Is There Such A Thing As Normal Newborn Baby Sleep?
OK, picture the scenario your baby just fell asleep in the car; you are so desperate for a break that you’re going to just drive by your house. The short trek ends up being to the nearest largest city to you which is over 100 miles away! You do this because you know the minute you stop the car she’s going to wake up. And quite frankly if that happens, you are going to find yourself cry the ugly cry.
Then when you look for answers the majority of well know parenting books &, child experts say this is the norm for the first year of your new life with a baby…it will be spent in a haze of sleep deprivation caused by night feedings, teething, ear infections, etc. We look around at all the other Mums you know & see at the playground & they look equally exhausted, then you find out your neighbour is still night-nursing her 5-year-old. So this is all normal. Right?
In a word, yes.
Let me elaborate this for you. For the first few weeks after birth, baby sleep may be all over the place with sleeping & feeding. They may find yourself sleeping so much you find yourself wondering why other new mums seem so tired. Or you may find you never get to sleep for more than 45-minute windows, which leaves you wondering how you are possibly going to make it through one more night. Both & all scenario in between are typical & you should not expect anything else.
What research has found is most newborn babies are extra fussy for a few hours in the evening, often from 7:00 PM – 10:00 PM, in some places, this is known as the “witching hour.” It is so as everybody is now exhausted. The possibility of even play “pass the cranky baby” is impossible. Since all the people you wish to pass the baby to, – grandparents, friends, have all gone home.
Help from them
Who are now lounging on the couch thinking about how glad they are that right now they don’t have a fussy newborn to attend! It’s not uncommon for newborn babies to have an extended period where they are awake and fussy. By which I mean they are all but inconsolable but WILL NOT SLEEP. Generally falls anywhere between 6:00 PM – 11:00 PM.
While at the time it can leave the whole household in tears, it’s regular and temporary. This time of day is also, followed blessedly by the largest chunk of uninterrupted sleep you are likely to see for the first few months. So, if you aren’t going to bed immediately after your newborn baby, you’re missing out, and I would advise you to do so with immediate effect to stop your sleep debt worsening.
So, let’s talk timescale, how long will you have to deal with the fussiness and the non-sleeping baby? What research has shown is that most of the fussiness & mixed sleeping patterns tend to come to a peak at six weeks. Word of caution here, do not get fooled into thinking that by week seven you are going to end up with an easy baby. At the end of the seven-week mark, as this is not the case.
It does mean is that you will find things will gradually get easier from that point on. Showing what happens somewhere between 2 to 6 months your baby will consolidate their naps, which means that instead of taking 4-5 tiny naps throughout daytime hours they’ll take three good (45+ minute) naps. What I wish to point out though at this age we don’t just look at the frequency & length of naps, we look at the total number of hours of sleep they have had in a 24hour period, which should be close to the outline of the following target below.
Other things you probably want to know about newborn babies and bedtime include:
BABY SLEEP: HOW MUCH, WHEN, HOW LONG
What I have found is if you keep track of how much your baby is sleeping for a few days by using a sleep diary. If you’re somewhere close to the numbers in the chart, you’re doing OK. If not, maybe it’s time to make a change, and I will discuss below some of the areas you will need to focus on to make these changes happen.
COMMON BABY SLEEP PROBLEMS
BABY IS AWAKE TOO LONG
The problems with being awake too long are the #1 sleep problem that trips up parents with babies under 1. People’s babies will simply fall asleep when they need sleep. It would be great if babies worked that way, but they don’t & it is usually the main cause for sleep issues. We expect our newborn to be awake more than they are, which means we start on the wrong foot and a sleep debt occurs very quickly, and the spiral effect begins.
By using the chart as a guideline, you can see where you are with regards to being in the right place with the amount of sleep needed. If your baby is awake dramatically longer than what indicated the “time between naps” column, they are likely to be overtired. I am not sure why we feel this should be something to come naturally. We are taught and learn everything else we do in our lives. It would also be great if babies were born knowing how to do most things like eating, speaking, using the potty. Sadly none of these is the case; we are everything we do & sleep is no exception.
BABY IS NOT GETTING ENOUGH SLEEP
Your baby should not be getting substantially less sleep than is indicated in the “Total Hrs per Day” column. I can’t tell you how often people try to convince me that their baby just doesn’t need that much sleep. My answer to this is straightforward. Liar!
By saying this, I’m not saying that the parent means to tell lies; they simply don’t have the knowledge they need to ensure they are doing it correctly unlike everything else such as feeding & eating. Clear instructions state on the side of the package stating what is required. The parent does not know the exact amount of sleep is needed for each age group as we have become programmed to run about with our busy lives, so it suits them not to be tied to naps in cots at home & that help babies get the sleep they need is easy.
