You’ve probably heard from friends, TV shows, books or blogs a bit about life with a newborn baby. You’re probably already into the basics – that babies sleep a lot, but their parents are somehow always exhausted. Here are some of the expectations we’ve created about the newborn’s sleep, and the reality you’ll have to face:
Expectation: Babies sleep a lot
Reality: Babies sleep a lot… but a little bit at a time
Yeah, babies sleep a lot, about 18 hours a day. However, they tend to sleep in cycles, which can last from 30 minutes to five hours at a time. To help you adjust your biological clock to this phase of sleeping in cycles, which you should also face, consider taking shifts with your partner so that the two of them can sleep a little longer.
Expectation: You will sleep while baby sleeps
Reality: You’ll worry while the baby sleeps
The expression “sleep like a baby” was obviously not raised by a mother or father, since babies are very active even while they sleep. This is thanks to their short sleep cycles, as newborns spend more time in “REM” sleep than adults. This is why you can observe that they are always making noises or smiling while they sleep, but at the same time they can be woken up very easily. You’ll probably get scared watching your little one sleep because of the irregular breathing rhythm. Newborns have periodic breathing, characterized by stops of a few seconds that are followed by panting breaths until everything normalizes. It’s strange, but it’s usually nothing to worry about.
Babies can be a little noisy in their sleep, that’s because they breathe through their nose, obviously, which is tiny. That means they are easily blocked by mucus or milk waste. Normally, this is not a problem, but if you get the impression that your baby is having trouble breathing, you should use a bulb syringe to clean the airway from his nose.
Expectation: Babies can sleep in any circumstance
Reality: Babies may have trouble sleeping
As children and adults, babies need a routine to indicate it is time for bed. While they cannot read a book under the covers, they can learn a familiar song that will become a hint that sleeping time is already coming, for example. Start from day one by establishing a consistent sleep routine to teach when it is time to sleep. A bath ritual, changing clothes for pyjamas, listening to music, and being put on the cot or walking will eventually become habits, and can help baby sleep more easily.
Expectation: You’ll never get complete rest
Reality: This phase will be over before you know it
One day you will wake up in the morning after a full night’s sleep and realize that you have just been able to sleep for over five hours. You’ll wonder when this happened: when did your baby start sleeping through the night? When did your baby’s stomach grow and start demanding food less often? And then, ironically, you might feel a hint of sadness. Although you’ve missed your sleep so much, part of you will miss lullaby, singing to him, and being his source of comfort.
Loss of sleep, worries and new sleep routines are part of a short phase of motherhood and fatherhood that will end before you can realize it. Enjoy the extra time you get with your baby to pamper him and love him a lot, and know that in the blink of an eye they’ll be big and you’ll be able to sleep better… until you’re a teenager.
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