newborn won’t sleep?
Does it feel like your newborn won’t sleep for very long? You knew they wouldn’t sleep much at night, but do you feel like they’re sleeping even less than you expected?
Let us discuss what newborn sleep really looks like, and you can improve it.
The First Few Weeks Of A Newborn’s Life
In those first weeks for a family of a newborn, it really is about love and survival. Your newborn has a small tummy which is the key reason they aren’t able to sleep longer than a couple of hours as they require regular nourishment.
This won’t be the case forever and they will quickly experience growth spurts which can impact feeding amounts, times and sleep. This will lead to days of feeding non-stop, followed by days of not much feeding and inconsistent sleep patterns – this is all very normal.
During this period, because of the inconsistent feeding and sleeping patterns, it is unlikely that you will be able to set a clear daytime routine for your newborn. In fact it’s important to not get overly focused about daytime routines for the first few months; it is only around the 3-4 months mark that you may begin to see your baby sleeping slightly longer stretches, being awake for longer periods in the day and not need feeding so often, and providing some level of daytime consistency. Albeit, sleeping, feeding, burping, pooping and doing a wee is pretty consistent!
How Long Should A Newborn Sleep?
Newborns should be sleeping around 16-20 hours over a 24 hour period. Sometimes newborns don’t sleep as much because they aren’t getting as much milk as they need to satisfy them for a couple of hours. This is completely normal for breastfed babies, as it can take 4-6 weeks for feeding to be established.
This is usually less of an issue for formula-fed babies. Though, if there are clear feeding or latching issues it’s worth looking at the bottles you are using, or to speak with a tongue tie specialist as not many health specialists are able to diagnose a tongue tie (as happened with our 2 older boys) and it’s a big factor in feeding issues.
Most importantly enjoy all of those amazing newborn cuddles. When our boys were little we couldn’t get enough of the smell of their head as they dozed in our arms.
What Is A Newborn Wake Window?
We don’t really advise that a newborn has a wake window as they are generally sleeping and feeding. However, they will be awake for no more than about 45-60mins at a time, maybe even much less than that depending on their energy levels.
What Are The Stages Of A Newborn Sleep Cycle?
Newborn sleep is very different to that of babies, toddlers and adults. Newborns don’t actually sleep in cycles alternating between light and deep sleep. Instead, they sleep between two states: ‘active state’ and ‘quiet state’, spending approximately 50% of their sleep in each state.
In quiet state, they are quiet and still, with no eye movements and they look very relaxed and peaceful. It’s how everyone expects babies to look when they are sleeping. However, when they are in active sleep it looks very different; the baby will be less still and will move and wriggle around, often making grunting noises and their eyes may even be open.
Newborn Sleep Schedule
Because of how much they sleep and feed, they won’t have a newborn sleep schedule as yet and you are quite a few months away from a newborn sleeping through the night! In saying that, our two youngest slept through from 11 weeks. You can watch our free video here which gives you our 4 biggest tips to achieve better newborn sleep.
Introduce a power nap before bedtime. This approach is designed to help with the previous tip around feeding before bedtime. If you can get a little baby to sleep for approx. 30-45mins before they go into their bedtime routine (about 45-60mins before bedtime is fine), it will give them a boost of energy that will allow them to feed that bit better before bedtime.
Routine is so important for everyone. For babies it’s no different and even at an early age, routine provides them with familiar cues as to what is coming next. Being prepared helps them feel safe and secure knowing that a feed, sleep, cuddle is coming up. Finally, it helps supports the regulation of their body clock.
The daytime routine won’t really happen at this age but a bedtime routine is absolutely key to helping your baby understand the difference between day and night. This is because they’ve been used to being asleep in Mum’s tummy during the day when she’s been active, and the rocking motion has sent them to sleep. Then being more awake at night when Mum is lying more still and trying to sleep herself!
Introducing a bedtime routine and doing daytime naps in the light and fresh air is very helpful for correcting their day and night rhythm.
Newborn Safe Sleep
Sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS) is the sudden and unexpected death of a baby where no cause is found. While SIDS is rare, it can still happen and there are steps that every family should take to help reduce the risk for their baby.
It is reported by The Lullaby Trust that around 86% of SIDS deaths happen when a baby is six months old or less. The most vulnerable period is under 3 months but it is important to follow safer sleep advice until a baby is 12 months old.
It is now known what causes SIDS. For many babies it is likely that a combination of factors affect them at a vulnerable stage of their development, which leads them to die suddenly and unexpectedly. However, it is known that one can significantly reduce the chance of SIDS occurring by following safer sleep advice. You can read more about safe sleep guidance here.
What Should My Newborn Sleep In?
We are regularly asked what a newborn should sleep in? We really recommend that as part of the bedtime routine, you put them into a fresh sleepsuit and either use a newborn sleep bag or cellular blanket.
If you are going to use a blanket, just make sure it’s tucked in at the sides of the sleep space, it is below your baby’s shoulders and the baby is put in the crib on their back with their feet touching the bottom so that they don’t slip down underneath the blanket. Personally, we’ve always preferred a newborn sleeping bag and felt more comfortable with it.
Newborn Won’t Sleep On Back
If you find that your newborn won’t sleep on back, we would encourage you to advise to speak with an osteopath or a reflux specialist. Newborns don’t often come out of the womb unable to lie on their back, and usually there are reasons for it.
C-Sections or intervention deliveries can lead to posture/reflux issues as they don’t pick up the beneficial bacteria from the vaginal canal, they may have taken in antibiotics from their mother during the process, and/or they may have been in uncomfortable positions in the birth canal.
Reflux and digestive discomfort will also likely have an impact on whether a baby is comfortable on their back. If they’re not, that’s where sleep can be challenging for a baby and family. You can read more about the possible reasons for this in our blog here.
My Newborn Won’t Sleep – What Can I Do?
Usually when a newborn won’t sleep, feeding is one of the biggest contributors. A well-fed baby is usually easier to fall asleep and stay asleep as they’re more content. So look at their feeding capability.
The other is how comortable on their back, whether that be because of reflux, needing some ostepoathy or just wanting some extra cuddles.
You can find our other key sleep tips in our video which you can watch here.
We are a husband and wife business, and are leading sleep consultants based in the UK. If you are having issues with your little one’s sleep, have a look at our sleep plans which range from an online plan to one-to-one coaching. If it feels like you’ve tried everything, then come and try the one thing you haven’t which we know works – that’s our proven sleep method Comforting Through Change™.
We also train people to become sleep consultants. So if you fancy a career change, one where you can be at home ALL the time, contact us via our Academy. We would love to hear from you.