Nor am I saying that you should beat yourself up if you’re doing everything you possibly can and your baby isn’t quite getting as much sleep as you would like. But I AM saying that the chart gives you a pretty good idea of how much sleep your child needs. If you’re vastly off the mark, that’s OK. You now know what you should be aiming for so let us use the knowledge you have just gained & let’s keep working towards these numbers as a goal.
BEDTIME IS TOO LATE
The #2 sleep problem people face. They are created by one of two things typically. The first is that younger babies (under six months) tend to take naps late in the afternoon or early evening, which means their bedtime is relatively late (9:00 PM – 10:30 PM). Whey they stop sleeping in the late afternoon their bedtime should move closer to 7:00 PM (parents forget this step and keep the original late bedtime). The second cause is that babies generally wake up far earlier than you would like to.
Parents will do just about anything to try to get their baby to sleep past 6:00 AM, and they often think that keeping them up later at night will do the trick. However, generally keeping your baby up late just reduces the total amount of sleep they’re getting and leads to a chronically sleep-deprived baby.
So if your newborn baby is staying up college-student late, for example, your baby goes to bed at 11:00 PM you have a regular newborn baby. If your baby is still awake at 2:00 AM, then you have a problem. The MOST COMMON causes of a baby who is up when the bars close are:
You’re taking your baby to a bar. Please stop this; a bar is NOT the place for a baby.
Your baby is OVER tired.
If your newborn baby has been awake since noon, they are likely to be so tired that it’s now all but impossible for them to sleep.
Your baby needs more soothing. Have you embraced white noise, swaddling, swinging, and pacifiers? If not, please do just don’t use them to put them to sleep; they are for comfort only.
I love this quote – No day is so bad it t be fixed with a nap. ~Carrie Snow
BABY DOESN’T NAP AT ALL
When your child is under 3, they almost always need to take a nap. Seeing & speaking to so many parents who have a two-year-old who doesn’t nap who will tell me about how “Little Timmy decided to stop napping just after his 2nd birthday.” I ask myself, “Why did Little Timmy get a vote in this decision?” Naps are your friend.
Even if it seems inconvenient (especially if you have a non-napping older sibling) to maintain a consistent nap schedule with your 2-3-year-old pre-schooler. This is something their little body needs (even if they don’t seem to WANT to do it). Two-year-old kids are challenging boundaries all day long and are likely to challenge naps as well. Please DONT confuse this with a signal that they no longer need a nap.
BABY IS GETTING TOO MUCH SLEEP
Before I trained, I used to believe that there was no such thing as a kid who sleeps too much. The truth be known, I always wanted to be the parent of one of these kids! But what I’ve learnt is that some kids who sleep more than expected often have some underlying medical issue that leaves them unusually tired. This is REALLY rare, most often your kid is sleeping longer because you got lucky.
If you’re worried, the most frequent causes of sleeping TOO much are sleep apnea and things like the celiac disease that hinder your child’s ability to absorb nutrients. Both of which are totally manageable conditions. But if your baby is over three months old and seems to sleep far more than what is in the chart, it’s probably time to talk to your paediatrician just make sure everything is OK.
WHERE WILL YOUR NEWBORN BABY SLEEP?
There are few things more fun for a new Mum (or even experienced Mums) than decorating the new baby’s room. We coordinate colours and stack diapers while quietly fantasizing about the sweet moments when we’ll gently lay our beloved newborn into her crib and silently creep out of the room, To enjoy a healthy gourmet meal with our partner while discussing world events. Ah, it is a beautiful time, isn’t it?
Well, chances are your precious tot will spend very little time in that lovely new room for far longer than you expect.
WHEN WILL BABY SLEEP IN THEIR BED?
The reality is that your newborn is unlikely to sleep inside the charming crib that you spent an entire day assembling until she is six months or older. Further, your newborn should and probably will be sleeping with you IN YOUR ROOM for about the first six months.
It is called co-rooming, which simply implies that the baby is somewhere within your bedroom. That is different from co-sleeping which means that the baby is actually IN your bed.
There are several compelling reasons for your baby to stay in your room for the first six months:
Numerous health organizations (such as the American Academy of Pediatrics, SIDS Alliance and NIH) suggest that the safest place for your newborn to sleep is in your room with you.
Regardless of your choice to breastfeed, bottlefeed, or something in-between. Your newborn is going to be eating at night 2-6 times. Over several months. Scrambling around the house at 3:00 AM is unappealing to even the most devoted night owls.
If you are like most new parents’ you will feel the need to check on your newborn baby for many months compulsively. Waking up every time they make a noise (note: newborns make a LOT of noise), checking their toes to make sure they aren’t cold, and of course – making sure they are still breathing. It is not just you – we all do this.
