5 Surprising Things About Baby Sleep in the First 6 Months


17 Jun 2024

5 Surprising Things About Baby Sleep in the First 6 Months

Jemma Munford
5 Surprising Things About Baby Sleep in the First 6 Months

Welcoming a newborn into your home is an exciting, joyful, and often challenging experience.

One of the most common challenges new parents face is understanding and managing on disrupted sleep. The commonly used phrase ‘sleeping like a baby’ describes someone sleeping soundly, still and quietly, but is that really how babies sleep?

Here are five surprising things about baby sleep during the first six months that every new parent should know.

 1. Newborns Sleep a Lot, but Not for Long Periods

Newborns typically sleep between 14 to 17 hours a day. This might sound like a lot, but the surprising part is that they sleep in short bursts, usually ranging from 2 to 4 hours at a time. This is because newborns have tiny stomachs and need to wake frequently for feedings. Babies can also feed and sleep at the same time, so it can often feel you’re your baby sleeps nowhere near the 14-17 hour a day average. These short sleep cycles and few opportunities to put them down can be exhausting for new parents, but is very normal and nothing to worry about.

2. Day-Night Confusion is Real

One of the most common issues in the first few weeks is day-night confusion. Babies are born without a developed circadian rhythm, the internal clock that regulates sleep-wake cycles. As a result, they might sleep soundly during the day and be more wakeful at night. Over time, exposure to natural light during the day and a dark, quiet environment at night helps them adjust, but this can take several weeks. Usually by 8-12 weeks babies are starting to figure it out and you might start to see some longer stretches at night time.

3. Sleep Patterns Change Rapidly

Just when you think you've figured out your baby's sleep schedule, it changes. Between growth spurts, developmental milestones, and changes in feeding patterns, a baby's sleep can be highly unpredictable. Between 3 and 6 months, many babies experience the "4-month sleep regression," a period where sleep patterns shift, and previously good sleepers might start waking up frequently again.

4. Babies Make a Lot of Noise While Sleeping

New parents are often surprised (and sometimes alarmed) by the variety of noises their babies make while sleeping. From grunts and gurgles to whimpers and cries, newborns can be quite vocal in their sleep. These noises are usually normal and are part of the baby's development as their respiratory and digestive systems mature. However, it's always good to consult your GP or health visitor if you have concerns about your baby's sounds during sleep. Note that snoring and mouth breathing isn’t typical in infants so should always be checked out by your GP.

5. Safe Sleep Practices Are Crucial

While it might be tempting to try different sleep positions to find one that seems to help your baby sleep better, it's essential to follow safe sleep guidelines to reduce the risk of Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS).

The Lullaby Trust recommends that babies sleep on their backs on a firm mattress, in a clear sleep space, so no soft bedding, pillows, bumpers or toys.

The room should be between 16 and 20 degrees to avoid your baby overheating, use an appropriate tog-rated sleep sack and remove hats. It’s best to check your baby’s temperature at the back of their neck or chest rather than feeling their hands as their hands and feet are usually cold (which is normal).

Keep your baby smoke-free in pregnancy and afterwards.

Your baby should be in the same room as you for ALL sleep, including naps and at night time for at least the first six months.

Navigating the world of baby sleep in the first six months can be a journey filled with surprises and adjustments. From understanding that frequent wake-ups are normal to recognising the importance of safe sleep practices, being informed can make a significant difference in how parents handle this exciting and life-changing transition into parenthood.

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