Take Age Into Consideration
Of course, youll have to reevaluate your babys sleep situation as they get older and bigger. What worked at 3 months might not work at 6 months, and things will continue to evolve as your child becomes more independent.
For example, you might need to rethink using certain sleep sacks once a suddenly active infant pulls up and stands, or when a toddler attempts the great crib escape.
When your baby hits the big 12-month milestone, you may even get the green light to add a small thin blanket. That said, make this decision with thoughtful consideration, and when in doubt, talk to your pediatrician.
Where Should Our Newborn Sleep
Your newborn can sleep in a bassinet or a crib. This can be located in a parents room, a siblings room or in the newborns own room. Its important that you have your baby sleep in a safe place. Your baby should not sleep in your bed with you. This is dangerous because of the risk of suffocation, strangulation and sudden infant death syndrome .
You can bring the baby into your bed for feedings, but should return the baby to a crib as soon as you are done. Many experts recommend feeding your child while in a chair to avoid any injury that can happen while sleeping in a bed with the baby. Room-sharing with your baby is recommended, but not bed-sharing.
Get Sunlight And Avoid Artificial Lighting At Night
Make sure you expose yourself and your baby to bright light during the day. And keep lights outor at least dimmedafter sunset.
As noted above, natural lighting helps influence newborn sleep patterns. But it also helps you keep your own circadian rhythms from drifting, which is important if you are going avoid insomnia and be a source of daytime cues for your newborn.
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Please join me in October and all year long by telling new parents about exhaustions role in sudden unexplained infant death and by sharing the sleep-boosting tips mentioned here. I am confident that we will dramatically improve the health of American parents and babies as we put more energy and emphasis on helping parents promote better infant sleep.
Dr. Harvey Karp is the author of The Happiest Baby on the Block and founder and CEO of HappiestBaby.com, the maker of innovative tools to help babies sleep.
How To Use A Baby Swing Safely
The first thing you need to know about baby swings is that they arent dangerous if you use them the way they were designed to be used. That means:
- Reading the package insert for directions on use of your swing and any buckles or attachments that come with it.
- Not letting your baby sleep in the swing for prolonged periods of time. A catnap under your supervision might be fine, but your baby definitely shouldnt spend the night sleeping in the swing while youre asleep, too. The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends moving your baby from the swing to a safe sleeping place if they fall asleep in the swing.
- Understanding that the swing is an activity device, not a replacement for a crib or bassinet. You should use the swing as a place to safely distract, contain, or soothe your baby when you need a break.
These same tips apply to any sitting device your child might need to use. A car seat, for example, is considered the safest way for a baby to travel. Its not, however, a safe place for a baby to sleep outside a vehicle.
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How Much Sleep Do Babies Need
Sleep patterns will change over the first year of a babys life, including the number of hours of sleep needed and the duration of sleep periods throughout the day and night.
- 0 to 3 months: Its normal for newborns to spend 14 to 17 hours asleep in a 24-hour day, broken into shorter periods to accommodate feeding, diaper changes, and interaction with their family. Breastfed infants usually need to eat more frequently than bottle-fed infants, about every 2 hours versus every 3 hours. The American Academy of Sleep Medicine advises parents not to worry if their newborns sleep pattern doesnt match the projections, as these amounts can vary before the first 4 months.
- 3 to 6 months: Starting at around 3 months of age, an infants daily sleep needs drop to 12 to 15 hours. Around this time, sleep also starts consolidating into longer periods as babies are able to go longer without feeding. Sometime during this period is when most babies start to sleep through the night, though there are exceptions to the rule.
- 6 to 12 months: From 6 months onward, babies do the bulk of their sleeping at night. However, other issues such as teething, growth spurts, illnesses, or sleep regressions may start leading to nighttime awakenings. Parents may opt to use more specific sleep-training strategies if babies arent sleeping through the night at this stage.
Newborn Sleep Patterns: A Survival Guide
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As every parent knows, the world of newborn sleep is exotic and strange.
Babies rack up lots of sleep overall, averaging 16-18 hours a day during the first two weeks.
