A newborn`s sleep
The little brain of a newborn baby is too immature to handle everyday life. She can't eat on her own, she can`t tell you that her diaper is dirty or that she's thirsty. A newborn baby has this in common with an 80-year old man, who also cannot take care of himself.
However, the infant needs to be awake more often than the elderly person does, because he must train his senses and his muscles to work properly. With its tiny lungs still filled up with amniotic fluid, a baby breathes best when held upright against its mother's chest in a vertical position (because in the womb it was practically standing).
The fetus in pregnancy spends most of her time sleeping in what doctors call "light sleep" but in the adult world would be called "awake." Only in the last month of pregnancy does the fetus spend about an hour a day in deep sleep, which is necessary for growth and restoration.
The newborn baby sleeps almost all the time at first, but this is not really sleep as we know it. It's more like drowsiness because her brainwaves show that she is definitely not asleep when she's sleeping. In only about six weeks will your baby's sleep pattern change from mostly light sleep to what we can call real or true sleep. Up till then, she will fall asleep only if you hold her during those rare periods when her body allows her to drift off into true slumber.
The circadian rhythm of a newborn - why do they always sleep?
Newborns sleep a lot, for about two-thirds of their day. However, babies aren't lazy, and they don`t sleep because they are bored. They aren`t "wired" to fall asleep when it's dark (like most adults) or when you place them in the cot (unlike many older children). Explanations vary as to why newborns spend so much time sleeping; but at this early stage of life, several theories make sense.
It is important that you 'wake up' your baby during her first weeks of life. She needs contact with people who love her - not just any person will do! It would seem normal to assume she should be happiest in her mother's arms, but some mothers have to return to work soon after the baby is born, and they may leave him in the care of strangers.
Waking up your baby will give her some experience at being outside the womb, even though she is still sleeping most of the time. Her muscles are not yet strong enough for her to lift her head or roll over on her own, but it's good for her to practice these movements while she helps herself fall back asleep.
This is why newborn babies need naps throughout the day; whereas adults can go without sleep for many hours, babies must take their power naps or they will be overtired - which makes them more likely to stay awake even longer!
Newborns do best with a schedule that alternates between active and quiet times. They should be awake for about an hour after every 2 to 3 hours they spend sleeping. This helps them develop their arms and legs, as well as practice turning their heads from side to side (which will help them later on when they start sitting up).
During the first weeks of life, you can also try giving your baby a bath at least once a day; this will make her sleepy afterward. Of course, it is important not to let water get into your newborn`s nose or ears; but unless she has some kind of problems like asthma or diabetes, she will be completely safe if you follow the instructions given by the doctor who delivered her.
Does a newborn`s sleep differ from a sleep of an adult?
When you hold your baby, she does not feel alone so she can sleep deeply. She feels protected and secure, which is what adults need to do in order to sleep well. So you probably guessed it: yes, newborns usually only sleep well when held. Some infants even seem to prefer sleeping on their stomachs or side with their arms snug against the chest—they will wake up if turned over onto their backs—which makes them feel even more secure.
Adults need about eight hours of sleep a night. But first, they need to go through two cycles: one of deep (or slow-wave) sleep and one of dreaming (or REM, or paradoxical) sleep. Deep sleep is when the brainwaves show that the body is very relaxed and practically motionless except for the slow waves moving across the cortex as we dream in our dreams. This is what adult brains do every night if they get enough undisturbed rest.
Dreaming sleep doesn't function properly without deep sleep first; so we can say that it takes at least seven and a half hours before you can experience complete dreams. If someone deprived an adult of dreaming sleep for just one, he would be tired and cranky and would probably feel like staying in bed the whole day!
Because newborns spend most of their sleep time in light sleep, they don`t need much dreaming sleep. So while your baby has to get her fair share of deep (slow-wave) sleep, she can miss out on some REM (dreaming) sleep without feeling tired or cranky. As a matter of fact, new research shows that babies who dream more wake up more often during the night than those who dreamless.
Why does a baby only fall asleep when I hold him?
You might think it's because he\she likes the comfort and warmth and security of your body—and there is certainly some truth to that. But there are other reasons why your baby hates being put down to sleep, even in his crib.
First of all, the way you hold him allows for good blood circulation through his body. Do you know how warm and cozy it feels when someone holds you close against them? It may feel great because the embrace keeps the blood rushing through your veins much more active than when you're just lying on your back with cold air circulating around. If this explanation seems too "romantic," then think about it as an exercise for mommy's arms or daddy's arms!
