Baby’s Sleeping Patterns
During your baby’s first year, you can expect them to sleep a lot. Due to all the growth and changes they experience in this early stage, rest is vital for infants. However, you might have some questions or concerns about their sleep habits, especially if it’s your first child.
For instance, when should you start sleep training them? Can your baby sleep too much? What should you do when they wake in the middle of the night? Explore tips for navigating your baby’s sleep schedule in this guide.
What Is Sleep Training?
Sleep training is teaching your baby to sleep without your help, meaning they can drift off naturally. This teaches babies how to self-soothe and fall back asleep after waking in the middle of the night. Parents use several training tactics developed by sleep experts and pediatricians.
Remember that sleep training and night weaning — getting a baby to stop breastfeeding or bottle feeding overnight — don’t always go hand in hand. While you can night wean and sleep train simultaneously, this isn’t suitable for every little one. For instance, if your newborn is underweight or has another medical condition, you may need to continue night feeding. Talking to your pediatrician can help you determine when to start night weaning.
With proper sleep training, your baby should comfortably rest for about nine to 12 hours through the night on their own. The more slumber your youngster gets, the better they’ll feel during daytime — and so will you and your family.
Some sleep training techniques have babies dozing on their own in a week or less. Gentler methods that minimize crying can take longer. There’s no right or wrong way to sleep-train your infant, but all of them require consistency and patience for success. We’ll discuss some of these strategies later on.
When Should You Start Sleep Training a Newborn?
Your newborn can’t distinguish between day and night yet, especially considering they spent so long in a dark womb. Therefore, it’s not practical to start sleep training your infant right away.
Experts recommend sleep training your baby at about 4 months old. Most babies can learn to self-soothe at this age and often don’t require night feedings. Their circadian rhythms — the body’s natural 24-hour sleep-wake cycles — typically develop around this age.
However, some babies do better when sleep training slightly later, around 6 months old. Consult your pediatrician if you aren’t sure whether your baby is old enough or ready to start sleep training.
Recommended Newborn Sleep Hours
Your newborn — 0-3 months old — should sleep between 14 and 17 hours over a 24-hour period. The subsequent recommended sleep schedules are as follows.
- 4 to 11 months old: 12 to 15 hours
- 1 to 2 years old: 11 to 14 hours
- 3 to 5 years old: 10 to 13 hours
- 6 to 13 years old: 9 to 11 hours
Infants commonly experience cycles of quiet and active sleep. Active sleep involves frequent moving around, shallow breathing, twitching, and grunting. They may even open their eyes and cry out. Meanwhile, quiet sleep involves still, deep sleeping with more even and relaxed breathing.
Due to feeding, newborn sleep schedules generally take place in shorter chunks. Your baby will likely sleep for two to three consecutive hours, then gradually shift to three to four hours. Speak with your pediatrician about when you should let your baby sleep for four hours or more at a time. If your newborn doesn’t wake naturally at night, you’ll need to wake them every two to three hours to feed them.
Remember that every baby’s sleeping schedule varies. Your newborn might be wide awake and hungry at 5 a.m., or they might continue catching those ZZZs a little later into the morning. As your child grows, you’ll start to recognize their rest and hunger cues. Then, you can create a sleep and feeding schedule that works for you, your infant, and the rest of your family.
Why Do Babies Sleep So Much?
Babies grow quickly during their first year. Sleep is key to this physical and mental development, especially as it promotes learning. Your bundle of joy is constantly absorbing new information about their environment. Rest plays a significant role in sensory processing and memory, preparing babies to explore their surroundings.
In short, newborns sleep so much because they’re rapidly growing and learning. All of this slumber helps fuel the dramatic changes they’re experiencing.
How Much Sleep Is Too Much?
The amount of shuteye your baby gets can depend on several factors, like the duration of their last nap and their temperament. Some babies naturally sleep better than others. However, catching excessive winks can be a cause for concern, as they aren’t waking to eat as often as needed.
If your newborn consistently sleeps for over 17 hours a day and it’s compromising their feeding schedule, inform your pediatrician. Missing meals can interfere with your baby’s growth and weight gain. As a reminder, the American Academy of Pediatrics advises waking your baby to feed them every two to three hours — or about eight to 12 times — every 24 hours until they’ve regained their birth weight.
You may also notice your baby snoozing more than usual at times, such as when they’re recovering from a cold or going through a growth spurt. Increased sleep intervals are natural and generally aren’t a cause for concern. Just like adults, babies need to recover from illness and fuel their growing bodies, which requires extra slumber.
However, if your newborn doesn’t wake regularly to eat, or a fever, grunting, or fast breathing accompanies their longer sleep spells, contact your pediatrician immediately. These could indicate an underlying medical condition.
Additionally, make sure you keep an eye on your newborn’s diapers. If their urine is too yellow, they aren’t drinking enough. Stools should have a seedy texture and mustard color, as well.
On the other hand, a newborn that doesn’t get substantial sleep will likely be fussy, clingy, hyper, difficult to soothe, or a combination of these things. Therefore, it’s essential to find a middle ground between sleeping too soundly and not resting enough.
Why Do Babies Sleep Differently Than Adults?
Most babies undergo a short rapid eye movement stage almost immediately after falling asleep, and they spend roughly 50% of their time in REM. Conversely, adults usually don’t experience the REM stage until they’ve been sleeping for about 90 minutes.
As babies grow and require less sleep, they spend less time in the REM stage. By adulthood, most people experience REM for about 20% of each night’s sleep. That’s considerably less than what newborns spend in the REM stage.
While babies start experiencing the four sleep stages around 4 months old, their time spent in each sleep stage doesn’t begin to mirror that of grownups until closer to 5 years old. That’s why your baby’s sleep schedule significantly differs from yours.
