Establishing Baby Sleep Patterns

Although baby sleep patterns are varied and individual, there are some general sleep needs that infants have that can guide you. Sleep is vital for a healthy infant or child for their development and emotional well being. Make it a priority to help your baby develop good sleep habits right from the start.

The first 6 to 8 weeks will be topsy turvy. Infants need frequent feedings and diapers changed so extended periods of sleep generally do not occur and should not be expected. The baby has been in a dark womb for the last 9 months and doesn't know anything about day and night. Here are some tips to teach them about wakefulness during the day and staying asleep at night.

Baby Sleep Requirements

Infant sleep patterns are unpredictable, but it is possible to develop some good sleep habits to help you and your baby get some better sleep.

Dr. Jodi Mindell, the author of Sleep Deprived No More: From Pregnancy to Early Motherhood-Helping You and Your Baby Sleep Through the Night put together a chart of how much sleep babies are getting after collecting data from over 5,000 infants. Here is what she found:

For 0 - 3 Months

Total hours of sleep in a 24 hr day - 13.3 hours (range >9 to <18)

Total hours of sleep at night 7.5 hours (range >5 to <10)

Number of night wakings 1.9 times (range 0 to 5)

Total time awake during the night 72 minutes (range 0 to 130)

Total hours of sleep during the day 5.8 hours (range >3 to <9)

Number of Naps 3.6 naps

 

For 3 to 6 Months

Total hours of sleep in a 24 hr day 12.3 hours (range >9 to <15)

Total hours of sleep at night 8.5 hours (range >6.5 to <10)

Number of night wakings 1.2 times (range 0 to 5)

Total time awake during the night 30 minutes (range 0 to 70)

Total hours of sleep during the day 3.8 hours (range >2 to >6)

Number of Naps 2.9 naps As you can see there are babies that sleep alot and sleep well, while other babies take short little cat naps. Baby sleep patterns are different for each child.

Generally speaking you can expect to give up the nighttime feedings around 6 months unless there is a growth concern. However, some babies can begin to sleep through the night at a younger age - I hope it's your baby :)

Baby Sleep Schedule

It is possible to influence a baby sleep schedule. Well, maybe not at first. Babies don't know the difference between night and day. You may find that one week your infant is sleeping well at night and just up for feedings while a week later he/she may have daytime and nighttime all mixed up.

Having realistic expectations especially for the first 6-8 weeks helps to calm anxieties and perhaps will prod you to get a plan and recruit some help so that you can get a nap during the day or longer sleep at night.

Remember every baby is different. I remember those conversations (with envy) when another mother would tell me about how her newborn was sleeping through the night when mine was up every three hours. Also try to remember that this is temporary even though it feels like you may never feel rested again.

Infant Sleep Training

Daytime Naps

Wouldn't we love it if all babies took long naps after periods of feedings and wakefulness? Many babies do, but don't be alarmed if your baby only likes to sleep for 45 minutes. You will only frustrate yourself if you try to change this by getting your infant back to sleep. Babies who take shorter naps will usually take more frequent naps.

Tips for Babies Who Sleep Well During the Day and Up at Night

1. Wake your infant.

I know, who wants to wake a sleeping baby? But if your infant is sleeping for too long during the day, you may pay for it at night. Wake up your baby for feedings and try to engage your infant with eye contact and playful conversation.

2. Expose your infant to daytime light.

Babies need help in setting their circadian rhythm and nothing does this better than light. Get outside for a walk, especially during the morning. Keep your infant in a room that has lots of natural bright sunlight.

Bedtime Routine

It's never too early to start a bedtime routine.  Predictable routines help trigger "sleepy thoughts" in babies, children and even adults.  Most babies love a bath. It expends some of their energy and the warm water is relaxing.  Use a swaddle blanket so that jerking arms or legs don't wake them up.  A short book, like Good Night Moon, can be read to them in a quiet soothing voice.  Do a feeding to keep them satisfied for hopefully a couple of hours. 

Play a lullaby cd or put on a baby white noise machine

 Soon they will associate these habits with sleep.

Night Time Sleep

Conversely at night, after the feeding do not try to stimulate the infant with any type of play or a loud sounds. Use a very soft and quiet voice. Keep the room dark during diaper changes and feeding time. Use just a little night light.

If you as a mom are a light sleeper, you may not want your infant in the same bedroom as you. Every little sigh or wimper may wake you up even though the baby is sleeping soundly. The whole idea of getting your baby to sleep better is so that you can get more sleep.

Baby sleep patterns can be adjusted so that they sleep better at night with some help during daylight hours.

Do not put your baby in bed with you, but rather in their own crib.

For step by step instructions to help get your baby on a routine invest in this excellent book written by two pediatric nurses who are also mothers:

Moms On Call Basic Baby Care: 0-6 Months

Infant Sleep Position

"Parents of infants need to know how to help their baby safely fall asleep," says Robert W. Block, MD, FAAP, of the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP).

According to the AAP:

1. Babies up to one year of age should always be placed on their back on a firm surface to sleep.

This reduces the risk of Sudden Infant Death Syndrome, Or SIDS, which is the leading cause of death in the United States for babies between one month and one year old.

2. Make sure the infant's crib or bassinet meets current safety standards and has not been recalled.

3. Keep all objects out of the crib including stuffed animals, crib bumpers and blankets as they increase the risk of suffocation or strangulation.

Use warmer sleepers and a baby sleep sack to keep the infant warm.

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