Second, holding your baby makes him feel safe; remember that he still has memories of feeling completely secure within the womb—with no worry about falling, sleeping peacefully all night long, and dreams of slow waves. Sleeping only on his back will probably make your baby feel insecure enough to show clear signs of stress; if he can't see you, he might wonder where you went off to!
Finally, some babies prefer the rhythmical sound of your heartbeat or breathing as they fall asleep. This is like lulling them gently into dreamland (yes, it's also a kind of security factor); there are even babies who fall asleep faster when lying next to their mothers than when alone in their cribs.
Your baby falls asleep only when holding and here is the true explanation from psychologists. The relationship between parents and a baby is a very complicated connection. It is a relationship of love and trust, which should be developed from the first days of a baby's life. Your baby does not know that you are its mother or father but it feels your presence as someone who takes care of him/her. So he/she expects you to provide all his/her needs, including food, warmth, security and love.
When you hold your baby he/she feels secured and loved; this is why he/she falls asleep in your arms (which also was very comfortable for him/her inside the womb). Also, it feels like home to him/her. So don't be surprised if your baby prefers to sleep with you than alone in his crib.
This does not mean that you should always keep him/her close; on the contrary, it is very important for yourself and others around let him/her understand that there is a big world full of lovely people who take care of him/her as well as about everyone else around them. So even though some babies need lulling into dreamland by their mothers' or fathers' heartbeats, they should be taught how to fall asleep by themselves in their cribs.
Many people have a wrong conception that babies who have been abused during the early days of their lives tend to attach very much to their parents and refuse to be alone at all. This is a total misconception because even if your baby will not let you leave him/her for a while he\she will keep this attitude for some time only. Then he\she will discover the world getting used to going his/her own way rather than being attached with his/her mother or father always.
At last, we would like to say that even though the relationship between you and your baby is so complicated it can't be explained easily in words, it is very important that you understand the needs of your baby. You should be patient with him/her, love him/her and consol him/her if he/she cries.
Above all, do not get stressed because this will have a bad effect on both you and your child. If you think that something is wrong with your baby or his\her health condition then without hesitation take him\her to the doctor for examination because babies are very delicate creatures therefore their require more attention than other people around them.
What are the most comfortable poses to hold the newborn during sleep?
In fact, there are no special positions carried out from the medical point of view. It is not necessary to hold an infant during sleep at all. There were cases when a child was sleeping well and waking up fresh after several months that it was only held by parents or other family members.
Newborns can't turn on their backs so they give preference to the pose lying sideways on their mothers' arms. Of course, your baby will be more comfortable if he\she sleeps in a bassinet near you because this way you can observe its condition constantly and see whether something is wrong with him\her without getting up from bed.
In what position should a newborn sleep?
Medical research shows that babies start making regular breathing movements as early as 4-5 weeks so it is not worth worrying about breathings during sleep. A baby can lie on its stomach just after he/she was born but doctors recommend parents to lay down their babies with their backs upwards. Moreover, the pose lying sideways is preferable to frontwards because this position prevents babies from choking when they bring both of their hands close to his\her mouth.
You should not worry if your baby wakes up during nighttime in some pose different from the one you carried him in before putting him in bed because usually laid newborns roll over themselves in some minutes and find themselves in a comfortable position. It is very important for newborns to feel safe and warm (especially when it comes to cold weather) therefore mothers are recommended to make sure that their baby is kept safe and sound no matter whether he/she sleeps with her or not.
Generally, there is nothing more important than your baby's safety; we would like to repeat this phrase again – think first about him\her then about yourself! You should never worry that you will spoil his\her sleeping by laying your little treasure down for a while because he\she will only have pleasant memories of being held in your arms.
When should you get worried?
If your baby does not sleep longer than 2 hours! If you are afraid to lay down your baby because his\her nose keeps on being stuffy. If instead of sleeping he\she is constantly crying and nothing helps.
If the first three moments don't cause any doubts, you should call a pediatrician as soon as possible for examination because these are signs that something is wrong with the child's health condition. You may read that some poses are uncomfortable or even harmful but remember that each baby has its own character so it will behave according to its wishes if not feeling sick.
So, there are no generally accepted rules on how to hold a newborn during sleep because every child behaves differently providing the amount of attention it gets from parents differs too. The main thing is to follow your heart because this way you will do the best for your baby!