Everybody Sleeps in the Same Room
Accepting this reality far simplifies the process of sleep parenting for the first few months. It removes any pressure to try to shoehorn the baby into their room for a while. And it frees you to look at your bedroom and make changes that will help both you AND baby sleep safely and comfortably for the first few months. So take a few minutes out of your room decorating fun and think about what might make you both more comfortable in YOUR space. Consider things like block-out blinds, white noise generator, and of course, a safe-sleep option that fits comfortably next to your bed, that you will undoubtedly use in the coming months.
BEDTIME – WHAT TIME?
Before you had kids going to bed was a forgettable event. Now bedtime is a glorious nirvana that you fantasize about throughout the day. I can’t stress enough how important sleep is to your baby or kid if bedtime that is too late, unpredictable, or inconsistent can set you up for a long slog of a night. So by figuring out when sleep should be, what it should look like & how to do this is not always easy. Lots of parents seem to be wondering, “What is a normal bedtime?” So let’s simplify this.
BEDTIME IS LATE.
It is probably later than you would like. Anywhere between 7:00 PM and 12:00 AM.
DON’T SPEND 3 HOURS TRYING TO MAKE BEDTIME HAPPEN.
Trying to get a non-sleeping baby to sleep will leave you both feeling exhausted and resentful. If you’ve been at it for 45 minutes and it’s not happening, then it’s time to accept defeat graciously. Move on to some other soothing activity (warm bath, stroller walk, bouncy seat time) and try again a short while later.
BEDTIME MAY BOUNCE AROUND.
Newborns may not fall asleep consistently at the same time each night. What was their “bedtime” last night may turn into a 20-minute nap tonight? Frustrating but also certain; however, every minute of sleep adds up towards the total daily amount of hours…which is great news at this age.
NEWBORN BEDTIME ROUTINE?
Your newborn baby doesn’t require a consistent routine initially. It certainly won’t hurt as the older they get. The more the take these signs as sleepy q’s and they can help promote good sleep hygiene when they are slightly older.
HOW DOES A NEWBORN BEDTIME ROUTINE LOOK?
Usually, it’s pretty simple – a warm bath, infant massage, clean diaper, feed, Followed by soothing to sleep but not in your arms. Allowing the baby some space they require to do this themselves. Without the need for constant rocking or feeding to sleep as this creates more problems down the line which becomes harder to deal. Never ignore a cry & always offer your newborn love and cuddles to soothe them when they are crying or showing distress.
DON’T SWEAT “PUTTING THEM DOWN AWAKE.”
YES, you need to teach your baby to fall asleep on their own, and all the baby sleep books you’ve got stacked next to your bed stress the importance of this. However, NOW is not the time to worry about this. VERY few newborn babies can fall asleep without substantial assistance. So while you are welcome to try putting your baby down awake, don’t feel like a failure if it’s not working yet.
HAS SLEEP SHIFTED?
When we are busy getting on with our life, we sometimes don’t notice the time and before we know it baby bedtime too late. Sometimes newborn babies go to bed very late and then sleep very late. For example, your baby might be up until 1:00 AM and then (not including night feedings) sleep until noon the next day. Demonstrating that you have a baby who is getting a healthy 11 hours of sleep at night, unfortunately, the timing of “night” isn’t lining up with the rest of civilization.
How do you fix this? You gradually start waking your baby up earlier in the morning. Wake your baby up 15 minutes earlier every day or so until your baby is waking up closer to 6:00 AM – 7:00 AM. The slow shift of everything else in his day so that naps and thus bedtime will start to turn earlier too. It will take weeks for everything to get sorted out, but it’s worth it.
EARLY BEDTIME IS BETTER
As your baby gets older (3/4+ months), an early bedtime has multiple benefits.
As I mentioned previously, nobody wants to come over and help you with your fussy baby at 1:00 AM, where plenty of people would love to tickle his cranky toes at 9:00 AM.
It creates the opportunity for you to have a bit of free time yourself. In most homes, 7:00 PM – 10:00 PM is known as “happy hour”. Not because everybody has a cocktail in hand (although it’s possible) but because this is the only time of the day that you aren’t running after a little person.
Most playgroups/playdates schedule is on the assumption of baby’s naps occurring at 9:00 AM and 1:00 PM (ish) which will never happen when your baby is sleeping till noon.
Having a baby up in the dark and sleeping during the day disrupts some fundamental chemical processes that are triggered by light, which over time, will work against you. To expose your baby to as much natural daylight as possible to help reset their internal circadian rhythm body clocks.
And as your baby gets older, you’ll find he wakes up earlier regardless of when he goes to bed, so maintaining a late bedtime results in less sleep overall.
BEDTIME FOR BABY
Once your baby is no longer a newborn (older than 3-4 months), bedtime should no longer be a stressful crapshoot. You may still have a witching hour, but hopefully, this has shifted earlier and is easier to manage. Other things that are pretty typical for a baby (3 months to 1 year) include:
BEDTIME HAPPENS AT THE SAME TIME EACH NIGHT. – Consistency might fluctuate by 30-45 minutes, but unlike when your baby was a newborn, it should no longer be a complete and total mystery.
