SLEEP & YOUR TINY ONE
A tiny one’s first year of life is filled with plenty of milestones, but sleeping through the night on a regular basis might be the one that parents look forward to the most!
It can take some time for parents to adjust to their child’s sleep routine and learn how to help their new addition get a healthy amount of sleep. It’s natural to have questions about sleep habits and the changes that might occur over the first 12 months of your child’s life.
HOW MUCH SLEEP DO BABIES NEED?
Sleep patterns will change over the first year of a baby’s life, including the number of hours of sleep needed and the duration of sleep periods throughout the day and night.
- 0–3 MONTHS: It’s normal for new-borns to spend 14–17 hours asleep in a 24-hour day, broken into shorter periods to accommodate feeding, diaper changes, and interaction with Breastfed infants usually need to eat more frequently than bottle-fed infants, about every two hours versus every three hours. The American Academy of Sleep Medicine advises parents not to worry if their new-born’s sleep pattern does not match the projections, as these amounts can vary before the first 4 months.
- 3–6 MONTHS: Starting at around 3 months of age, an infant’s daily sleep needs drop to 12–15 hours. Around this time, babies’ sleep also starts consolidating into longer periods as they can 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.
- 6–12 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 night-time awakenings. Parents may opt to try different sleep-training strategies if their baby isn’t sleeping through the night at this stage.
Sleep is essential for human development. During sleep the brain experiences intense activity, building the foundations for how we learn and grow, including the development of our behaviour, emotions and immune system. Poor sleep in infancy has been linked to problems with cognitive performance, social skills, obesity and quality of life in later childhood.
Your baby will usually let you know they’re ready to sleep by fussing, crying, yawning, or rubbing their eyes. You can use these cues to establish a schedule that works for them. Deviating significantly from these recommendations may have adverse effects on your baby’s health or indicate an underlying problem.
A realistic goal is to help your baby sleep consecutively through the night by the time they reach their first birthday. As they grow into toddlers and school-age children, their sleep needs will become more similar to those of adults.
HOW TO GET YOUR BABY TO SLEEP
Setting a consistent routine is key to helping your baby learn to sleep through the night. During the first few months, your baby’s sleep schedule will largely be dictated by their eating pattern. However, as they grow they’ll 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 night-time with sleeping:
- Taking a bath
- Changing into pyjamas and a fresh nappy
- Reading a book
- Singing a lullaby
- Having a night-time feed
- Giving a goodnight kiss
- Dimming the lights
- Turning down the thermostat
- Creating a quiet environment
An important part of developing healthy sleeping habits for your tiny one includes teaching them to fall asleep on their own. Many babies find it soothing to be rocked or cuddled, but it’s best to put your baby to bed before they actually fall asleep. This way they will be less anxious if they wake up unexpectedly later on.