Helping Your Baby To Sleep
Some babies sleep much more than others. Some sleep for long periods, others in short bursts. Some soon sleep through the night, while some don’t for a long time.
Your baby will have their own pattern of waking and sleeping, and it’s unlikely to be the same as other babies you know.
It’s also unlikely to fit in with your need for sleep. Try to sleep when your baby sleeps.
If you’re breastfeeding, in the early weeks your baby is likely to doze off for short periods during a feed. Carry on feeding until you think your baby has finished or until they’re fully asleep. This is a good opportunity to try to get a bit of rest yourself.
If you’re not sleeping at the same time as your baby, don’t worry about keeping the house silent while they sleep. It’s good to get your baby used to sleeping through a certain amount of noise.
Concerns About Baby Sleep
If youre concerned about your babys sleep, it can be a good idea to track your babys sleep for a week or so. This can help you get a clear picture of whats going on.
You can do this by drawing up a simple chart with columns for each day of the week. Divide the days into hourly blocks, and colour the intervals when your baby is asleep. Keep your chart for 5-7 days.
Once completed, the chart will tell you things like:
- when and how much sleep your baby is getting
- how many times your baby is waking during the night
- how long your baby is taking to settle after waking.
You can also record how you tried to resettle your baby and what worked or didnt work.
Then you can compare the information in your chart with the general information about baby sleep needs above:
- How does your child compare to other babies the same age? If your baby is wakeful and grizzly and getting much less sleep than others, your baby might need more opportunities for sleep.
- How many times is your baby over six months old waking up during the night? If its 3-4 times a night or more, you might be feeling very tired. You might want to think about phasing out some of your babys sleep habits.
If you decide you need to see a professional for help with your babys sleep, take your chart with you.
Dont Assume That Its Pointless To Lie Down If You Dont Fall Asleep You Might Pass Into A State Of Drowsy Semi
Too wired to sleep when the baby sleeps? If so, keep in mind that quiet resting is better than nothing. In fact, if you are lying down with your eyes closed, you might be asleep without realizing it.
In numerous lab studies, subjects who were awakened from the first stage of sleep often denied that they were asleep at all . A nap that consists only of stage 1 sleep might not help you improve your reaction times, but it will probably make you feel less tired. And if you manage to slip into the second stage of sleep even for just 3 minutes your nap may have recuperative effects .
Don’t Miss: What Clothes Should A Newborn Sleep In
Newborn Sleep Patterns: A Survival Guide
opens IMAGE file
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.
Why Your Baby May Not Be Sleeping Through The Night
There are many reasons your little one may be waking up and crying at night. She may be waking up because sheâs hungry and needs a feed, or crying out because sheâs uncomfortable and needs a diaper change.
If your baby needs a diaper change or a feeding, try to do so without disturbing her too much. Keep the lights dim, speak in a hushed tone, and take care of things quickly so you can put her back to sleep. Avoid picking her up for a cuddle, which can reinforce the nighttime crying.
When your baby is still very young, experts recommend comforting her if she cries at night instead of letting her cry it out. You could do things like rocking her for a few minutes, playing some calming music, or singing to her.
As your baby gets older, one reason she may cry out instead of sleeping through the night is separation anxiety.
Recommended Reading: How Much Formula Should You Feed A Newborn
Dont Play The Blame Game
Brooding about the situation will make it harder for you to fall asleep when you are given the opportunity. And its wrong-headed, too: You might be doing everything you can to get more sleep, and still be stuck with a baby who sleeps less than average.
Research suggests that the amount of sleep we get at night is strongly influenced by genetics , and, as mentioned above, there is a lot of individual variation among newborns.
How To Get Your Newborn To Tell Night From Day
At first, babies dont know that night time is for sleep and daytime is for being awake. Which is hard going on adult bodies that definitely do know that night time means sleep.
Between one and three months, daytime naps will gradually get shorter and night-time sleeps will gradually get longer . So everyone will start getting a little bit of normality back.
Although, just to let you know, night time waking might not disappear completely. It is still normal behaviour after three months and 27% of one year olds still wake in the night .
You May Like: How Many Diapers Does A Newborn Use Per Day
Dont Wake Your Baby To Feed After 2 Months
If your baby is gaining weight properly, you dont have to wake them at night for feedings. Your baby needs to find them own sleep schedule. Once they are eating more in the daytime, they dont need to wake and eat at night.
Here are some instances where you should wake your baby:
- They are sleeping more in the day than the night and missing their daytime feeds.
- Dont let them go more than 4 hours without eating during the day. You may need to wake the baby up to feed at night, but it is probably better to try to change your babys daytime habits rather than continuing to wake them every 4 hours at night.
Your babys pediatrician will give you advice for your baby. For premature or special-needs babies, you may need to adjust feedings.
Keep A Consistent Daily Wake Time
I think most of us know that having a consistent bedtime is important. But having a consistent wake time is just as important.
Think about it. If you sleep in on a Sunday but still have to wake up early on Monday, it can be really hard to get to sleep on time Sunday night.
Babies are the same way. They are more likely to fall into a natural pattern in their days if they start at the same time every day. How do you do this?
Your wake time is the first feeding of the day that is followed by awake time. It is hard to stick to that time when a newborn actually sleeps in a bit, but it is worth it, in the long run, to keep that time the same.
Also Check: Should I Swaddle My Newborn During The Day
Recommended Reading: What Items Do You Need For A Newborn Baby
An Age By Age Guide To Understanding Your Babys Sleep Cycle
Ah, sleep. It sounds so simple, doesnt it? You put your tot to bed, he closes his eyes, soaks up hours of refreshing rest, and wakes with a smile on his face at 7am But the reality for most of us, even when our babies are well past the stage of needing to feed during the night, is very different.
