I once saw a newborn baby’s T-shirt in New York. On the T-shirt it said “if I am not sleeping, no-one is sleeping”. Without a doubt the hardest adjustment for new parents is lack of sleep. The first 6 weeks in particular are a haze of broken sleep, dirty nappies & parental exhaustion. At times new parents wonder if they will ever have a decent night’s sleep again. Love To Dream recently undertook a study on sleep deprivation in new parents. The results were staggering. Almost seventy-five percent of mums said that they would give up chocolate for an entire year in return for just one night’s peaceful unbroken sleep!
As mentioned the first 6 weeks are the toughest as during this time most newborns are unable to differentiate between a day & night cycle. This means that someone of them may have the majority of their sleep during the day & not during the night.
This is not fun for anyone. Fortunately by 6 weeks almost all babies have worked out the difference between night & day so that most of their sleep is at night. About fifteen to twenty percent of babies actually sleep through from this age (a gift!). But that means that about eighty percent don’t sleep through. Most babies wake once or twice a night to feed & this is normal physiological behaviour. Gradually the night time waking reduces as babies get older & stronger. By nine months of age most babies should be sleeping through the night. To a degree this depends on the individual room environment. The temperature should range from 18-21C, it should be dark, quiet & well ventilated.
I often get asked about co sleeping arrangements. My own personal feeling is that babies should sleep in their own room. However I recognise that some parents feel uncomfortable with this set up, particularly when babies are small. Having a baby sleep in its own bassinet or cot in the parent’s room is fine as long as everyone is able to get a reasonable amount of sleep. I don’t however, for safety reasons, support babies co sleeping in the parents own bed.
Another confusing area is day time sleeps in the first year. This is more variable than the more predictable night sleeping. Some babies never sleep during the day (not a gift!). This is often seen in babies with severe reflux. However on average during the first year most babies will sleep 1-2 hours twice a day. It is only during the second year that babies will drop a sleep although this is not always the case. Parents will notice that the duration of the sleep decreases as their child gets older.
My last bit of advice to parents is that sleep is precious so don’t waste any opportunity to get some rest. So if the baby is sleeping - you should be sleeping. Maybe I should put that on a T-shirt!