Infant Sleep and Wake Cycles
You will notice two sleeping behaviors called Active Sleep and Quiet Sleep. During active sleep, newborns move around and are vocal. Infants often cry briefly and make other kinds of sounds while sleeping or wake for a brief moment before going right back to sleep. Our daughter was premature and grunted a lot, sleeping or awake. She didn’t start cooing and make ‘normal’ baby sounds until she was about two months old. Babies will learn to soothe themselves back to sleep. Our daughter sometimes wakes up and we can hear her cooing and almost giggling as she looks around the room from her crib.
Quiet sleep is where your baby will lie very still and nearly limp. Quiet sleep is a deep sleep and I panicked the first time our daughter fell asleep like this in my arms. As long as the kid is breathing, relax and enjoy the peaceful moment. If he or she is turning blue immediately contact emergency medical help.
Infants, like adults, have sleep stages with REM (Rapid Eye Movement-This is occurs during dreams) and Non-REM sleep. Nearly half of a baby’s sleep is REM stage compared to adults which typically spend much less time in REM sleep. Your baby’s brain just has a lot more to process!
Quiet sleep occurs during Non-REM sleep and has 4 stages:
- Stage 1: Baby is drowsy, eyes droop and may open and close
- Stage 2: Baby sleeps light and startles with sounds
- Stage 3: Baby is quiet and does not move
- Stage 4: Very deep sleep, you panic because you are a new parent
You will find that your newborn may not be able to stay awake for more than an hour at a time in the first 6 weeks. While awake, babies also have different stages of alertness: Quiet Alert, Active Alert, and Crying Phase. Not always in that order in my experience.
During the Quiet Alert phase, a baby is very still and visual inspects the surroundings. This phase typically occurs upon waking. An infant will respond to changes in the environment such as sounds, light, and motion. This phase usually progresses to the Active Alert phase. This is when the baby is attentive to sounds and sights, and moves actively. Then all hell breaks loose and we are back at Crying Phase. During Crying Phase, babies move erratically and are susceptible to overstimulation. Try to keep a calm environment. Hold the baby close or swaddle your baby to comfort him or her.
In newborns, crying is often a late sign of hunger. Feeding your baby before they reach the crying phase is best since the baby can become so upset as to refuse the breast or bottle until they calm down. When your baby is upset it is important that you exercise patience and calm. The crying will pass.