Patient question: Can newborns really adjust to a sleep schedule? They seem too young to understand.
During the early weeks and months of an infant’s life, the sleep/wake cycle is mostly driven by hunger.
Babies who are breastfed tend to require more frequent feedings early on, vs babies who are bottle fed (10-12 feeds per day compared 6-8 feeds per day, respectively).
It may be more accurate to say they adjust to a feeding schedule, versus a sleep schedule.
Most newborns sleep an average of 16 hours per day. Sounds great, but this is often broken into 1-2 hour time intervals.
To try and get some normalcy back to a parent’s sleep pattern, it is often recommended to have your baby feed more frequently during the day, so that they will have longer stretches of sleep during the night.
Infants usually are not sleeping through the night until 6 months of age. This reflects a feeding schedule that also decreases in frequency and increases in volume (more calories/volume taken during a feed = longer time between feeds).
Lastly, finding the perfect time to put your baby down is also important. Many parents and caregivers will rock or hold their infant until they are asleep and then put them down.
Rather, you should put your baby on their back in a bassinet or crib when they are drowsy. This enables your infant to learn how to soothe themselves to sleep.
This also comes in handy if a noise happens to wake them at night (passing cars outside, loud snoring, dogs barking, etc.) Your baby will know how to soothe themselves back to sleep, rather than needing you to rock or hold them to get back to sleep.
There are great recommendations from the American Academy of Pediatrics via the website healthychildren.org. Additionally, there is a great book called The Happiest Baby on the Block that I always recommend to new parents.
Dr. Megan Hall, DO, FAAP
Call 843-236-2700 to make an appointment with Dr. Megan Hall.