When Will Your Baby Start Sleeping All Night?
Nobody fully sleeps through the night — not even adults. Everyone naturally experiences cycles of waking and returning to rest. However, parents and children’s health experts consider roughly six to nine consecutive hours of sleep to be “sleeping through the night.”
Most babies start sleeping through the night without waking when they’re about 3 months old, or when they weigh 12 to 13 pounds. Of course, this can vary. One baby might experience longer snoozing periods as early as 4 months old, while another may take a year or longer before they’re dozing soundly through the night.
Remember, it’s not an exact science — your little one’s sleep patterns may vary immensely during their first year. They may sleep for long, uninterrupted streaks for several weeks, then revert to waking and fussing in the middle of the night. This behavior is natural.
Specific milestones can also indicate that your baby’s sleep stretches are getting longer.
- Healthy weight gain: Your newborn needs nutrients for growth and development, which is why they eat frequently. Once your baby has achieved a healthy weight gain pattern and the appropriate age-weight milestones through regular night feedings, they’ll start to sleep longer. Between decreased night feedings and proper weight gain, your child can rest more comfortably.
- Reduced or stopped Moro reflex: Moro, or startle reflex, is an involuntary motor response against a loud, abrupt sound or movement. As your baby grows, their Moro reflex will gradually ease and subside. Most babies overcome the Moro reflex by 3 to 4 months old, but swaddling your youngster can help them sleep through these reflexes.
- Improved self-soothing: As mentioned above, 4 months is generally a good time to start building a consistent sleep routine for your baby. You can gradually teach them to self-soothe so they can have a predictable slumber schedule, falling back asleep on their own after waking. A swaddle or sack can be helpful, as it mimics your soothing touch. They can experience this comforting sensation even when you aren’t present, thus boosting their overall sleep duration.
What Can You Do if Your Baby Wakes at Night?
Babies wake and cry in the middle of the night for many reasons, such as:
- Teething pain
- Separation anxiety
- Ear infections
- Schedule changes
Luckily, you can use a few tips to help soothe your youngster back to sleep. Here are some sleep training methods to try.
1. Cry It Out
The idea behind CIO — or the “extinction method” — is to eliminate the behavior by not responding to it. You put the baby to bed with a full tummy and in a comfortable, safe environment. Then, you let them cry until they fall asleep without your comfort or assistance. You don’t return to their room until they need to eat or it’s time to get up, or if there’s an emergency.
While this tactic might seem harsh and controversial — and it may be even harder for you than for them — it can be effective. A study found that the CIO approach helped babies sleep for an average of 20 minutes longer.
With consistency, your little one can start sleeping on their own within three or four nights. Of course, it depends on your baby’s developmental stage and rate, as well as what works for you and your family.
2. Check and Console
Also called the Ferber method, the check-and-console approach involves letting your baby cry for a set period before checking on them. These crying intervals increase by a few minutes until they fall asleep. You’ll gradually expand these over several nights, decreasing your presence in the baby’s room. Eventually, your baby learns to self-soothe.
3. Pick up, Put Down
The “pick up, put down” strategy involves going through your baby’s usual bedtime routine, then putting them to bed while they’re awake but drowsy. When they start to cry, wait a few minutes to see if they settle down on their own. If not, go into their room, pick them up, and soothe them.
Once your newborn calms down, put them back in their crib or bassinet. Repeat this process until they fall asleep. While effective, this sleep training technique requires lots of time and patience.
Tips to Prevent Night Wakings
Besides knowing how to spring into action when your baby wakes up, you can also do things to help minimize wakings. Here are some practices that may prevent your infant’s night wakeups.
- Develop a consistent bedtime routine: Start preparing for bedtime about 30 to 45 minutes before you want your little one to fall asleep. Try giving them a massage or bath to calm them down. Lotion with chamomile or lavender can help promote drowsiness. You can also try reading them a story in a soothing voice before putting them to bed.
- Associate nighttime with bedtime: Your baby shouldn’t correlate nighttime with playtime. Dim the lights, reduce upbeat and playful songs to soft lullabies, and keep toys out of sight. Unless their diaper is dirty, leave it on until morning. A quick diaper change can be enough excitement to hinder their sleeping.
- Try white noise: A white noise machine creates a calming, womb-like environment that comforts infants and promotes sleeping, sometimes helping them rest longer. Consider using rumbly, white noise through the night to provide self-soothing cues without your presence.
- Don’t skip naps: It might seem feasible to keep daytime naps at bay when your baby habitually wakes in the middle of the night, but this can be counterproductive. Naps support better nighttime sleep and prevent overtiredness. They’re essential for a solid sleep routine and your baby’s overall health.
- Feed sufficiently during the day: Make sure your baby is eating enough during daytime feedings. They should also finish their last feeding before bedtime. Younger babies may benefit from a dream feed before going to sleep. “Dream feeding” involves rousing your baby — without fully waking them up — to feed them once more before turning in for the night. This practice can give your little one those extra calories needed to encourage longer sleep durations.
Choose Americord for Stem Cell Storage
Building a solid sleep routine will be critical once the baby arrives. In the meantime, you’ll want to plan for other aspects like cord blood banking. At Americord, we collect and store stem cells from umbilical cord blood, cord tissue, and placental tissue for future therapeutic or medical use — whether for you, your child, or another family member.
Stem cell storage is completely safe and painless, and it can assist various medical conditions, including lymphomas, leukemias, red cell abnormalities, and more. If you are pregnant and are looking for more information about newborn stem cell banking, give one of our Stem Cell Specialists a call (866-503-6005) today! You can also learn more here on our website.
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