skills are governed by her newborn sleep patterns. Their
optimal development towards bigger is crucial for good health now and later on.
rapidly, especially in the first six months,
newborn and baby sleep patterns explain why baby's naps and nights can
be so unpredictable, in those
first months, and even past one year old.
this development helps us guide our child in the best
possible way: by accepting what is inherent to her maturity and by
steering towards good habits that fit our daily lives. An overview ...
first six months are key in sleep development: at no
other stage in life do sleep patterns
develop this rapidly. After six months, the sleep
patterns continue to develop. Around the age of four close-to-adult
sleep patterns are reached. How
much is enough continues to depend on age, but also on
personality and environment.
Developing newborn sleep patterns
The main characteristic of a newborn's sleep pattern is the lack of a circadian rhythm.
So indeed, our baby has no choice when giving us a hard time with
broken nights, for her there is just no difference between day and
night ... A clear daily
routine and light/dark cues can help instill
this day-night rhythm towards a newborn
baby sleep schedule.
Before birth, in the
womb, your baby was not on any sleep-wake schedule like us. She did
follow active-quiet cues from mommy's belly, constantly alternating
sleep-like and awake states.
However, there was no day-night difference, no longer naps, no sleeping
through ... in one go: baby
is not born with a circadian rhythm.
rhythms govern our body's daily cycle of mainly
wakefulness during the day and sleep during the night - with also low points during
the day and high
points at night. Daily routines and (natural) light are key cues that
establish and reinforce this rhythm.
newborn sleep patterns
are naturally linked to food:
a newborn and growing baby needs food
regularly: ideally in not too big portions but frequently.
Her natural infant sleep patterns reinforce these food needs:
Baby will wake up
because she needs food, just long enough for feeding, a
burp and a diaper
filling, some socializing and then back to sleep again. Sleeping: to
develop brain and body, and to be ready for another feeding, burping,
A small baby spends a lot of time in so called light sleep,
about half of the time. The other half is quiet sleep which
is deeper. This results in rather easy
arousal, especially shortly (first 30 minutes) after going
She also makes short
sleep cycles: 50-minute slots of light and quiet sleep,
after which she wakes up (either completely or else goes straight on to
next cycle). This explains the frequent (night) awakenings.
(We adults do the same, but in 90-minute cycles.)
As the first weeks
go by, little by little, there will be a bit more awake time: baby
becomes more aware of her surroundings, the socializing with
mom/dad/carer becomes more important.
1 - 6 months baby sleep patterns
Then during the
following months, practicing motor
skills requires her to be awake more. And that's how the awake
become longer. As baby becomes ready to be without food for longer, she
sleep for longer stretches.
Around 3 to 4 months old, the
circadian rhythm has usually set in. Sleep at night will
be different and - in spite of night awakenings - longer than during
Unfortunately, these abilities are no guarantee for perfect nights ...
At this age, there are other factors besides food and deep sleep:
there's awareness of needing mom/dad, separation
6 months and onwards
At about 6 months old, baby starts to reach a deeper sleep more
often. Then little by little, towards the age of 4, her sleep cycles
longer, going from 50 to 90 minutes. Sleep is starting to resemble
adult sleep more and more, most
of the work is done ...
As is clear from the above overview, newborn
need time to develop. They do so quite rapidly and with a gentle
guiding hand, grow
towards lifelong healthy sleep habits. See the baby
sleep patterns page for practical tips.
For the right tools and techniques to teach your new baby the right
skills you may find my free Complete
Newborn Sleep Guide helpful.