Newborn sleep routines:
I would say one of the most challenging parts of bring your new baby home is sleep deprivation for parents. Newborns will sleep for approximately 15-17 hours per day, divided between day and night. Although they require a lot of sleep, the sleep time can be separated anywhere from 30 minutes to 3 to 4 hour segments. As baby grows and the weeks pass by the sleep segment times increase and the total sleep time decreases a little. Every baby is different with some babies needing more sleep than others.
What to expect:
Every newborn is different and it is not realistic for any parent to think their baby will sleep through the night when they first bring baby home. Babies will start to establish their sleep patterns over the first 12 weeks of their lives. Newborns sleep patterns will differ greatly compared to the sleep patterns they will develop as a toddler. So take heart if your newborn never sleeps at night and only sleeps during the day, this won't always be the case.
Newborns sleep lightly and at this stage lack the ability to put themselves back to sleep when they wake; this becomes the job of the new sleep deprived parents! They will eventually learn to soothe themselves back to sleep, but it doesn't always happen straight away. Sleeping through the night will begin around six weeks or older as they learn to calm themselves, remember no two babies are the same!
What parents need to know is that babies aren't born with the ability to distinguish between night and day time. They have to learn this. Parents can help develop this with their newborns by establishing a bedtime routine. As the weeks progress parents can help their newborns sleep more at night by increasing their interaction with baby during the day, and decreasing their stimulation in the evening, parents need to be consistent with this process.
Good baby sleep habits:
Parents can start to develop good baby sleep habits even when their babies are newborn, it is important to teach baby good sleep habits, it won't just happen! This will then continue into their toddler years. So when baby is sleepy, get into the habit of putting baby into their bed before they fall asleep. Over time this will teach baby to put themselves to sleep and not become dependant on other influences to soothe them to sleep, e.g, rocking, cuddling, pushing in a pram etc.
Some babies will often settle better if loosely but firmly wrapped or swaddled as it reminds them of being in the womb. Sleep suits and specially made baby sleeping bags are ideal for older babies as they often kick the covers off and become cold. Make sure baby's room that they sleep in isn't too hot or too cold.
As the weeks progress try limiting the length of daytime naps, providing greater stimulation during the day. Whilst getting a schedule of consistent sleep during the day is important, sleeping for long periods of time during the day may shorten the length of time baby will sleep at night. Be sure to practise soothing activities right before bedtime this is never too early to start. Having a relaxing bath and a gentle soothing massage will allow baby to start to prepare to sleep, these techniques will become a nightly routine and will eventually help your newborn to move to a more manageable sleep schedule.
Teaching your baby good sleeping habits from the beginning may feel like a daunting task, but they will last a lifetime, and parents will become so much more confident when dealing with sleep techniques as baby develops. Remember that newborn sleep patterns are temporary, your baby will eventually start to develop a good sleep pattern.
Don't let newborns go three hours without nursing or fours hours without drinking formula at this stage.