When you're living the life of a brand new mom, it's hard to keep feedings and diaper changes and nap times straight. If you were anything like me, in an attempt to feel as though you're doing the whole mom thing "right," you'll become somewhat obsessed with your baby's sleep patterns, including how long they're napping during the day. So, just how long should newborn naps be? While every baby is undoubtably different, there's a general guideline new parents can follow so they can rest easy (or, you know, at least rest as much as their newborn will allow).
The Baby Sleep Site tells parents that newborns to 3 month olds should have 10-11 hours of sleep at night, with 4-5 hours of sleep during the day in commonly short naps. Newborn naps aren't likely to be regular, but Baby Center points out that they typically range from 2-4 hours throughout the day or night. If your newborn is gassy or hungry, though, he or she might wake up on a more frequent, random rate. If they're hitting a growth spurt, however, they could nap for several hours at a time.
The Baby Sleep Site reminds all new parents that the general rule of thumb for newborn naps is that they can nap as long and as often as they need. However, you'll want to keep two things in mind: the time your baby spends awake and the differences between daytime naps and nighttime sleep.
According to The Baby Sleep Site, until babies reach about 3 months old they can only handle between 30-60 minutes of awake time between naps. One of the biggest impediments to naps for newborns is overstimulation. You may be tempted to get up in front of your adorable brand new baby's face every minute he or she is awake, but try to restrain yourself when your baby starts to either fuss or gaze off into the distance. According to Parents, the inability to focus can be a sign that a baby is ready to wind down for a nap rather than a sign that they're bored and need even more stimulation.
If your newborn baby is sleeping for long stretches of time during the day and shorter period at night, he or she might have their days and nights mixed up. A doula friend of mine likes to call this "Australian baby time," when American babies get their night and day off kilter. Luckily, The Baby Sleep Site lists a few things you can do to ease your baby back into the right time zone.
First, try not to turn on lights when your baby wakes in the nighttime. Only turn on the dimmest light you need in order to see while you feed your baby. Additionally, try to keep nighttime as business only. When your baby wakes to feed, make sure it's a no-play, no-cuddle time. Feed, burp, then put the little one back in the bed.
As published in Telegraph in Nov 2004, "researchers from Liverpool John Moores University think that the stimulus of light may help babies to establish their circadian rhythm sooner. So, in order to to encourage a little more awake time from your newborn, try to expose your baby to as much natural daylight as possible. If possible, even try to get your baby a little fresh air to maximize their awake time during the day.
The important thing to remember, especially if you're worried about your newborn's short napping, is that this will likely be the case until your baby turns 6 months old and starts napping less frequently for longer periods of time.