Rhythm and Regularity for Your Baby. When Your New Born Fights Sleep

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The birth of a child brings many changes. The fact that parents now have the responsibility for a baby is getting used to. Conversely, the baby has to get used to its new environment. In addition to the advice you receive from the consultation bureau, we would like to use this information to provide guidelines for this new situation. You can choose what suits you and your baby or family. For the sake of readability, we always refer to ‘he’, but the advice applies to both girls and boys.

Anxiety and crying

Babies can develop restlessness and excessive crying. This can happen to a healthy, full-term baby, but agitation is more common in babies who have had problems around birth. Excessive crying behavior often starts in the first or second week of life (or in the first or second week after returning home from the hospital.

Why is your newborn fighting sleep

Sleep and rest

All babies sleep a lot in the first period after birth. How much exactly is hard to say. This varies from 10 a.m. to 11 p.m. It is possible to predict what the sleeping pattern of a healthy, full-term baby will look like compared to an adult. The sleep cycle (from deep to light sleep) lasts approximately:

  • 90 minutes with an adult
  • 45 minutes in a newborn
  • 50 minutes on a baby between three and eight months.

Read Also: Five Tips When The Baby Arrives

So babies often sleep for periods of 45 or 50 minutes or multiple thereof. So they sleep 45 to 50 minutes, 90 to 100 minutes, 135 to 150 minutes or 180 to 200 minutes before waking up again. The depth of sleep also varies widely. The ratio of deep and light sleep is as follows:

  • 80 percent deep sleep and 20 percent light sleep in an adult
  • 50 percent deep sleep and 50 percent light sleep in a term born baby
  • 20 percent deep sleep and 80 percent light sleep in a premature baby.

This partly explains why little ones are up more often at night than their parents. It can take weeks for a baby to sleep a little longer during the night. It is also fairly good to predict how long a baby can be awake. The times below are for term babies.

The table in folder Rhythm and regularity for your baby.

Age Wake time at a time
0-2 weeks 30-45 minutes
3-6 weeks 45-60 minutes
7-12 weeks​ 60-75 minutes​
3-5 months​ 1.5 hours​

 

If your baby was born prematurely, these times apply from the due date (the date your child should have been born). The time your baby is awake may be slightly longer or shorter, but usually, there isn’t much of a difference.

Preventing vicious circle

A four-week-old baby is often tired again within an hour of waking up. So an hour to feed, change and cuddle is over in no time. It is important to know your baby’s sleep signals. If you have trouble discovering it, you don’t know when it cries with fatigue. You can then use the above wake times as a guideline to put your baby to sleep. It is important to keep a close eye on your baby in order to learn to recognize the sleep signals as quickly as possible.

Often a crying baby is picked up, comforted, and carried. In that case, he often becomes alert again, looks around clearly, and/or smiles at you and you think that your baby is not tired yet. However, the opposite is true.

Babies can learn overactive behavior in this way. They then remain awake and are constantly processing new stimuli. Because the fatigue is not resolved, it is difficult for them to fall asleep if they are subsequently put to bed. As a result, they cry, sleep less, fall asleep during the next feeding and do not drink their tummy full enough. As a result, they are more hungry and more likely to cry. You end up in a vicious circle of many short naps and excessive crying.

Recognizing Sleep Signals

It is important that you learn to recognize your baby’s sleep signals. These signals can be:

  • Yawn
  • Grow pale
  • Red cheeks and/or ears
  • Fidgeting at the ears
  • Rubbing eyes
  • Look away or turn away (from you or from toys)
  • Whine
  • Act busy.

It is best to put your baby awake in his bed at the first sleep signal and not to let him sleep on your lap (with yourself or during a visit) or in the playpen. If you keep your baby awake in his own bed in a quiet room, he will get used to this regularity and will fall asleep easily. In the playpen you often see best when your baby is ready to sleep.

Advice for sleeping

Toys

Do not place young babies under a baby gym or with many toys in the playpen as standard. They often keep him awake for too long and give him few opportunities to calm down. It is better to wait with the baby gym until your baby is ready to examine things with his hands and gain control over his arms (about three months). Place up to two toys in the playpen (on one side) while your baby is young. You can also hang one toy above your baby in the playpen. If your baby is tired, he may turn away.

More: ”Play” With Your Baby the Right Way

Whining and being busy is often also a clear sign of getting tired. If you don’t put him to bed at that time, he will get over the first tiredness and he will become extra alert and awake. If after a while he starts whining again and you put him to bed, he is actually too tired to go to sleep on his own. The special thing is that a tired baby often wakes up quickly. That may sound improbable, but in practice, it turns out that a rested baby sleeps better than an overtired baby.

‘Stretching’ is counterproductive. Nine times out of ten, if you put your baby back to bed on time, he will fall asleep on his own after a reasonable amount of time.

Laying awake in bed

It is very important that you put your baby to bed awake. A baby who is used to it knows the bed as a familiar place where he can sleep. He will let himself be contentedly put to bed and quickly surrender to sleep after he has indicated that he is tired. A baby who is constantly put to bed asleep often shows the following:

  • Initially, he will usually sleep for two hours straight.
  • At one point he often wakes up within half an hour, starts crying and doesn’t want to go back to bed. This creates hate naps.
  • Then he wakes up the moment his back touches the mattress and the bed is rejected crying. Then he has to be put to sleep. Sometimes it is possible to put him back for a while, but often this does not work and he takes a nap on the arm. He is now exhausted and sleeps well through the night in order to ‘survive’.
  • Then it is almost impossible to sleep during the day and he is constantly awake. You can still sleep at night.
  • Finally, restlessness also strikes at night and it becomes increasingly difficult to fall asleep in the evening.

