Well, first of all, let’s pretend the word ‘normal’ isn’t there. That implies that there is a true norm, whereas with a baby newly born has no, knows no norms or rhythms, not just yet. However, those erratic sleeping and waking hours early on won’t last too long. And once your newborn begins to set their own schedule of sleep/wake/eat cycles, you’ll be better able to gauge a pattern you can begin to work with. You won’t actually be the one doing the scheduling, your newborn will!
What is a Normal Schedule for a Newborn?
In fact, a newborn schedule in the first 4 weeks doesn’t look too much like a schedule. There’s no napping appointment at 9:30. No “bottle at 11″ to check off the list. But you can start working towards some very viable goals that will benefit both you, baby and the whole family.
We have three goals to focus on with our newborn schedule.
- Learn how to adjust a sample newborn schedule to fit your baby’s preferences and needs.
- Learn the difference between “napping” and “habituating”
- Learn what are the typical rhythms of eating and sleeping newborn babies go through. This helps you know roughly what to expect.
What to Expect
For the first week of your newborn’s life, your baby will be sleeping approximately 16 to 18 hours per day total. This leaves your baby awake for a mere 6 to 8 hours, most of that time taken up by feeding.
By week four your infant will have adjusted to sleeping around 15 to 17 hours per day with up to 9 waking hours. They likely still get up 2 to 3 times during the night hours to feed.
Napping vs. Habituating
You have an enemy. An enemy who can transform a happy content baby into a fussy, unsoothable monster within just 30 minutes. This enemy is known as over-stimulation. Always depending on your baby’s temperament of course, by the time your baby is around 3 weeks old you should be able to recognize the signs of over-stimulation. Observation is your best offense against this enemy.
If you’ve spent more than 30 minutes trying to calm your baby, your attempts to soothe may have overstimulated the infant. Swaddle the baby up, lay them down in the crib, dim the lights, play any white noise machines you may have and back out of the room. Keep a sneaky eye if you like, but allow the baby to self-soothe a bit as well when it comes to re-booting from an over-stimulation situation. Don’t expect it to work every time, but as time goes by, you’ll learn to recognize the symptoms quicker and head this issue off at the pass.
The Dangers of Habituating
Habituating is a term sometimes used to describe when a newborn is “fake napping”. Basically, your infant is verging on the brink of over-stimulation, and so shuts down. It’s common for babies until they are 6-8 weeks old. How do you know if your newborn is habituating? She will wake fussy and irritable, like she hardly slept at all.
Your best defense is an offense: prevent the need for her to habituate in the first place. So try your hardest in those first four weeks to keep your baby isolated from the bright and noisy over-stimulation.
What is your biggest challenge right now in your newborn’s sleeping and eating patterns?