should not be indefinite. It is a good idea to make the break once he grow the physiological need for frequent feedings during the night anywhere from about two to four months.

By following these advices, both you and your child can get better quality rest. Do remember the things will get better over the months!


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