When and how should a newborn sleep? The baby’s sleep is not the same as that of the adult or the already weaned children. That’s why the Italian federation of paediatricians has drawn up some rules that help new parents to make the child sleep well in the first months of life and also to guarantee themselves the best quality of sleep possible. These are simple but useful devices that will allow the newborn to rest properly and the parents to feel more comfortable. We talked about it with Dr. Marco Nuara, pediatrician at Humanitas.
The baby’s sleep
In the first few weeks of life, an infant sleeps an average of 16 hours a day. At this stage, the sleep-wake rhythm is rather irregular and is usually characterized by a slightly longer wakefulness at night. When it is still in the womb, in fact, the newborn has the habit to sleep during the day, when the mother is in activity, remaining, on the contrary, awake at night. That’s why after birth it tends to continue with this habit.
In this first phase, some paediatricians advise not to let the newborn baby sleep too long, interrupting naps for more than 4-5 hours, especially in cases of low weight gain.
With growth, the sleep-wake rhythm will progressively tend to synchronize with the external environment, moving towards a longer wake during the day and a longer sleep at night.
Infants get used to situations very quickly. That’s why giving them the right routine right from the start is very important.
“The first thing to keep in mind is their position in bed: newborns must always sleep on their stomachs up, a position that prevents so-called death in the cradle – recommends Dr. Nuara -. For the same reason it is important that the baby always sleeps in his cot, located in the parents’ room. In this way, he will associate this place with the time of bed from the very beginning. Although it is normal for an infant to fall asleep at the mother’s breast, in the long run it can be counterproductive for the infant to fall asleep in her arms or in a place other than her bed.
The pediatrician continues: “establishing a sort of lullaby ritual can also encourage the acquisition of regular rhythms. Adopting regular schedules, lowering lights, limiting activities and noise, background music or lullaby recited by the parent while the child is about to fall asleep can help him identify that it is the right time to indulge in sleep”.
Patience and flexibility
There are no rhythms or rules that suit every baby. Every newborn baby has a different sleep-wake rhythm. For this reason, pediatricians suggest that parents be patient and tune in to the child’s rhythms, observing each variation.
On the other hand, it is also true that the sleep-wake rhythm is not automatic in the baby but is acquired with the passing of the months. It is therefore advisable not to expect the child to sleep all night immediately, a condition that may come with the growth and regularization of meals.
“Bearing in mind, however, that it is physiological that the child, in the first 3 years of life, may have several awakenings during the night – specifies Nuara -. Instead, it should be reported to the treating pediatrician if the child has a disturbed sleep, whining, unrestful.
What to do in case of disturbed sleep
If the newborn has sleep disorders, the best thing to do is to consult the pediatrician in order to exclude diseases and get advice on the best strategy to implement. But in the vast majority of cases the sleep of newborns is naturally disturbed and interspersed with awakenings that may or may not be a sign of discomfort.
Parents should not run at every night awakening but wait a few moments before rushing to the cradle, especially if the child’s eyes are closed. If the crying continues then it is good to check that the child is not reporting any need. If possible, avoid turning on the light and raising your voice. It is better to keep your voice low and relaxed, so as to calm the baby in his cradle, before taking him in his arms.