A Simple Newborn Sleep Guide An author and editor of Babywise shares simple tips on the importance of sleep and how to make it happen. BY SAMI CONE M.A.
The importance of a good night's sleep for the baby an parents can't be overstated.
“ Sleep is critically important during the first year because the human growth hormone is released during deep sleep.”
Developing a newborn's sleep schedule may seem impossible to a new mom who can barely remember what day of the week it is, but the fact is training your baby to sleep through the night is easier than you might think.
The key to discovering your newborn’s sleep pattern lies in recognizing the last word in that phrase as the most important; in order to formulate a baby sleep schedule, you must first develop a sleep pattern.
Before attempting to uncover infant sleep patterns and problems, parents must first comprehend the importance of sleep itself. Sleep, or the lack of this precious commodity, is one of the most significant influences on a healthy life. Sleep is critically important during the first year because the human growth hormone is released during deep sleep.
Equally important are the quality and quantity of an infant’s sleep, because they affect more than just the baby—they also impact the welfare of everyone in the household, making the difference between being a joyful, alert parent or a fatigued one.
Try to imagine what it would feel like to wake up two or more times every night for an entire week. The destructive impact of sleep deprivation on an adult’s central nervous system is well documented. Deficits include diminished motor skills, decreased ability to think, irritability, loss of focusing capacity, emotional instability, and cellular and tissue breakdown… and that is just a partial list!
Now imagine a baby who does not develop healthy sleep patterns. This means they likely will not sleep continuously for 8 hours any night of the year. Is it not possible that many of the learning disabilities common in children today are rooted in something as basic as a chronic lack of sleep? As the higher brain continues to develop during the first year of life, the absence of continuous nights of sleep is surely detrimental to the learning process.
On the other end of the spectrum are babies put on a newborn sleep schedule by following the principles of Babywise. Babywise babies are characterized by contentment, healthy growth, and optimal alertness. These babies truly exude happiness—which after all, is tied back to being well-rested.
In fact, healthy, full-term babies are born with the capacity to achieve 7-8 hours of continuous nighttime sleep between seven and 10 weeks of age and 10 to 12 hours of sleep by 12 weeks of age. However, these achievements require parental guidance and a basic understanding of how a baby’s routine impacts healthy outcomes.
Why some babies can sleep through the night early on and others do not has long been the subject of debate and study. Dr. Robert Bucknam, M.D., co-author of the Babywise method, confirms that a child’s body develops faster during the first year of life than any other time. While babies need adequate nutrition to help facilitate healthy growth, they also require extended periods of restorative sleep.
Why is that important?Because babies grow during times of extended sleep.
Not only is an infant’s sleep schedule important, but newborn sleep patterns deserve equal attention. The kind of sleep a baby achieves determines the true value of his sleep. According to Dr. Bucknam, half of baby’s sleep time is spent in quiet sleep (Relaxed Sleep Pattern or RSP) and the other half in active sleep (Active Sleep Pattern or ASP).
Researchers tell us these two patterns alternate about every 30 to 45 minutes during sleep. Noticeable differences exist between the two patterns. During the relaxed sleep state, parents see a peaceful baby. The baby’s face is relaxed, eyelids closed and still. He has very few body movements and breathing is quiet and regular. It is also during this relaxed or deep sleep that 70-80 percent of the baby’s growth hormone is secreted. That means healthy sleep habits and healthy growth are connected.
Ultimately, if you want to get your baby to sleep through the night you need to start focusing on three things when it comes to developing a newborn's sleep schedule: order, quality and consistency. To increase the likelihood of continuous nighttime sleep, a parent-guided "feed-wake-sleep" routine is essential. Babywise parents not only follow the order of that routine, but also focus on the quality and consistency of each of those activities.
When your baby begins to sleep through the night, people will invariably say, "You’re so lucky," or "You’ve got an easy baby." Neither statement is true. Your baby will be sleeping through the night because you worked hard to help him achieve the gift of nighttime sleep. You deserve credit for your efforts, but do keep this fact in perspective: training your baby to sleep through the night is not the final goal of parenting, but it does provide a good foundation for everything else that follows.
Sami Cone, M.A., is the best-selling author of "Raising Uncommon Kids", an adjunct professor at Lipscomb University, known as the "Frugal Mom" on Nashville's top-rated talk show "Talk of the Town” and educates over a million listeners every day on her nationally syndicated “Family Money Minute". Sami, who also serves as Managing Editor of Babywise.Life, is proud to call Nashville home with her husband, Rick, and their two ‘tweenage' children.