Lucy Wolfe is a baby sleep consultant, a mum of four and the author of The Baby Sleep Solution: The stay-and-support method to help your baby sleep through the night.
Sleeping well is a skill, says Lucy. Learning to be a sound snoozer takes time, practice, a good sleep environment, and some dedicated help from parents. And theres one fundamental skill your youngster has to master before he becomes a master of sleep: how to stitch his sleep cycles together.
Sleep isnt one, long deep slumber, Lucy adds. We all babies and adults sleep in cycles.’
We go from drowsiness to light sleep, then into to deep sleep to very deep sleep. And then its back the other way: from very deep sleep to deep sleep to light sleep. And its during the light-sleep stage that we dream, which is called REM sleep.
When we move between deep sleep and light sleep, or when were in the light sleep stage, its much easier for us to be woken up, says Lucy. And babies spend more time in light sleep and dream sleep than older children and adults, so they tend to wake up more than we do.
When Do Babies Sleep Through The Night
When you can expect your baby to start sleeping through the night depends on several factors, including babys age, weight, whether or not you are breastfeeding, and your familys nighttime feeding habits.
Heres when babies start sleeping through the night, plus more info about babies sleeping habits and patterns by age:
Recommended Reading: How To Unconstipate A Newborn
What Does Science Tell Us About How Babies Sleep At This Age
6-12 week old babies still fall asleep in active sleep, i.e. dreaming, hence the eye movements, silly smiles, and sporadic arm movements. However, active sleep time becomes shorter and shorter at the beginning of the sleep cycle, which means you may only have to wait a few minutes before you can put your baby down without waking him/her.
A babys circadian rhythm is settling in now, which means deeper sleep at night, with less jarring movements, allowing baby to stay asleep much more easily.
12-16 week old babies now fall asleep in quiet sleep, similar to adults. This means that your baby doesnt fall asleep dreaming , but rather begins to drift to sleep and stay asleep.
Patterns vary from baby to baby, therefore it is not a lack of parenting skills if your baby is still waking every 2-3 hours in the middle of the night. It is important to remember that every baby is different and has different needs.
Take home message: Your baby is going to start to fall asleep and stay asleep more easily. His/her days and nights will no longer be mixed up and he/she will start to fall into a deeper sleep in the middle of the night.
Tips For Getting Your Baby To Sleep Through The Night
First, it’s important to remember that young babies canât sleep through the night, as they need feedings, diaper changes, and sometimes even simply some comforting. Nevertheless, there are some things you can do to encourage your little one to sleep for longer stretches at night:
Help your baby learn the difference between day and night by keeping things bright and active during the day but dark and quiet in the night. For example, have your baby nap in an area of your home that has background noises, and at night keep feedings and diaper changes calm and quiet.
Establish a bedtime routine, which may include a warm bath, massage, cuddling, bedtime stories, lullabies, and breastfeeding or bottle-feeding just before bed. Soon your baby will start to expect the routine youâve established and associate it with going to sleep for the night.
If your baby wakes up in the night, give him some time to settle before checking on him. If heâs not settled, a few reassuring words softly spoken from the bedroom doorway or a loving pat may be enough. If he needs a feeding or a diaper change, keep the atmosphere calm, and place him back to sleep in his crib afterward.
Also Check: Are Air Purifiers Safe For Newborns
Reasons Newborn Babies Cry
- They are hungry and need to feed
- They are tired and need to nap. Essentially newborns nap between each feeding. If baby has been up more than 1.5 hours then they are tired, and likely overtired.
- They are physicallyuncomfortable. Baby may have a wet diaper, dirty diaper or be too hot or cold. Generally, newborns need about one more layer than we do!
- They have reflux and its uncomfortable. You will see your pediatrician, of course, for this, then use the information here to keep baby as comfortable as possible until they outgrow this.
- They have colic and/or are letting off steam. Newborns dont usually develop colic until around 6 weeks or so, but some crying is normal with newborns. Its the only way they can communicate. Our job is not to stop their crying as quickly as humanly possible, but to learn to decipher their cries so we can meet their needs appropriately and promptly.
Where Your Baby Should Sleep
Cot death or sudden infant death syndrome is the sudden and unexpected death of a baby who seems healthy during sleep.
It can happen in a cot, pram, bed, car seat, baby seat or anywhere a baby is sleeping.
The safest place for your baby to sleep is in a cot in the same room as you.
Also Check: How Much Formula Does A Newborn Need
How To Help Your Baby Get To Sleep
Setting a consistent routine is key to helping your baby learn to sleep through the night. During the first few months, your babys sleep schedule will largely be dictated by their eating pattern. However, as they grow, theyll be able to go longer and longer between feedings. At this point, you can start to adhere to a day-night schedule.
To help your baby establish a healthy circadian rhythm, start by making sure your baby gets plenty of daylight and stimulation during the day. While young infants need several naps during the daytime, you can experiment to find a napping schedule that makes your baby tired enough to get to sleep at night without being overtired.
In the lead-up to bedtime, try to set a calming atmosphere and carry out the same bedtime routine every night. The following rituals can help your baby associate nighttime with sleeping:
- Taking a bath
- Turning down the thermostat
- Creating a quiet environment
An important part of developing healthy sleeping habits for your baby includes teaching them to fall asleep on their own. Many babies find it soothing to be rocked or cuddled, but its best to put your baby to bed before they actually fall asleep. This way they will be less anxious if they wake up during the night and you are not there, and they will be more likely to fall back asleep without needing your help.