Having a newborn baby is wonderful and magical but it can also be very disorienting! You are suddenly thrust into taking care of a little being who is mysterious and confusing, and you are trying to make sense of this new life while being sleep deprived and recovering from a major medical event. Baby sleep is often a huge source of stress and anxiety for new parents because it is so unlike our own adult sleep, and therefore it can be very hard to understand what is typical for a newborn baby.
Newborns sleep a lot! A newborn baby’s sleep will come in fragmented bursts of 25 minutes to 3 hours (sometimes 4 if you’re lucky!) and this will occur around the clock. In the first 8 weeks the baby’s days and nights are confused. You may see more sleep during the day than at night and as difficult as that is for parents, it is completely normal for the baby. Some parents may be tempted to keep their baby awake during the day in order to promote better night sleep, but this will actually lead the baby to become overtired, which contributes to increased crying and poorer sleep. Have faith that their days and nights will evolve and their sleep will come together in time. By the time a baby is 8 weeks old they have typically resolved their day/night confusion and their longer sleep periods occur at night.
Your job as a parent is to help your newborn sleep in whatever way works. Some babies need to be held, rocked, carried, nursed, walked or bottle-fed in order to get them to sleep and that’s completely fine. You will not be spoiling your baby by doing these things and you will not be forming bad habits. In the first 8 weeks your focus can be on bonding with your baby, recovering from childbirth, making sense of your new family and settling in at home. Although it is a big shift from how we as adults sleep, it is completely fine for your young baby to sleep this way.
Many babies will reach their peak of fussiness at around 6 weeks of age. There is something called the Period of PURPLE Crying that I only wish I had known about when my babies were tiny! The Period of PURPLE Crying is completely normal fussiness (usually worse in the evening) that begins when newborns are about 2 weeks old and peaks when they are 6 weeks old. Usually by 3-4 months of age PURPLE crying has ended. It is important to note that this is called the Period of PURPLE Crying because it is a period of time and it will end. All babies will experience this – some to lesser degrees than others – and it is a perfectly normal period in their development. So if you are reading this post when your baby is in the throes of PURPLE crying and disorganized newborn sleep and you’re wondering when (or if) things will improve, hang in there! It’s hard and exhausting but it will get better and you are not alone. Babies get older and evolve and soon enough your endless nights will be behind you.