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Why newborn naps are tricky

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Liza Montanino
Paediatric sleep consultant

There are two main factors that make newborn naps so tricky for us parents: the need for contact and sleep cycles.

Newborn sleep is so hard to predict because newborns don’t cycle in and out of REM and non-REM sleep in the way that older infants, children and adults do. Instead, they have just two cycles of sleep: active and quiet.

Active sleep is the lighter kind of sleep (similar to REM) where they may move, grunt, flutter their eyelids and will wake up immediately when put down. But after about 20 minutes, your baby will enter quiet sleep (or deep sleep). During this part of their sleep cycle, a baby can sleep through ambient noise and can be moved without waking. Try to bear this in mind if you are trying to get your baby to sleep on their own, and work with your baby’s sleep biology, rather than against it.

You’ve probably also noticed that your baby takes their best naps while sleeping on you. That’s because both skin-to-skin contact and being able to feel your heartbeat mirror the closeness and warmth that they experience in the uterus.

While it can be difficult to get anything done while your baby is lying on your chest, baby carriers are a hands-free way to give your baby the contact naps that they love and that, ultimately, help them get the kind of quality, restorative daytime sleep that can lead to longer stretches at night.

But also, note that, it’s very much okay if you do give your little one contact naps and don’t manage to get anything done while they’re happening. Rest is really important and really productive too.