Your baby’s sleep patterns change as she grows. This needn’t cause you sleepless night, so read on to find out how to manage your baby’s sleep at every age.
There’s nothing more constant throughout parenthood than sleep struggles. As soon as you’ve got your baby sleeping through the night she starts waking up for extra feeds because of a growth spurt, and before you know it your tot has dropped a nap time and it’s time to move into a “big bed”. Each of your baby’s sleep stages bring with its own set of challenges and triumphs.
Total hours of sleep 16 to 20 hours a day A newborn baby is asleep most of the day. The pattern is generally that your baby wakes for a feed, staying awake for about 30 to 45 minutes, before going back to sleep. She doesn’t know the difference between night and day, and feeds and sleeps around the clock. This is normal and necessary. A newborn baby’s tummy is tiny and her milk diet is quickly digested, so she needs to eat very regularly, day and night, at this stage.
Tips for this stage
Differentiate between day and night feeds from the beginning so that your newborn gradually comes to understand the difference. Keep the room dimly lit and quiet at nigh-time. During daytime feeds, unwrap your baby and talk to her.
0 to 3 months
Total hours of sleep: 15 to 30 hours a day Your baby is still sleeping for a large part of the day. However, you will see that a rhythm starts to emerge within a few weeks. Your baby may sleep for shorter periods during the day, but will start to sleep for one longer stretch at night, usually dropping the late evening feed first. She’ll stay awake for slightly longer during the day too. Many moms find that at around 6 weeks or so, your baby’s pattern might look less like a constant flow of sleeping and eating, and more like a three-nap day and a night’s sleep, with wakes for feeds. Contrary to what you might have been told (or hope!), most babies don’t sleep through at 2 months or so. In fact, most babies of this age need a night feed.
Tips for this age
It’s too early to try to enforce a set schedule, but you can gently introduce your baby to the idea that daytime is for being up and about, and night-time is for longer sleeps. More chatting and play during the day; bath time and lullabies in the evening. Don’t keep the house silent for daytime naps. The background sound of the family going about their business identifies this as daytime. Do mute the light in baby’s room during the day nap, as too much light can hyper-stimulate your baby and prevent sleep.
Don’t worry about the bad habits being formed at this stage. Your baby needs to be with you most of the time as she can’t self-soothe from 12 weeks of age. It is a good idea to get into the habit of separating comfort from nutrition, so that your baby learns to fall asleep eventually without any resistance. Babies who fall asleep on the beast or bottle, get into the habit of falling asleep this way. It can be problematic when your baby gets older. When she wakes at night, she won’t be able to self-soothe and drop back off to sleep. She’ll need mom’s breast to do that. The way to teach you baby to get herself to sleep, say sleep experts, is to pop your baby down in her cot when she’s drowsy but not actually asleep.
3 to 6 months
9 to 12 hours, plus naps.
Nap time is driven by how long the baby has been awake. “Awake time” is approximately 1 1/2 to 2 hours at this age. Average day sleep is about 45 minutes to 1 hour and one night stretch of about 8 hours.
Some moms find that at this stage, a sleep routine is established. Your baby might start sleeping through, or waking once or maybe twice a night, on a predictable schedule.
If you find that your baby has been sleeping through and then starts to wake at night, it might be that she is hungry. At around 4 months or 7kg, most babies become hungrier as their nutritional needs change. At this stage, milk alone does not sustain her nutritional requirements failing to see her through long stretches without food at night.
Tip for this age
This is the time that you need to consider introducing solid food into your baby’s diet. Don’t introduce solids before the age of 4 months. In fact it’s best to hold out until your baby is 6 months. Be careful of introducing solids too soon in the hope of making your baby sleep through!
“A good way of gauging if teething is the cause of night waking is to monitor your little one’s behaviour during the day.”
6 to 12 months
11 hours, plus two or more day naps depending on how long your baby sleeps for. The awake time between sleeps is 1 1/2 to 2 hours.
If your baby is on solid food and eating an adequate diet, she should not need to be fed for about 10 to 12 hours at night. So why is she still waking? Teething might disrupt your baby’s sleep routine. Separation anxiety can also cause wake-ups at round 9 months. Before this age, babies do not have a conception of you as a separate person, or feel concern about your whereabouts when you are gone. Now, they start to feel anxious about your absence, and summons you with a cry.
Another problem at this age is that babies (and parents) have developed poor sleep habits. Perhaps your baby needs to learn how to put himself back to sleep when he wakes.
