In case you needed the reminder, sleep is not a luxury, it is a biological necessity. And while you may have made it this far in your adult life by routinely sacrificing sleep for more interesting endeavors, it doesn’t work that way for babies. Critical development is underway while baby is asleep, from tissue repair to the formation of new brain synapses. Newborns should be asleep more than they are awake, which makes it surprising that it’s sometimes so damn hard to get them to fall, or to stay, asleep. The whole endeavor can devolve into a vicious circle: “They end up overtired, and then they’re harder to get to sleep at bedtime, they’re more prone to overnight wake-ups, and they’re more prone to those early-morning starts as well,” says Hannah Peterson a pediatric nurse and the owner-operator of Dream Baby Sleep Consulting. Sound familiar? Yeah, it happens to adults too. Here, Peterson describes what to expect, sleep-wise, from your baby at 1 month.
READ MORE: The Fatherly Guide to Sleep
Babies Sleep Most of the Day
Babies are born with maternal melatonin, which, in the beginning makes them sleepy pretty much around the clock. During the day, baby will be awake for just 40 to 90 minutes at a time. Don’t push this, as overtired babies are more difficult to settle down to sleep. And use this early stage to cue into your baby’s “I’m tired” signals. It will come in handy down the road.
New Babies Have Days and Nights Backward
Your baby comes into the world with the opposite sleep schedule as yours. In utero, most babies are lulled to sleep by mom’s movements during the day, and become active at night, when mom’s more settled and relaxed. Help baby shift by ensuring there’s plenty of light and social interaction during the day. Also, by waking him every 2-3 hours during the day to feed, so his or her body gets used to taking in plenty of calories during the day. At night, from approximately 7:00 p.m. to 7:00 a.m., make baby’s environment dimmer and less stimulating, with quick feeds and changings before putting him right back to bed.
Baby’s Stomach Size Dictates Sleep
Until a baby weighs nine pounds, they physically can’t sleep for more than 5 hours in one stretch — since their stomach is simply too small to go that long between feedings. At night, expect a one-month-old to need to feed every three to four hours.
It’s Too Soon to Sleep Train
There’s no letting a one-month-old baby “cry it out,” or other types of sleep training. He’s simply too young. A newborn’s parasympathetic nervous system isn’t developed enough yet to be able to self-soothe, which means an adult needs to tend to him if he wakes up and begins to cry.
Swaddling the Baby Helps at Night
Outside of needing to be fed, newborns wake up in the middle of the night when they need a diaper change, are suffering from a bit of colic or reflux, or are otherwise cold or uncomfortable. If you’ve already handled all of these, and baby is still waking up between feedings, Peterson coaches parents to try swaddling, which not only makes baby feel safe and comfy, it helps contain those motor reflexes that can jolt her awake just as she was falling into deep sleep.
Think Twice About Holding Baby While Sleeping
Because newborns are used to being inside mom’s body, they’re initially more content to be held while sleeping. But that doesn’t mean it’s in their (our your) best interest. A baby outside of the womb needs to learn that the bassinet is also a warm, safe, and cozy spot to sleep. Letting baby fall asleep, and stay asleep, in your arms sets up an unreasonable expectation for nighttime.
Adults Can Nap Too
If you need to catch up on your own sleep, there’s nothing wrong with napping during the day while baby is napping. In fact, it’s entirely necessary.