He is now so strong physically that he also manages to keep himself awake at night. He is now really overtired and can no longer sleep well without help. A fixed bedtime ritual (for example, change, close the curtains, put in bed, tuck it in tightly and put on a music box) and fixed sleeping space is important.

Predictability gives your baby peace and security (because he knows what’s coming), making it easier for him to fall asleep. Comfortable sleeping clothes are also important, preferably no jeans or hoodies. We recommend loose-fitting clothes, preferably made of natural materials, such as cotton and wool.

Bedroom

  • In your baby’s sleeping area:
  • No heating should be on. It is better to use a hot water bottle, an extra blanket or a flannel in cold weather. If your baby is less than 2500 grams, the nurse will give you tailor-made advice.
  • Good ventilation is recommended. However, beware of drafts.
  • Can the curtains be closed while sleeping (also during the day): the darker the better.
  • In the bed it is good for your baby to:
  • Tucked in tightly to/below the jawline with sheet and blanket (only a sheet can be used in very hot weather). It is important to keep the mouth clear.
  • Place as low in bed as possible so that he cannot sink under the covers. If your baby keeps crawling up, talk to an expert about another way to make the bed (for example, a sailor’s bed).
  • Always good to lay on your back.
  • No toys and/or stuffed animals to put in bed. The bed is a resting place, not a playground.

It is important that you do not put any plastic or synthetic materials in your baby’s bed, including a fleece blanket (which is usually synthetic as well).

Predictability (fixed sequence of activities)

Some babies cope well with irregularity. Still, most babies like an orderly life, especially if they have been in the hospital. Predictability refers to a fixed sequence of activities, for example a recurring pattern of waking up, feeding, cuddling and sleeping.

A good idea is to start as soon as possible with a set sequence of waking up, feeding, cuddling, and then sleeping. You can use fixed patterns to help your baby get used to this fixed sequence.

An example. Your baby wakes up, you get him out of bed, you change the diaper and you feed him. Then, depending on his age, it’s time to cuddle or play. You pay close attention to the sleep signals as described above, and at the first sign of fatigue, bring your baby awake to bed. When held on your arm, the baby will later show that he is asleep. You can also build in a sleeping ritual by, for example, closing the curtains together, turning on a music box and tucking your baby tightly in his crib. One last hug, a pat on the head and you leave the room.

This is an example of how it could be done, but it doesn’t mean it always has to be this way: you can start to implement your own rituals and patterns that are most comfortable for you and your family.

It is important that the same order is followed every time. As a result, your child will know what is coming within a few weeks. This predictability provides security and peace of mind, making it easier for him to fall asleep on his own.

Sometimes your baby may cry because he has to switch, but predictability is something you bring in yourself. Try not to make too many changes in rest and rhythm during the weeks when you are both getting used to it. This means visiting as little as possible, not too many ‘foreign hands’ on your baby, et cetera. This may take some effort, but it will pay off with a more contented and calmer baby.

Other advice

Talking to your child is very important. Expressing emotions is fine. Children have an unerring sense of whether what is being said corresponds to what they are feeling. Feel free to tell us about your feelings of sadness or powerlessness. This works better than being cheerful or becoming very quiet. If your body language “says” something other than what you are saying in words, it will be confusing for your child. Complete silence in dealing with the child makes the child feel unsafe.

It’s important to have a normal chat with the child and when it’s convenient, even crying together can be a relief. Don’t name the crying in the negative sphere (“No, no, don’t cry..”) but use ‘yes sequences’ (“Yes, mom/dad will help you, you don’t like it very much”, ”Yes, you have to look outside like that, there are the trees, the sky”, et cetera.).

The rhythm of the clock may differ from your baby’s rhythm. Therefore, take a good look at your baby and respond to the signals he gives with regard to sleeping, feeding, crying, playing, et cetera. As they get older, this can mean that your baby does not want to be fed immediately upon waking up, but wants to play for a while.

It is important that you do not disturb your baby while sleeping. If you plan to go out with your baby, put him in the stroller or Maxi-Cosi at the first signs of sleep and put it in a quiet place in the house (for example in the hallway). This way you won’t disturb him during his sleep. Pay attention to the body temperature (don’t put it too hot or too cold).

If your baby cries with breaks after going to bed, you can safely watch this. If the crying becomes more serious (harder and longer, continuous ‘screaming’), you should try to comfort him in bed as much as possible. This can be done by:

  • Change the diaper when defecating.
  • If necessary, tuck it in again tightly.
  • Place one hand on his head or stomach.
  • Give a pacifier.
  • Try out whether your voice calms down or makes your baby extra alert (apply this).
  • If necessary, turn on the music box again.

For a good night’s sleep for your baby, make as little light and noise as possible. Only change with stools or red buttocks.

In the evenings many babies have a crying hour and/or colic. Your baby may not be able to fall asleep. In that case, try comforting him in bed first. If this doesn’t work, you can keep it with you. The crying hour is very common and one of the ways to process the stimuli and experiences of that day. This allows them to discharge, relax and then fall into a relaxed sleep.

The box is a play area and not a place to sleep. In order to get enough rest yourself, it is important to agree on a good division of tasks with your partner and/or family members/friends. Take regular time for yourself and ask someone you trust to take care of your baby.

It is sometimes possible that restlessness and crying increase after applying the above advice. This is a healthy protest against a new, unknown course. This often takes three to five days. It is best that you do not pay attention to this and leave the restlessness and the crying for a while. If you also stick to the path you just started, you will see that within one to two weeks your baby is completely used to the new rhythm.

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