Yet they awaken frequently, and rarely sleep more than 4 hours at a stretch, even at night. Their internal clocks arent yet synchronized with the external, 24-hour day.
Its a recipe for exhaustion, but understanding the science of sleep can help you cope, and avoid mistakes that can delay your childs development of more mature sleep rhythms.
In this article, youll learn about
- fundamental differences between newborn sleep and adult sleep
- circadian rhythms, and how you can help your baby get in sync with the natural day
- sleep cycles in the newborn, and how to work around them
- tips for preventing newborns from waking up and
- advice for improving your own sleep.
Throughout, I focus on babies under four weeks of age. For information about older infants, see my article on opens in a new windowbaby sleep patterns.
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What If My Baby Won’t Sleep In A Crib
Sometimes babies just dont want to transition from Mom or Dads cozy arms into their own crib, no matter how cute it looks.
If thats the case, blur the lines between you and the baby bed. Try calming him down in your arms until he’s drowsy, then gently place him directly onto the bed without losing skin-to-skin contact.
A little massage or patting should help him nod off too. Make sure the temperature in your baby’s room is comfortably warm. Dim the lights and put on a white noise machine or fan to drown out ambient sounds.
Swaddling baby or putting him into a sleep sack before placing him in the crib may make him feel extra secure and, hopefully, encourage him to fall asleep in his bed.
Spring Into Action At The First Sign Of Sleepiness
“Timing is critical. Tuning into your baby’s natural biological rhythmsby reading her telltale drowsy signsensures that when she’s placed in her crib, melatonin is elevated in her system, and her brain and body will be primed to drift off with little fuss. If you wait too long, however, your infant can become overtired, so not only will she have lower melatonin levels, but her brain begins to release wakefulness hormones like cortisol and adrenaline. This makes it difficult for your baby to fall asleep and stay asleep and can lead to early wake-ups. So don’t miss these cues: When your little one is still, quiet, disinterested in her surroundings, and staring off into space, melatonin is peaking in her system and it’s time to go to bed.” Jenni June, a sleep consultant in Los Angeles
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Leave Baby Alone In The Crib Or Bassinet
Baby should sleep alone on her back without bumpers, stuffed animals, blankets or pillows.
Its okay to start using a pillow and blanket when your child is a toddler and old enough to move out of a crib and into a toddler bed ideally between 2 and 3 years old.
If youre worried about baby being too cold at night, then consider a wearable blanket .
Are crib bumpers safe? Its best to avoid crib bumpers altogether. Like pillows and blankets, bumpers can increase the risk for suffocation and strangulation in younger babies. There’s no solid evidence that they actually prevent injuries in the crib, either.
How To Put A Baby To Sleep
Does your little one often wake up crying? Take back the night with this 24/7 guide on how to get your baby to sleep longer.
If your baby tosses and turns all night, reworking their sleep routine might solve the issue. “There’s no such thing as a bad sleeper, just bad sleep habits, and they’re usually reversible,” says Ingrid Prueher, a pediatric sleep consultant in Fairfield, Connecticut, and host of the Baby Sleep 911 video series. Avoid these common sleep saboteurs, and you may actually snooze through the night.
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Give Yourself A Break
“If you listen to your best friend, a cousin, or a neighbor talk about how their baby was sleeping through the night at 2 months, you’ll just get stressed. Tune out the unhelpful comparisons as much as you can. To solve your own baby’s sleep issues, you’ll need a bit of observation, a bit of trial and error, and a lot of flexibility. It’s so easy to feel as if sleep will never get better, but it does constantly change. Just because you have a terrible sleeper at 2 months does not mean you’re fated to have a terrible sleeper at 2 years.” Palmer
Listen to Parents “That New Mom Life” podcast for expert advice on breastfeeding, the emotional highs and lows of motherhood, sleepless nights, and more!
