Newborn babies don’t sleep in the same way that adults do. They will experience many cycles in their sleep each night, including lots of periods of lighter REM sleep where the brain is more active. This means that your baby is more likely to wake up during the night and may need help in getting back to sleep.
There are other factors that cause newborn babies not to sleep for long periods. For instance, babies only have small bellies. That means that they need to feed little and often. As they're growing so fast, they’ll need feeding throughout the night.
Newborn babies are also unable to produce melatonin which is a hormone that brings on sleep. This makes sleeping patterns in newborn babies impossible to predict. Sleeping for long stretches is out of the question for newborns. You will need to be realistic about how this will affect you, and you should brace yourself for sleepless nights.
Don’t try and force a daytime routine onto your newborn
You might think that you are doing yourself and your baby a favor by trying to impose a routine on their day so that they will be tired and sleep straight through the night. While this may work in older babies and young children, it is not the same for newborns.
During the first few weeks of a baby’s life, they will go through lots of different changes. Their needs are always changing. One day they may sleep later, and the next they may wake earlier. As babies will all need feeding every 2-4 hours, and their sleep cycles are so varied, if you try and force a sleep routine on them, it generally won’t work.
Babies are all different
You can read every parenting book out there, and speak with your friends and family to find out how their babies all slept, but all babies are unique so this will be different for everyone.
You will get to know your own baby and their sleeping habits over time. Their temperament will be unique to them, and you’ll need to trust your instincts surrounding their sleeping patterns. Don’t worry if your baby’s sleeping patterns don’t match up to the expectations that you may have through speaking to others.
Remember, it gets easier!
The newborn phase is one of the more physically challenging stages. The lack of routine will cause you sleepless nights, and you will be mentally and physically drained as a result. Sleep when you can and try your best to look after yourself. If you’re struggling, don’t be afraid to turn to those around you to help out. If you have a partner, work in shifts to allow yourself time to sleep, or ask a family member to come and sit with your baby while you take a well-deserved nap.
Things will get easier. As your baby grows, they will develop more of a sleep routine and will be able to sleep for more extended periods, leading to a more predictable pattern that you can plan your life around.