BEDTIME IS EARLIER. – If your baby is under 6 – 8 months it still might be later (say 9:00 PM), but when they drop the 3rd nap (usually by 9-12 months), bedtime should scoot up towards 7:00 PM and stay there.
YOU ARE “DEFENDING” BEDTIME AGAINST LATE NAPS.
If early evening naps are throwing off bedtime, it’s time to skip them. As your baby gets older, a consistent bedtime is more critical than napping at 5:00 PM. Meaning you can no longer get into the car after 4:00 PM, take an evening walk in the stroller, etc. as this will make the baby fall asleep and knock the rest of the evening off.
YOU HAVE A CONSISTENT ROUTINE.
It’s time to get serious about a routine. It should be something you love that you can do without fail every night for the next 3+ years. Boob/bottle, bath, books, the bed is a classic.
BABY IS SLEEPING IN THE SAME PLACE EACH NIGHT.
It doesn’t have to be the same place where they nap, but it should be consistent. However, it’s OK to have them sleep in one place consistently and then move them into a new place where they’ll sleep consistently. So, your 5-month-old may still be in a co-sleeper attached to your bed but then move into a crib in their room at nine months.
YOU ARE WORKING TOWARDS “PUT DOWN AWAKE.”
Remember when I said you didn’t need to sweat putting your newborn baby down awake? Work this one the best you can. When your baby is no longer a newborn. Making time to start making these changes when they can cope better with the situations.
BEDTIME VS. SLEEPTIME
Your newborn baby will need soothing to sleep while your older child should be going to sleep on their own. When kids older than one are waking up during the night it’s almost always because they aren’t falling to sleep on their own. Generally, because parents stay and cuddle until they fall asleep and then sneak out. The results in the same problem of night waking that babies have. As delightful as cuddling with your children is, you need to leave before they are asleep. Cuddles had at a different time, so they never feel abandoned.
Additionally, I want to be clear that we are talking about BEDTIME. Being the time you put your child to bed. The only rule is that they stay in bed. You can’t make an older child sleep (nor will you be able to make them eat or poop FYI). It is why we don’t call it SLEEPTIME. As a parent, your job is to give them an age-appropriate bedtime. A soothing, consistent bedtime routine, establish the limits (primarily that they stay in bed). Then leave. What they do at that point is up to them.
Is it OK to allow
Does that mean it’s OK for your two-year-old to sit in their bed awake? While talking to themselves for 45 minutes? It sure does! If your kid is chronically up for 1+ hours it could mean that bedtime is too early. However, I’d be hesitant to suggest this because it is seldom the case (most bedtimes are too late). You can test this theory by temporarily pushing bedtime back – does your child still spend an hour kicking around in there or do they fall asleep quickly? If the latter, then perhaps bedtime was too late. Otherwise, it may just be that your child needs extra quiet time to settle down at night.
Is this a form of torture?
No, it isn’t! Learning to entertain themselves, care for their bodies, or (*gasp*) spend a moment of the day without constant stimulation is actually really healthy! As adults, what do you do when you can’t fall asleep? You lie there and think quiet thoughts until you DO fall asleep. Your child is learning to do this too.
So, bedtime for baby once your child is no longer a newborn baby bedtime should be your favourite time of day. LITERALLY. If either you or your child hates/dread bedtime than something isn’t working, and it’s time to fix it. Personally, I LOVE bedtime. Kids in jammies are the cutest thing ever. Cuddling and reading books is the best thing in the world. And once they are asleep you get to watch be an adult again doing what you love most whether it is watching TV. Reading a book or a meal & catching up & reconnecting with your partner. It is all good and essential to you & YOUR well-being. I, therefore, I find myself asking parents what’s not to love & why wouldn’t you wish to do this?
For help with your as expecting parents or if you have already brought your little bundle home with you and you want to or need some advice on how to get your little one sleeping best and establish an excellent sleep habit then please do reach out. I can help expecting parents with a sleep plan you can use from the moment your precious bundle arrives, making sure the good practices are in place to make sleep a natural and enjoyable time in the house.
Help on offer
I can help parents who have their babies home with them and are struggling with the various points I have discussed above to help create that great bedtime and sleep time I have mentioned. With my knowledge and understanding in this area, I can help every unique family. Don’t struggle & believe it will sort itself; change need changes to occur, so let me help you find them quickly and painlessly.
I offer free 15-minute sleep evaluation calls to help you ensure the holistic programs are 100% correct for you and your family. Find the details by clicking the program link. To book a call, please click here and I look forward to chatting with you about sleep and hearing your positive stories about how your family turned around.