Dont Let Your Newborn Sleep In The Car Seat
This is a contentious one, because weve all been there: Your baby conks out in the car seat while youre driving home or running errands, and the beauty of the bucket seat is that you can pop it out and transfer your sleeping infant inside for the remainder of her nap. But according to the AAP, allowing an infant to sleep in a bucket car seat thats been placed on the floor or clicked into a stroller is a safety hazard, as the babys head can fall forward and cause something called positional asphyxiation. Due to the angle of the seat design, its much safer to let your newborn nap in the car seat while its attached to the base and installed in the car. Letting your baby sleep in a car seat overnight when youre not awake enough to check on her is a serious baby sleep mistake. In fact, experts actually recommend limiting the time your baby spends in a car seat, bouncer or swing to 30 minutes, mostly for developmental reasons and the risk of developing positional plagiocephaly . However, wed like to acknowledge that this 30-minute maximum is downright impossible on road trips, for parents who have long work or daycare commutes, or when the swing is truly the only place you can get your infant to nap. Wed love to see some more research on this recommendation.
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What The Research Shows
Research published by the AAP has indicated hundreds of babies die each year while sleeping in devices meant for sitting. This includes swings, carriers, car seats, strollers, and bouncy chairs.
The research studied 11,779 infant deaths that occurred during sleep. Of those deaths studied, 3% of them occurred in a sitting device.
Of those 348 deaths:
- 219 deaths occurred in car seats
- 122 deaths occurred in baby swings and bouncers
- 7 deaths occurred in a stroller
It should be noted that many of these instances occurred under similar circumstances. Contributing factors to infant death in these cases included:
- Exposure to secondhand smoke
- Prematurity, or low birth weight
- Improper use of the device and its harness
Researchers also observed death occurred more often when the baby’s caretaker was sleeping or otherwise distracted. However, it’s still possible for SIDS to occur when the parent or caretaker is alert and awake if a baby is not in a proper sleeping position and apparatus.
Mitten Alternatives For Babies
The decision for babies to wear mittens to sleep is ultimately a judgement call that each parent has to make for themselves. If you’re unsure of whether or not to let your baby sleep in mittens, there are alternatives to consider that can protect your baby’s face from their talon-like fingernails while they sleep. Swaddling is a safe sleep option per the American Academy of Pediatrics, and will keep your baby’s hands covered while they sleep.
Dressing your baby in a onesie that has sleeves which extend down to create pockets at the end where the baby’s hands are covered is another option. “If parents do want to use mittens, I recommend the long sleeve onesies that have cuffs that can be flipped over to cover infantsâ hands,” Hemm tells Romper.
Additionally, a nail file could be considered instead of clipping nails with a nail clipper. “Aside from treating the underlying cause â swaddling in young infants and keeping nails clipped â this is probably a relatively rare problem,” Lewin tells Romper. “Itâs always good to discuss your concerns with your pediatric provider before trying an intervention on your own.”
Daniel Lewin, Ph.D., D.ABSM, associate director of the Pediatric Sleep Medicine Program at Childrenâs National Hospital
Dr. Stephanie Hemm, Pediatrician at LifeBridge Health Pediatrics at Loch Raven
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Where Should Your Baby Sleep
The safest place for your baby to sleep is by herself in a bassinet or crib. If you have multiples , put each baby in his own bassinet or crib. Here are some dos and donts about making your babys sleep space safe:
- Dont use sleep positioners. These sometimes are called nests or anti-roll pillows. They often are mats or wedges with pillows on either side to help keep your baby in place. The Food and Drug Administration warns that sleep positioners can cause babies to die because of suffocation.
- Dont let your baby sleep in a carrier, sling, car seat or stroller. Babies who sleep in these items can suffocate. If your baby falls asleep in one, take her out and put her in her crib as soon as you can.
- Dont put your baby to sleep on soft surfaces, like a waterbed, sofa, soft mattress or cushion.
- Dont keep crib bumpers, loose bedding, toys or other soft objects in your babys crib. They put your baby in danger of being trapped, strangled or suffocated.
- Dont use cribs with drop-side rails. Dont put portable bed rails on a regular bed. Babies can get stuck in rails and choke. Dont try to fix a crib that has broken or missing parts.