As a new parent, you’re still getting to know your child. Especially in the beginning, you seesaw between what your child wants - to experience new things, to see the world, to touch everything in reach, to be included in everything - and what your child needs, namely sleep! But every child is different and that's what makes it so difficult to give the right advice for each child.
For this reason, we need to be clear that both a baby's sleep stages and waking stages vary greatly. The important thing is to listen to your parental instinct, as mom and dad know best what is good for their newborn in the end.
Why is sleep so important for babies?
In the womb, babies spend about 95% of their time asleep. And once they see the light of day, they still spend most of their time sleeping - the transition from the womb to the real world is overwhelming and exhausting for your child. Not to mention, their bodies are developing extremely rapidly, particularly their brains. An enormous amount of processes take place while your baby sleeps. For example, memories are stored, synapses are formed, brain tissue develops, damaged cells are repaired, and much more. This is why babies need between fourteen and eighteen hours of sleep per day, depending on their age. Due to the following benefits, you should try to help your child reach that number:
- Most of a baby's brain development takes place during sleep, literally. It’s during these periods that the connections between the left and right hemispheres of the brain are formed.
- Brain synapses are formed during sleep. During the first 3 years of your child’s life, more than 1,000,000 million neural connections are formed per second.
- Your baby's brain stores what it learned during the day while they sleep.
Lack of sleep can lead to bigger problems later. Cognitive problems, developmental delays, etc. can sometimes be linked to too little sleep.
Additional benefits of sleep
Sleep not only has an impact on your baby's rapidly growing brain, but also on their mood, eating, behavior, etc. One of the first things every new parent learns is that a tired baby quickly becomes a fussy baby.
A baby who gets enough sleep is generally more sociable, eats better (which is important for growth and cognitive development!), is less fussy, is more easily soothed, and is more outgoing, etc. As a general rule, a rested baby is a happy baby!
Your baby’s sleep and wake phases
The average newborn sleeps much of the day and night, waking only every few hours for feedings. It's often difficult for new parents to know how long and how often their newborn should sleep. Unfortunately, babies don’t have a set schedule at first, as many newborns get their days and nights mixed up, thinking that they should be awake at night and asleep during the day.
Your baby’s wake phases during the day
Generally, newborns sleep a total of about eight to nine hours during the day and a total of about eight hours at night. However, they need to wake up every few hours to eat due to their small stomach size. Most babies don’t sleep through the night (meaning six to eight hours) until they are about three months old. However, this figure can vary greatly, with some babies not sleeping through the night until they’re almost a year old. Especially in the first few weeks, your baby will wake up at least every three hours, ready to eat. How often your baby eats depends on what they’re eating and how old they are. Be sure to talk with your doctor if your baby isn’t waking up on their own for feedings and you you need them up yourself.
The number of hours your baby spends awake increases from week to week, month to month. Babies often have a hard time getting to sleep, particularly during growth or development spurts. During these periods, it’s completely normal for your baby to spend more time awake than usual.
Overall, some babies sleep two to three times a day for a few hours, while others take up to eight short naps of half an hour to an hour each. So, the wake phases of a one-month-old baby are manageable as a whole.
What should I keep in mind about my baby's waking hours?
The more you stimulate your baby during their wake phases, the deeper they’ll sleep. Putting your baby to sleep too early significantly shortens their wake phases, which in turn negatively affects their sleep phases. Imagine trying to go to bed as early as 4 p.m. in the afternoon - you’d probably have a hard time falling asleep, as you haven’t done enough throughout the day to tire yourself out for sleep. Of course, “tired” or “exhausted” are relative terms for babies and should be interpreted accordingly. So, how can you arrange your baby’s wake phases in order for them to sleep better?
Organizing your baby’s wake phases at home
The answer is simple - engage with your child! It doesn’t matter how old they are. They can be a newborn, three months old or six months old - sing and talk to your child. This encourages your child’s cognitive and linguistic development and bonding with you in equal measure. Even if your little treasure may still be too young to understand much, you can still read something to them already. Look at pictures together! This promotes your child’s attention span. Even focusing on one object for ten seconds demands enormous mental strength from the child.
Go outside and explore the world together! Being out in the fresh air burns calories, oxygenates the brain, and gets you ready for a deeper and more restful sleep. Is your child still awake? Time to put them on their tummy! Even if they can't lift their little head yet - simply trying requires energy and works their muscles. Imagine how tired you are after a visit to the gym! By the way, studies recommend a total of about ninety minutes of tummy time play per day for three to six-month-old babies.
How’s the transition from the wake phase to the sleep phase?
Even if your baby seems to be wide awake, there are many signs that indicate that their wake phase is over for the time being and that they’re now ready for sleep. Very few babies fall asleep on their own, and when they do, it’s often due to the fact that they’re completely exhausted. Just as the wake phases shouldn’t be too short, nor should they be overdone. Here are some signs that it’s time for bedtime:
- jerky movements
- Getting quiet, not feeling like playing
- "grumbling" or excitement
- rubbing their eyes
- making a sleepy sound
- making faces, including contorting the face
- clenching fists
- flailing arms and legs
- glazed-over eyes
Each baby has their own favorite way to be soothed to sleep. Some want to be swaddled tightly and rocked to sleep. Others want to fall asleep while listening to music or singing. Some want to be rocked left to right, others up then down, and still others want to be almost gently shaken to sleep. Some babies can fall asleep in well-lit rooms, while others need pitch black. You need to stay patient until you figure out the best way for your little treasure to fall asleep.
Don't worry, every baby has a wake phase at night, too. This is quite normal and is no cause for panic! If your baby cries and cries, they might just be hungry, have a tummy ache, be teething or just want to make sure that mommy and daddy are still there. During one of these periods, try soothing them with a hand on their tummy before resorting to other measures.
Products for healthy baby sleep
As individual as each baby's sleep patterns are, so are their unique needs when it comes to the right sleep environment and products.
At Zizzz, we offer a variety of baby sleeping bags - four seasons baby sleeping bags or summer sleeping bags. In addition, we also offer pillows and duvets in children’s sizes. We only use natural materials and make sure that our products are specially designed for the needs of children and babies.