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September 01, 2020 5 min read

Your Baby’s First Year of Sleep: what to expect

Babies grow and change at an astounding pace, and every month brings new and exciting developments.

The first year of your baby’s life is a year of incredible growth and development. The average baby triples their birth weight by age 1 and grows up to an incredible 25 centimetres in that first year. And that’s not all — between birth and 12 months, your baby will learn to roll over, sit up, crawl, and perhaps even walk.

Your baby’s sleep patterns will change pretty significantly in the first year too, and so we put together a 5-part blog series about how our baby’s sleep needs and patterns change in the first 12 months of life.

  “Having a baby is a life-changer. It gives you a whole other perspective on why you wake up every day.” – Taylor Hanson

Part 1: Your Newborn 

After 9 months of waiting, you finally meet your new baby for the first time, do you recall the first feelings you had that very moment you held your baby in your arms?

As you snuggle in with your precious new little baby, it’s likely that the realisation will hit you that there is so much to know about what they need. It’s that sudden realisation that it’s all on you now as to how to care and provide for your baby’s needs.

In the end, a baby’s needs are simple: food, warmth and comfort, sleep and you.

It helps to know what to expect about your new bundle of joy so you’re not tearing your hair out when you're up in the middle of the night time and time again. 

Here’s some helpful information for you to know about how your little newborn sleeps:

  1. Newborns sleep for most of the day. A newborn baby doesn’t have much of a pattern to their sleep schedule. Newborns are expected to be sleeping anywhere from 14 to 17 hours, give or take. You can also expect your little to only be awake for 30 minutes to an hour at a time, and will nap anywhere from 15 minutes to three hours at a stretch.
  2. Newborns need to eat around the clock. Newborns have very tiny tummies, so while it would be nice to load up your baby with breast milk or formula at bedtime in the hopes it lasts until morning, it doesn't work that way (at least not yet). Newborns need to eat at least every two to four hours, including overnight.
  3. Newborns are restless sleepers. While older children (and new parents) can snooze peacefully for hours, young babies squirm around and actually wake up a lot. That's because around half of their sleep time is spent in REM (rapid eye movement) mode, also referred to as active sleep, where in the baby may twitch or jerk their arms or legs, and their eyes move under closed eyelids. As your baby matures, their sleeping patterns will too, with fewer REM cycles and more periods of deeper, quieter sleep.
  4. Newborns are noisy sleepers. Irregular breathing that may include short pauses and weird noises is rarely cause for alarm, but it can freak new parents out. Here's a quick lesson on your baby's respiratory development to put things into perspective: A newborn's normal breathing rate is about 40 to 60 breaths a minute while he's awake, though that may slow to 30 to 40 breaths per minute once they are asleep. Sometimes they might take shallow, rapid breaths for 15 to 20 seconds followed by a total pause in which they stop breathing entirely for a few seconds. But as they grow older their respiratory system will start to take on a more consistent breathing pattern and will become more controlled.
  5. Newborns don’t distinguish day and night.For nine months before your little one was born, they lived in total darkness and was quite accustomed to snoozing the day away (while you were most active, they loved all that movement) and partied up at night kicking around while you were trying to get your much needed rest. Luckily, their nocturnal ways are only temporary, and as they adjust to life on the outside, they will soon learn the difference between daytime and night nightime usually by the end of the first month.
  6. Newborns need comfort and security. Your little newborn has become accustomed to the warmth, cozy and secure environment of your womb. Your body’s natural temperature is around 97F – 99F, so you can imagine the sudden change in temperature they feel when they are born – for your baby this is like being dipped in cold water, it’s no wonder they scream their lungs out, and for this reason baby’s are immediately wrapped in a swaddling blanket before placing them against your warm body (skin to skin) so that they continue to experience your warmth after birth. Apart from this, swaddling your baby provides them the security they were accustomed to inside your womb and helps to control their ‘Moro’ reflex (also known as the startle reflex), which can wake them during sleep.

    Some babies sleep quite comfortably being swaddled, but some can be rather wriggly and can push their arms out of the swaddle, which often results in waking. Choose a swaddle wrap that has enough stretch to allow natural movement yet keeps arms close to their bodies to help calm their startle reflex. 
    Our Koala Hugs newborn wrap has ingenious arm pockets that keep your child’s arms gently and securely inside the swaddle, helping them to sleep through their startle reflex and keeps them sleeping longer. 
    See why the Koala Hugs newborn swaddle works 


What you can do to ensure you and your baby sail through the first weeks of life:

In the first few weeks of your baby’s life, it’s important to try and get as much rest as you can so that you are better able to help your baby regulate themselves. If you're exhausted, it will be that much harder to get your baby to calm down when they are unsettled. Ask for help if you need it, especially at night. It may seem obvious, but taking care of you is one of the best things you can do to help your little one get the right amount of quality sleep.

The most important thing to remember during this stage your baby’s needs are simple: food, warmth and comfort and sleep.  

And when it comes to sleep, please always follow safe sleep guidelines  as recommended by the American Association of Pediatrics - sleep baby on back  and keep soft objects and loose bedding away from the infant’s sleep area to reduce the risk of SIDS.

Read the American Association of Pediatrics Safe Sleep recommendations in full here 

Next: Part 2: 0-3 Months [Your Baby's First 12 Weeks of Sleep]