In the first 6 months of life, newborns sleep a great deal. While it’s a time of love and tender caring, it’s also the time your newborn is the most vulnerable, and the time you’ll be most uncertain about how to care for your baby and meet their schedule.
How Long do babies Sleep For?
A newborn doesn’t have any sense of day or night, so they sleep around the clock, up to 14, 17 or even 19 hours a day. They wake up in between sleep cycles to feed, as their tiny stomachs don’t hold enough milk to keep them satisfied for long. So they wake up frequently to eat, no matter what time it is.
They’ll wake every few hours to eat. Breastfed babies will wake more often, up to 8 to 10 times, while a formula-fed baby will be fuller for longer, eating every 3 or 4 hours. If your newborn sleeps for long hours they should be awakened to feed. Keep doing this till they are at a good weight again. This can take a few weeks, but after that, you can let them sleep for longer periods again.
The first month tends to be the hardest, and you’ll be up at night often tending to your newborn. Baby’s will have unique schedules, and while some parents say their baby started sleeping through the night (5-6 hours) after 2 to 3 months, some won’t sleep through the night at all.
Where should baby sleep
It’s recommended that for the first few weeks or months of your baby’s life that you room-share. Room-sharing is where baby sleeps in the same room as you, but not the same bed as you. Place your baby’s crib, cot or bassinet in your room rather than in a separate nursery so you can easily care for them during the night and comfort or feed them whenever they need it.
This also allows you to keep a close eye on baby, monitoring them to avoid Sudden Infant Death Syndrome.
Avoiding SIDS (Sudden Infant Death Syndrome)
SIDS is a terrifying, unthinkable thing for a parent, and as the name suggests it can happen without warning or seemingly without any cause. SIDS primarily occurs during the first 6 to 9 months in newborns, and always happens while your baby is sleeping, hence SIDS is also referred to as Crib Death.
It’s essential to take steps to ensure your baby is sleeping safely, in a secure environment. Here are some important rules when it comes to the first few months of life, helping you and baby to avoid SIDS.
- Even if you’re sharing a room, don’t let your baby sleep on your bed. Bed-sharing greatly increases the risk of SIDS and other related infant deaths. Your bed is soft, with pillows, blankets and other accessories that can suffocate or strangle your baby. Headboards in particularly can cause the baby to get stuck and strangulate. If you want to keep your baby close by, consider placing the cot, crib, bassinet or bedside sleeper beside your bed, so you can still share that closeness and ease of feeding without putting your baby at risk.
- For the first 12 months or so don’t let your baby sleep on their front or sides.
Newborns should only sleep on their backs to keep airflow clear, as lying on their fronts can block airways or cause them to breathe in their carbon dioxide and stale air. This is the leading cause of SIDS, and it’s advised that parents monitor their baby, making sure they sleep on their back till they are mobile enough to move into their most comfortable positions.
- Don’t put pillows, blankets, soft toys or any other accessory inside your baby’s sleeping space for the first few months. Blankets, pillows and soft toys can get around your baby and cause suffocation.
- An underweight or premature baby is at more risk of SIDS. So be sure to monitor your baby carefully while they sleep.
- Always use a firm mattress. Even for baby’s older than 6 months, if they roll onto their front a soft mattress may cause them to sink and suffocate, with difficulty rolling back onto their back. With a memory foam mattress that remains mostly firm, you can avoid this, and prevent flat head syndrome which can occur from too much time on their backs.
- Avoid Overheating. Dress your baby according to the temperature in the room. Avoid bundling them up, and check to see if they’re sweating or hot to the touch. A swaddle on the other hand, which is a thin blanket, is fine to wrap your newborn in as it feels like being in the womb, which will help them relax. Swaddle blankets are breathable to prevent overheating, and the stretchy fabric helps with Startle Reflexes. (when your baby suddenly kicks or waves their arm)
- Keep your baby away from smokers. Second-hand smoke increases your baby’s risk of SIDS.
- Put your baby to sleep with a pacifier. Doctors aren’t sure why, but it’s proven that pacifiers reduce the risk of SIDS. But if your baby rejects their pacifier, don’t force it. If it falls out during sleep, you don’t need to replace it. If you are breastfeeding, however, wait until breastfeeding is firmly established for the both of you before introducing them to pacifiers.
How to Help Baby Sleep
The most important thing to realise is that babies follow their own schedules. Over the first few months, you and baby will settle into a routine together.
It’s important to resist playing with or fussing over/talk to baby in the night when they wake up. Keep the lights dim/low while feeding and changing diapers before placing them back in their bed. This encourages your little one to relax and associate night time with sleep. Also, try to make sure your baby falls asleep in the crib so they can associate it with sleep time.
Don’t try to keep your baby awake during the day so they’ll sleep more at night. This is bad for your baby’s health as they need plenty of sleep, and you’ll find it’s actually counterproductive as your baby will have more trouble sleeping when they’re exhausted. This will result in fussing and crying. As we mentioned above, a baby needs 14 to 19 hours of sleep to rest and develop.
If your baby is fussing and crying, it’s okay to cuddling, rock, or sing to your baby to help them calm down. In the first few months, there is no such thing as spoiling your little one, and lots of love and care can help your baby to relax. In fact, newborns who are carried and cuddled during the day are less likely to suffer from fussiness or colic.
As we mentioned above, wrapping your baby in a swaddle blanket will help your baby to sleep and relax. It imitates the feeling of being in the womb, which comforts your baby and encourages them to sleep. White noise machines can also relax and soothe your baby, making it easier to sleep.
Sleeping after 12 Months
After the first year, it’s significantly easier, and less stressful, for baby to sleep. While crying and fussing don’t stop entirely, your baby can roll and move around on their own for the most part, significantly reducing the risk of SID and suffocation.
This also allows you to add blankets, pillows or soft toys to your baby’s cot. Blankets will help to keep them warm and snug, while a soft toy will help them sleep. Toddlers long for something to hug while they sleep, and as they get older they’ll start to develop fears or the need to be involved in activities (curiosity makes them feel like they’re missing out), or be with their parents.
If your baby cries at night despite being fed, changed and otherwise tucked in, consider they’re afraid of the dark. This is a genuine fear for babies, toddlers, and young children, so it’s important not to discourage it or make light of the situation. Perhaps open the nursery door and leave the landing light on, or provide your child with a nightlight to help them feel safe and secure.
As for how many hours your toddler should sleep, they should get 10 hours of sleep a night, with 1-2 naps that add up to 4 hours. So 14 hours of sleep a day is the ideal amount of sleep for your little one.
We hope this clarifies some things, especially for new parents worrying about the sleep patterns of their little ones. Keep to this advice, and you’ll significantly increase the safety and health of your baby. And the more your baby sleeps, the more sleep you get too! If you’re confused about anything and want some more help/advice feel free to contact us, we’d be happy to help.
Thanks for reading!