Having a baby is one of the most fulfilling yet tiring things to do. With their amazing smell, cutest noises and sweetest little faces, babies steal our hearts from the minute we meet them. But a baby’s sleeping patterns aren’t of the greatest quality. They’re used to sleeping whenever they want from their time in the womb. This translates into you baby being wide awake at the most inconvenient times.
In addition to waking up whenever they want, babies also sleep whenever they want. Frequent naps are very common in smaller infants, and a necessity in keeping them happy. It’s important to note that not all babies have the same sleep maturity. Some may be happy campers when it comes to catching lots of shut-eye. Most babies, however, tend to sleep more hours in short intervals the younger they are. This is due to necessary development taking place in their little bodies, and them sleeping in short sleep cycles.
Newborns love their sleep. From birth to 3 months, babies typically spend 14-17 hours of their day sleeping. Newborns still need a lot of sleep in order to achieve adequate growth and development. Growth is prompted by the human growth hormone that is released by – you guessed it – sleeping.
The problem of you being sleep deprived is due to your baby’s short sleeping intervals. Newborns typically only sleep for 2-4 hours at a time, waking up only to eat and have a diaper change. These short intervals of getting shut-eye is what’s making you feel like you didn’t get any sleep at all. But, fear not! This stage accompanied with cuddles and newborn-grunts is only short lived.
Teach Them the Basics
There are, however, some ways you can make life (and sleeping) with a newborn easier. Start by establishing a distinctive difference between night and day. This difference can be taught by modifying behavior and the environment depending on the time of day. Allow lots of light in, play with your baby and keep sounds on a normal noise level during the day. This will teach your baby that in light and louder conditions it’s okay to be awake. At night, however, be sure to keep noises down and the lights dimmed or off. Night time is not for playing and making noises, and your baby needs to learn this through your example.
With enough help, they will quickly establish a circadian rhythm. This entails sleeping in short, frequent naps during the day, and longer stretches at night. You can expect this regularity around 6-8 weeks, but they’ll still be waking up for night-feedings.
A typical 3-6-month-old baby sleeps between 15-16 hours a day, including naps and long night stretches. This leaves you also sleeping longer stretches and feeling more rested in the morning. Some babies don’t sleep through the night at this stage yet, but will be ready for night-weaning at 6 months.
It’s worth mentioning that, these long sleep stretches are definitely not permanent. Your baby will go through a couple of sleep regression stages when they experience developmental leaps.
If your 6-month-old baby struggles to sleep through the night, consider sleep training your child. Your baby is now a little bit older, and mature enough to follow an established sleeping routine. As your baby enters the 3-6 month stage, it’s a good idea to lean towards a sleeping routine. Start by practising a semi-fixed bedtime, as well as scheduled nap times throughout the day. Be flexible with your infant’s sleep schedule, since they will go through developmental leaps, that translates into sleep regression.
Once they’ve gotten used to some sort of sleep routine, feel free to instil a more set bedtime. Try to apply nap times at 9 am, 12 o’ clock and 3 pm. Alternatively, you can just put your child to sleep 2 hours after waking up. This is where you can choose to be flexible or more rigid in establishing a set routine. If your baby has trouble falling asleep, consider putting them to bed a little bit earlier. Often times, babies struggling to fall asleep can be attributed to them being overtired.
It’s also worth noting the importance of teaching your child to fall asleep independently. This can be achieved by putting them to bed when they are sleepy. If they wake up in the midnight hours, give them a chance to fall back asleep on their own. This is a skill your child needs to acquire, and will only achieve this through practice.
When your baby reaches the 6-month mark, it’s time to create a more set bedtime schedule. Of course, every child is different, especially around this age as they go through developmental leaps and growth spurts. You’ll know best how and when to apply nap and bedtimes for your infant.
At 6-12 months, your child generally sleeps around 14-15 hours per day. Many babies of this age merge their 3 daytime naps into two naps; one in the morning and one in the afternoon. Later during the 6-12 month stage, your child’s nap will merge into one midday nap.
Sleep disturbances are quite common during this stage of your infant’s life. Factors contributing to this include separation anxiety, teething and general developmental leaps. To prevent this from happening, instil good sleeping habits. You can apply this by implementing a set, scheduled bedtime routine and teaching your child to fall asleep independently.
If you’re still waking up during the night to tend to your child’s needs, consider sleep training your baby. At 9-12 months, babies rarely wake up due to hunger. They simply, like any other human being, experience being woken up in the middle of the night. As a child, they haven’t mastered the skill of putting themselves back to sleep on their own. You can teach this skill through sleep training options like no-cry, cry-it-out or fading – whichever suits your parenting style best.
Sleep regression has been mentioned quite a couple of times during this article. This “stage” plays a big role in the success of your baby’s sleep and sleep time habits. Sleep regression occurs (1-4 week periods) when your baby goes from previous “successful” sleeping habits to waking up in the night, fighting sleep and missing out on naps. There are certain stages in a baby’s first year of life where sleep regression most commonly occurs.
- 4 Months: By 4 months your baby switches their sleeping times to that of an adults. An adult routine takes a while to get used to. This translates into them waking up during the night and opting out of nap-time.
- 8-10 Months: At this stage of your baby’s life, they are going through a lot of developmental milestones. During this age, they learn to crawl, pull themselves up, cruise or even walk! There is also a lot happening with their cognitive development. This is the time right before they start to talk, and language development takes a lot out of your baby. Finally, they have to go through the painful process of teething – we all know babies don’t have the most fun with that.
- 11/12 Months: A little less common, but worth mentioning – nap time regression. During this stage, babies refuse to nap. Most parents assume that their child is ready for just one nap per day. This is not the case, as most babies are only ready for one nap per day at 15 months old. When your child goes through this regression, bite through a few rough nap times to reap in the benefits later.
- 18 Months: The last ‘baby’ sleep regression has to do with just that. Your baby isn’t a baby anymore! When they’re in the last month of being considered an infant, your child realizes their newfound independence. They can express their feelings, need and wants through little words and phrases. So, when bedtime comes around, they’ll be sure to tell you “NO!” if they don’t want to go to sleep just yet. Other factors like separation anxiety and teething also come into play, so remember to remain sensitive towards your child’s needs.
Tips on Baby Snoozing
Helping babies to fall asleep is hard. That is why it’s important to incorporate a few sleep time tips when you put them to bed.
- Wrap your newborn in a blanket or sleep sack to prevent them from twitching themselves awake.
- Be sure to establish a set bedtime routine. This can look like dinner, a warm bath and a bedtime story before you put your child to bed. Be sure to keep lights on the dimmer side to help your child fall asleep easier.
- Avoid an over tired baby by putting your child to sleep when they are sleepy, not exhausted and crying.
- Set up a white noise machine in your child’s bedroom for comfortable sleep sounds.
- Create the right environment with the perfect temperature. Consider investing in an air conditioner that also acts as a humidifier.
Understanding a baby’s sleeping routine through their first year of life is (literally) an exhausting task. Through diligence, consistency and patience, you can teach your child the ropes on being an excellent sleeper!