Tips for this age
At your well-baby check up, make sure your baby’s weight gain is appropriate for her age, and her diet is adequate. If it’s all on track, this means that she is not walking because of hunger. To break the waking habit, you need to settle her back to sleep without feeding her. Rock her, soothe her, give her a little sip of water if she’s been crying, but don’t provide a bottle or breast of milk.
If you can see a tooth coming through, and think this may be the cause of wake-ups, ask your doctor or clinic sister about teething gel or pain relief. But don’t blame all problems on teething. Teething causes teeth and not much else! A good way of gauging if teething is the cause of night waking is to monitor your little one’s behaviour during the day, but restless at night only, it is unlikely to be due to teething.
Separation anxiety is a more likely cause, “As your baby develops object permanence, she may become insecure when you are not around. Spend time playing hide and seek and peek-a-boo games so she gets to know that you exist even if she can’t see you.” This is a time when you need to help your baby feel secure. A favourite toy or comfort object might help. “Know that separation anxiety is a short phase, so don’t get too hung up about it-it will pass!”
1 to 2 years
10 to 12 hours, plus two naps.
A this age, your toddler can be awake for about 4 hours before needing a sleep again. If she sleeps for long, then she may manage with just one sleep with an “early to bed” routine. If she cat naps, then just two sleeps will still be in order.
A busy day of running around should be enough to make your average toddler fall gratefully into bed and sleep through the night. With luck and good management, your family will now be getting a full night’s sleep. That’s not always the case, though, particularly as your child is now nimble enough to get out of the cot or bed. By the time your toddler nears the age of 2, she’s plenty old enough to resist bedtime. Parents who have been blessed with good sleeping babies may even find themselves with a toddler who either refuses to go to bed or refuses to stay there, or who hops up later in the night to visit mom. Despite their hell-raising reputation, toddlers often fall pray to anxiety, and they might be reluctant to leave you and go to bed alone at the end of a long passage.
Tip for this age
Do what you can to make your toddler feel secure at bedtime. A nightlight in her room, rather than a passage light which may tempt a curious toddler to check out the action outside. Make sure she has her favourite comfort objects and give her relaxing bedtime story. At this stage, you have to tread a difficult line: you need to empathise with your toddler’s feelings, calm her and show her you love her, but at the same time instill some boundaries and expectations around bedtime.”This is a very challenging time, but keep your sleep boundaries in place; transmit feelings of safety and security and your toddler will feel safe and secure.”
Avoid a nap too late in the afternoon – your toddler should wake by 4pm.
2 to 3 years
10 to 12 hours.
Some children drop their day sleep by now. If she is happy and content during the day, separates well from you at bedtime and will go to sleep and stay asleep throughout the night, then it is okay to drop the day sleep. If she is miserable all afternoon, eating and bath time is a nightmare and bedtime is even worse, and she has frequent night waking, then she clearly still needs her day sleep.
By rights, the whole family should be getting a full night’s sleep. However, it is not unusual for children to still be waking at this age. Toddler wake-ups are not generally nutrition-related, even if she is a poor eater in the day. Don’t be tempted to give her loads of milk during the night because you are worried about her poor eating habits in the day – it is this very milk at night that is causing her poor eating in the day. Accept that toddlers eat whimsically and that there will be good days and bad, but he reassured that no toddler self-starves.
This is also the age at which nightmares and night terrors develop.
“Toddler wake-ups are not generally nutrition-related, even if she is a poor eater in the day. Don’t be tempted to give her loads of milk.”
Tips for this age
If the daytime nap has fallen away, you may want to make bedtime earlier. Get your toddler used to “quiet time” after lunch, even if she doesn’t sleep.
If your toddler is waking up with nightmares or night terrors, go to her and soothe her. If your toddler is having a night terror and is inconsolable, it is often easier to wake her up and then re-soothe. Avoid television and rough and tumble play close to bedtime, and don’t wait until your toddler is overtired and cranky before putting her to bed.
Minimise toddler bedtime battles by maintaining a good evening routine: super-bath-story-bed. For instance, if your little one is inclined to create diversions and excuses around bedtime, you might say: “It’s bedtime. I will stay and read you a story if you get into bed now and stay there.”Do not respond to tantrums and drama around bedtime – keep your boundaries in place, be confident and secure in your decision and so will your toddler.”
Note: The sleep pattern depend on the individual baby. Genetics, size, habit and other circumstances will have an impact.
Always ensure that your baby is healthy before trying to instill sleep training, or change routines. Rule out pain or illness, or any other medical cause.