Whoever coined the phrase “sleeps like a baby” as a way to describe a peaceful slumber probably didn’t actually ever spend one night with an infant. If it seems like your baby won’t sleep unless she’s being held in your arms or your newborn thinks sleeping is overrated, there are ways to encourage a better night’s sleep – for everyone. Keep in mind that until about six weeks of age your newborn won’t have a regulated sleep-wake cycle that is regulated (like for older children and adults) by light and dark.
How Much Sleep Does My Baby Need?
Although every child is different, according the National Sleep Foundation, the typical newborn needs anywhere between 10.5 and 18 hours of sleep each 24 hour day. Their sleeping patterns are regulated by their needs to be fed, changed, and cuddled or comforted. Usually their awake times last between 1 and 3 hours.
For babies ages 3-11 months, sleeping between 9 and 12 hours at night is common (with or without waking for comfort or nursing), and they also take anywhere between a 30 minute to two-hour nap as often as four times each day. This nap time decreases with age.
How Can I Get My Newborn To Sleep Through The Night?
The reality is that you won’t, but that is the sign of a healthy newborn. Newborns need to eat smaller portions more often because of the rapid development their bodies go through and relying on those tiny stomachs. They are also adjusting to life outside of the womb and might have more comfort needs than older infants. This doesn’t mean that healthy sleep habits can’t be encouraged at this age.
- Pay attention to your newborn’s sleep signals – some cry, some rub their eyes, etc. – and place your infant in the cradle or crib when he is still drowsy but not yet asleep.
- Create a darker, quieter sleep environment for nighttime sleeping with reduced noise and stimulation.
- Create a lighter environment during the day to help signal to your baby the difference between night and day.
- Don’t be afraid to make noise during the day, even while your infant is sleeping. It will help signal to your newborn that these are daytime hours.
How Can I Get My Baby To Sleep Through The Night?
By the time your infant is 3 months of age, he or she is able to sleep for longer periods of time without nursing, and by 6 months of age nighttime feedings are usually not needed at all. By 9 months of age the National Sleep Foundation estimates that 70-80% of babies sleep for at least 8 hours straight during the night. If you don’t feel like you’ll ever sleep through the night again because your baby won’t sleep for longer than the car ride home, try these tips for better sleep.
- Babies this age are capable of learning how to self-soothe. Find a comfort creature – maybe a small snuggle blanket or other object that is small enough for your baby to cradle but large enough to be safe from choking hazards – and keep it with your child during waking hours, too.
- Continue to place your baby in the cradle when he or she is drowsy so that she continues to fall asleep on her own.
- Make sure the nighttime sleeping environment is fairly dark, and that your child finds the space itself comforting.
- Follow a bedtime routine that involves continually and gradually slowing down the evening with baths, story books, and quiet snuggles.
- Don’t put your child in the crib during the day when she is not tired. She may grow to resent the environment.
Instead of sleep like a baby, perhaps the saying should be “sleep like a retired couple” because those people probably get more rest than you do during those first few years of your baby’s life. However, with calm dedication and patience, your baby can learn to sleep peacefully through the night, too.[Featured Image Courtesy of tungphoto / FreeDigitalPhotos.net]