A newborn's sleep schedule is often fractured and unpredictable at first.

Newborn Sleeping Patterns

by Kathryn Hatter

With the birth of a new baby, most parents understand that regular sleep patterns fly out the window, at least temporarily. It may help to understand commonalities in newborn sleep patterns to prepare for your own impending sleep disruptions. Although challenging, your newborn should settle into more predictable patterns after a few weeks.

Circadian Rhythms

A newborn does not possess refined circadian rhythms; circadian rhythms are the 24-hour internal timetable that schedules sleeping and waking hours. With this undeveloped internal clock, a newborn has no particular inclination to sleep during the nighttime hours and remain awake during the daytime hours.

Typical Sleep Length

During the first two months of life, a newborn can be expected to sleep between 10.5 and 18 hours out of every 24-hour period, states the National Sleep Foundation website. Each sleep period ranges between a few brief minutes to several hours in length. Between sleep periods, a newborn remains awake for one- to three-hour stretches. Waking time generally involves spending time eating, observing and fussing.

Sleeping Through the Night

A newborn is not physically capable of sleeping through the night, due to his small stomach size and need to eat every three to four hours, according to the Lucile Packard Children’s Hospital at Stanford. By the time a newborn reaches about 3 months of age and 12 to 13 pounds, he is then physically able to sleep between six and eight hours at a time. Check with your physician, but it’s generally inadvisable to allow a newborn to sleep for longer than a five-hour period during the first six weeks of life.

Establishing Sleep Patterns

Although in the early weeks, your newborn’s need to eat dictates his sleeping patterns, you can provide gentle nudges toward a more civilized schedule. Establish a bedtime routine in the evenings before you tuck your baby into bed -- perhaps a bath, pajamas and a final feeding before bed. When your baby wakes to eat overnight, keep lights low and do not stimulate him; just feed and diaper him and aim to get him to go back to sleep again. During the day, watch for tiredness cues and respond quickly to ensure that your baby naps adequately. Tiredness cues include fussing, rubbing eyes and withdrawing from eye contact with others. When you see these behaviors, place your baby in his bed and give him a chance to rest.

About the Author

Kathryn Hatter is a veteran home-school educator, as well as an accomplished gardener, quilter, crocheter, cook, decorator and digital graphics creator. As a regular contributor to Natural News, many of Hatter's Internet publications focus on natural health and parenting. Hatter has also had publication on home improvement websites such as Redbeacon.

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