“People who say they sleep like a baby usually don’t have one.” — Leo J. Burke
Sleeping is one of the most basic human functions. And yet newborns seem to need some help figuring it all out. And parents, exhausted as they might be, are tasked with delivering the first of many life lessons.
Newborns sleep a lot. According to Parenting Science, they sleep anywhere from 16 to 18 hours a day during their first two weeks. That said, they’re light sleepers and can nap anywhere from just 30 minutes up to four hours.
That’s because their internal clocks have yet to be synchronized with the external 24-hour day. And a good portion of a newborn’s sleep is called ‘active sleep,’ which is a light sleep characterized by fluttering eyelids; rapid, irregular breathing; occasional body movements; and grunts or brief cries.
Experts at the Mayo Clinic suggest several tips to help newborns sleep. That includes developing a routine, such as bringing your baby into your bedroom (but not your bed,) and adding bathing, cuddling, singing, or something soothing.
Dr. Gwen Dewar, a biological anthropologist, offers tips on easing a newborn into healthy sleeping patterns. Side note — Dewar started Parenting Science after becoming a new parent who was “hungry for scientifically-savvy information about child-rearing.”
She says a baby who seems to be waking up may go back to sleep very quickly if left alone. And a full belly just before bed will typically translate into a longer sleep.
Tips for Getting a Newborn to Sleep at Night
- Make baby part of the daily routine - This is a good way to help a newborn adapt quicker to the 24-hour day. One study shows newborns who were active at the same time of day as their mothers for the first four months were quicker to develop a body clock.
- Reduce stimulation at night – Even when the baby is up feeding in the middle of the night, keep activity to a minimum. That means keep things quiet and limit moving the baby around. Try your best to avoid waking the newborn all the way up, which teaches them that nighttime is for sleep and quiet.
- Expose your newborn to natural lighting patterns - One study shows newborns slept longer at night if their parents routinely turned out the lights by 9 p.m. And another one saw young babies tended to sleep longer if they are exposed to lots of early afternoon light.
- Get the baby outside - researchers found babies who spend time outdoors access much higher daytime light levels which may help them develop stronger body clocks.
- Try a massage - More research is needed on this topic, but a promising experiment showed a massage can help lull an infant to sleep.
In the trial, mothers who massaged newborns with lotion at bedtime had better sleep outcomes than those who massaged babies without lotion and those who didn’t massage at all.
- Let them be, even if they pee - If a diaper change is urgently required, a baby will let their parents know. In an experiment, researchers injected water into diapers of sleeping babies to see if it would wake them up. It didn’t.
“Remember, things will get better,” Dewar says. “Newborns have special sleep patterns and special needs. But things will start to get better around 12 weeks postpartum.”
Brooke Nalle, a sleep consultant, says you can recreate the womb-like environment with blackout shades and a white-noise machine by muffling noise and light.
"Half of a baby's sleep is REM, or rapid eye movement. This is the light-sleep stage in which dreams occur, so it can seem as if almost anything will wake him: Your phone rings in the living room, you laugh too loudly at your Netflix show, you pull a tissue out of the box,” Nalle says. “But that is less likely to happen with a white-noise machine running because the background noise covers it all.”
The Public Health Agency of Canada has information to arm new parents with important information on ensuring their babies are sleeping safely.
ParentsCanada has a great section entitled Baby and Child Care Encyclopedia which simplifies information that could be useful, especially for first-time parents.
Do these tips work for newborn Puppies?
If your task is to get puppy to sleep through the night, we have some intel. Here are three top tips to help get your puppy to sleep through the night.
- Set a routine - Feed them dinner at the same time daily and make sure it’s early enough for them to digest it before bedtime. Schedule walks around the same time every day and keep bedtime the same every day.
- Keep them active – It’s important to tire puppy’s out with lots of exercise both mentally and physically. For many breeds a couple of walks a day is not enough. They also need to be challenged mentally by playing games or learning new tricks. Here are some great DIY toys that you can make to help entertain your dog and tire them out.
- Set the mood - Have a sleeping area like a crate set up for your dog with proper bedding, turn the lights low and add some soothing music. Don’t let them share your bed with you as this can cause you to sleep poorly.