Why Does My Newborn Sleep All Day and How Can I Help Set Their Clock?

Many new parents often wonder, how can this little being that sleeps so much make me so exhausted?  It is true, newborns are only awake for 45 – 60 mins at a time before they need a nap. They can sleep for 18 hours a day and yet parents are unable to get enough sleep.

Newborn Sleep

First let me explain newborn sleep.  Newborns are 3 months old and under. They have not been out of the womb for very long and are still adjusting to this new life.  While in the womb, newborns are running on our biological clock. They receive melatonin from their mother (or surrogate) as it crosses the placenta.  Day and night had meaning in the womb. Once your baby is born, they are now responsible for their own biological clock. Day and night means nothing to them.  Their main focus is nutrition and sleeping.

Their sleep stages are also different than ours.  Newborns only have 2 sleep stages. An active (REM like) stage and a Quiet (deeper) stage.  It is not until about 6 months of age that they develop more adult like sleep cycles. In newborns, these two stages only take about 50 mins.  While in the active stage, newborns can be moving, grunting, and fussy but they are actually asleep. In the quiet stage, they are usually still as their body is in a deeper sleep.

Newborns usually only nap for 1 – 3 hours before they wake to feed.  This awake period may only be for 45 mins or sometimes less. They fill their belly and are out again.  And yes, this is normal. Newborns need around 18 hours of sleep a day. Their little bodies are still developing, gaining weight and growing, all of which is exhausting. So as parents what can you do to help your newborn set their own clock?



Tips for Setting the Newborn Clock

Think of it as 12 hours of daytime and 12 hours of nighttime, even though it feels like your newborn sleeps all the time.  If your newborn is up for the day at 8am, then try to get them some natural light. Let their little bodies know, this is morning time.  In the evening, start to ensure that things are darker especially in the summer. Close some blinds, turn off some lights and let their bodies learn that this is night time.

With newborns, their bedtimes are naturally later.  It is not uncommon for parents to put their newborns down around 10 pm.  This will eventually get earlier, as your babe establishes a schedule. Even at this time, newborns do benefit from a bedtime routine.  This routine does not have to be elaborate or take more then 20 mins. It is just a simple routine that you do every night.

  1. Bath or wash face/hands with warm washcloth
  2. Mini massage
  3. Change diaper/put on pajamas
  4. Feed
  5. Give kisses and put in crib or bassinet

At this point, you may have to assist them to fall asleep in their bassinet or crib.  Just remember that sometimes babies are asleep but are moving, grunting or fussy. This is their active sleep stage.

One more tip, newborns need at least 8 good feeds a day.  During the day, ensure that your newborn is eating at least every 3 hours.  There may be times that you need to wake them to ensure they get enough daytime feeds.  If you can get 6 – 8 good daytime feeds, it takes the pressure off nighttime feeds. If your babe will sleep for a 5 hour stretch at night, you can let them, unless you have been told otherwise by a Doctor or pediatrician.  We want them to have their longest stretches of sleep at night not during the day.

So, there you have it, yes, these little beings that sleep around 18 hours a day, will exhaust you.  As parents, help them establish the difference between day and night, develop a bedtime routine and try to get the majority of their good feeds in during the daytime hours.  If you need help with this or would like to learn more, our Newborn Package is perfect for you. Contact your local Mama Coach today.

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