Your Baby's Sleep 0-3 months
Your baby will tire easily, but will not yet have developed a regular sleep pattern
At a Glance
Your baby’s sleep is not yet directed by circadian rhythms, but rather by how long it takes him to digest his last meal and get hungry again.
- Your newborn baby tires easily and may show you signs of sleepiness after some food, interaction and getting changed
- Sleeps between 14-18 hours a day in total
- Needs to eat often (every 2-3 or 3-4 hours), and the feeding/nurturing-sleep cycle looks similar round the clock
- A regular sleep pattern is not yet developed. Sleep may occur in short bouts and at first seem quite random both in length and time of day
- In the beginning, sleeping and eating tends to work best with an ‘on demand’ schedule
- Your baby can benefit from learning about day and night time routines early on, in order to more easily adapt to a day/night pattern later on.
Your Baby's Story
In these early months of your baby’s life, he will spend large part of his time sleeping. Adapting to this big new world is hard work for a newborn, and he will tire quite quickly. Just being awake, feeding, and communicating with you during a nappy change can be enough for him to be ready for his next kip. You will learn to recognise the signs he shows you when he is getting sleepy, such as yawning, rubbing his eyes, or crying more easily. At this stage, your baby will probably sleep between 14-18 hours in total, and has not yet developed a regular pattern regulated by circadian rhythms.
As a newborn, your baby will sleep between 2-4 hours at a time, and when she wakes up she is hungry. After the first few weeks, she may sleep longer stretches, but still wakes up during the night to feed. During these first three months, you may find that providing feeding and sleeping ‘on demand’ will work best, until a more regular sleeping pattern starts to develop. Depending on your own way of doing things as well as what your baby seems to like, it may be useful to use this time to get to know each other, each other’s ways, and figure out sort of routine is going to work for you. For some, a highly regular routine and schedule is desirable, for others a routine involving a rough sense of when different things tend to take place will work best. In any case, consistency is key from early on as babies increasingly rely on a predictable environment.
You can help your baby get used to cues around what day time and night time consists of; using a playmat, singing and generally including more activities during the day, and a calming routine in the evening. You may also find that, as the weeks go by your baby starts following a pattern that is less ‘random’ and easier to set a routine around. For example, she may start a three-hour sleep pattern which means you will figure out what times of day it will be easier for you to attend social activities and do other things through the day. Try to let it happen rather than feeling it has to happen, and remember it often takes 3-4 months, or even up to 6 months for your baby to develop a more regular pattern.
During his first three months, your baby spends a lot of his sleeping time in REM or dream sleep, which is the lighter and more active form of sleep. He may twitch his arms and legs make funny faces and smile, and many make sucking motions and noises. Our daughter made a noise that I can only describe as 'whooping', which was very loud and very entertaining. Makes you very curious about what they dream about. Your baby can awaken more easily during dream sleep than when he's in deep sleep.
What You can Do to Support and Encourage Your Baby's Sleep
As you are learning about your baby's ways, you can also see what sleep pattern she tends to have. It may seem random at first, and of course it will be governed by hunger and also levels of comfort, but your baby may already start to show how, where and when she sleeps best. You will also start to recognise your baby's typical sleepy signs, which will help you put her down to sleep before she gets over-stimulated. If you want to start helping her learn to soothe herself from drowsy to sleep, it’s best to try this as you spot the sleepy signs. This is something that tends to get easier as she gets a little older.
Research shows that it is safest to place your baby to sleep on his back with face and head clear of blankets and other soft items.
You can start early on to encourage night-time sleep, i.e. helping your baby get used to a pattern of sleeping longer stretches at night. Create a positive, calming atmosphere and routine at night. Your baby will get used to this and you can continue this together as a more regular pattern is developing for your baby. Do bear in mind that a consistent sleep pattern can take up to 6 months to come to fruition.