How to adapt to changing sleeping patterns with a newborn

Find out how you can adjust your sleep habits as a new parent. Learn about the best ways for getting back on track and improving the quality of sleep in your family.

The arrival of a baby into the family brings a diverse range of emotions, some of which can be expected, such as joy and excitement. It may also bring about feelings of uncertainty and anxiety. Adjusting to a newborn can certainly be challenging, but as you learn new routines and tune into your baby’s needs, you’ll soon pick up your own habits that are unique to your family. 

All new and expectant parents will be aware that the arrival of a child will change their lives, but many tend to underestimate how radical the change will be, especially the physical and emotional toll that it can take. However, with the right amount of planning, patience and communication with your partner you can adapt to the arrival of your new baby as smoothly as possible.

Preparing yourself for the arrival of your new baby

Speaking candidly to your partner about how you’ll split household responsibilities can make a big difference in the initial months. They can be supportive and perceptive about what needs to be done around the house if your role is predominantly focused around feeding the baby. 61% of parents attribute the untidiness of their home as their biggest stress trigger. So, ensuring that tasks such as preparing meals, doing the laundry and the general upkeep of your home are being covered can offer a semblance of normality in a time of stress. 

This, in turn, reduces the temptation to catch up on housework while your baby sleeps, which you may normally feel compelled to do during your moments of quiet. You need to sleep, or at least rest whenever your baby is asleep to make up for some of the lost sleep through the night and to restore your energy. It’s important to note that if you’re awake during this time, don’t worry about keeping your home silent while they’re sleeping. It’s actually good to get your baby used to sleeping through a certain amount of noise. 

What’s a normal sleeping pattern for a newborn?

Newborn babies will sleep on and off throughout the day and night. It will be helpful to have a pattern, and you may even feel ready to introduce a routine when they’re around 3 months old. This could include having a bath, reading them a book or having a cuddle before bedtime.  

Just as with adults, babies’ and children’s sleeping patterns will vary. Some babies need more or less sleep than others. Generally speaking, most newborn babies are asleep for longer than they are awake. On average, they will sleep for around 14.5 hours a day, but it can be up to 18 hours. However, it’s important to remember that no sleep schedule is the same. You’ll undoubtedly be given lots of advice from different people but try not to listen to it too much. There is no ‘perfect’ sleep pattern for your newborn - trust your instincts and work out what works best for you both.

 Although newborns sleep a lot, it will generally occur in 2-to-4-hour periods. During those early months, babies can’t distinguish day from night so expect them to wake up frequently. After 1 month, night time sleeps tend to get longer and by 3 months they might be regularly sleeping for 4-5 hours at a time. However, we can’t stress enough that all newborns are different. Waking up in the night might not disappear for some time – 27% of one year olds still wake their parents up

Coping with sleep loss 

Interrupted sleep is perhaps the most difficult change to become accustomed to. Sleep deprivation has also been shown to worsen the symptoms of postpartum depression, which affects one in eight mothers.

Once you’ve established a good feeding routine, you could ask your partner to give your baby a bottle of expressed breast milk or formula while you catch up on some sleep, which can also positively impact how they bond with your baby. If you’re a single parent, you could ask a friend or family member to stay for a few days to help out. This could include tasks such as stepping in to bathe your baby, or rocking them if they’re in need of soothing, which can offer up some time for you or your partner to get in a quick nap. 

It’s important to be aware of changes in your routine as your baby grows, teething and illness can affect your baby’s sleep cycles. If your baby is routinely having problems sleeping or you need more advice about getting into a routine, speak to a health professional.

Final thoughts from Kami 

Lack of sleep can have a detrimental impact on your physical and mental health, but when you’re forced to adjust to unregulated sleeping hours because of a crying newborn, you may feel like you’re powerless. However, it’s important to remember that some babies will sleep for long periods, while others may sleep in short bursts. Your baby will have their own pattern of waking and sleeping, and it's unlikely to be the same as other babies you know. Life with a newborn takes time to adjust and patience, but by integrating small habits into your routine now you can ensure an easier transition into the coming months with your new baby.

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