Unlike adults, babies do not have a fully-developed internal biological clock, or circadian rhythm. Hence their sleeping pattern does not often reflect the natural daytime and night-time cycle.
Their sleeping patterns can be best described as erratic and unpredictable.
However, given how important sleep is for the development of a newborn, especially in the initial few days and months post delivery, one must ensure that babies get adequate rest and sleep.
Dr Bhaskar Shenoy, General Paediatrician, Manipal Hospital, Bengaluru, says: “In general, in the initial days or weeks, babies can sleep as much as 20 to 22 hours a day. By the end of a month, they sleep for around 18 hours a day. The total amount of sleep hours keep on coming down. Most often they will sleep in the day time and not sleep at night. Only 10 percent babies sleep peacefully at night.”
There isn’t a proven ideal estimate of what is the most optimal sleep duration, but there exists ballpark estimates which are recommended by all child specialists.
A one-month old baby should, on an average, sleep for eight hours at night and eight hours during the day.
Till the age of two months, babies can spend anything between 16 to 18 hours sleeping spread over three to five naps throughout the day.
A three-month or four-month old baby would on an average have ten hours of night-time sleep and five hours of day-time sleep. Newborns at this age would ideally spend 14 to 16 hours sleeping, spread over around three naps, each spanning four to five hours.
For babies between the ages of five and six-months, the average sleep duration would be approximately 14 hours. This would be broken into ten hours of night-time sleep and roughly three to four hours of daytime sleep.
With age, the sleep requirements of the babies go down. Their sleeping patterns also become more stable and predictable. Please note, that these are mere estimates. However, if parents feel that their child is not sleeping enough, consulting a doctor is advisable. This is crucial because, sleep deprivation at an early age can have a debilitating impact on the baby’s development in the future.
The erratic schedule of the baby’s sleep may pose challenges to the new parents. The parents may be hard-pressed for time. They need to constantly pander to the baby and also entertain all the guests who drop by. It is advisable to always split the duty of attending to your baby with your partner. Instead of one parent staying up the whole night swaddling and feeding the baby, parents can take turns to attend to the baby through the night.
Small planning and sharing of work like this will allow smooth functioning for the parents in the most demanding initial days post delivery.