So How Much Sleep Do Babies Need
This is a surprisingly difficult question to answer, especially for younger babies.
We know what international surveys tell us about typical baby sleep patterns. Among parents with babies under the age of 3 months, approximately 50% say their infants sleep between 13-16 hours over the course of a 24 hour day .
This might suggest that 13-16 hours is what most young babies need. But the surveys have limitations.
First, they are based on parental reports, which can be inaccurate. When scientists measure sleep objectively, they find disparities between parental perceptions and reality. Parents tend to overestimate total sleep duration, and underestimate the frequency of night wakings .
Second, even if we could be certain about the numbers, the numbers wouldnt constitute proof about what babies need. Maybe the babies in these surveys arent getting enough sleep. Or maybe theyre getting too much.
Whats needed is research that addresses the health consequences of sleep, and unfortunately such research is in short supply .
Citing this lack of evidence, the American Academy of Sleep Medicine has declined to issue any specific recommendations about sleep duration for babies under the age of 4 months .
What Is Sudden Infant Death Syndrome
Sudden infant death syndrome is a term used to describe the sudden and unexplained death of a healthy baby. This happens when the child is put down to sleep and found dead later without an obvious cause. SIDS is the leading cause of death in babies between the ages of 1 month and 1 year. The risk of SIDS is higher when a child is between 2 months and 6 months of ages. It is also more common in boys than girls.
Experts dont know why SIDS happens.
Its important to reduce the risk of SIDS by following certain guidelines. These guidelines include:
When Do Babies Start Taking Longer Naps
Every baby is different, but youll start to notice longer napping episodes start to happen between the four- and six-month mark. If your baby is older than six months and still waking up after 30- to 45-minute napping episodes, its time to employ some of the sleep hacks we mentioned in this article.
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As They Grow Babies Achieve Sleep Maturity
Okay, you say, I understand this developmental design, but when will my baby sleep through the night? The age at which babies settle meaning they go to sleep easily and stay asleep varies widely among babies. For some infants, sleep is easily come by, but they dont stay asleep. Others go to sleep with difficulty but will stay asleep. Other exhausting babies neither want to go to sleep nor stay asleep.
In the first three months, tiny babies seldom sleep for more than four-hour stretches without needing feeding. Tiny babies have tiny tummies. Yet, they usually sleep a total of 14-18 hours a day. From three to six months, most babies begin to settle. They are awake for longer stretches during the day and some may sleep five-hour stretches at night. Between three to six months, expect one or two night wakings. You will also see the period of deep sleep lengthen. The vulnerable periods for night waking decrease and babies are able to enter deep sleep more quickly. This is called sleep maturity.
NIGHTTIME PARENTING LESSON #4:
An important fact for you to remember is that your infants sleep habits are more a reflection of your babys temperament rather than your style of nighttime parenting. And keep in mind that other parents usually exaggerate how long their baby sleeps as if this were a badge of good parenting, which it isnt. Its not your fault baby wakes up.
What Is A Babys Typical Sleep Pattern
All babies are different and baby sleep patterns vary between infants. You might think youve cracked it with your first, only to end up with a second baby who fights sleep despite you doing everything the same.
Youre the expert when it comes to your baby sleep patterns, even though you might not have the confidence to trust your knowledge just yet.
Many parents want to know exactly how much sleep their babies should be getting. Some experts feel putting arbitrary numbers forward simply adds to the stress and anxiety new parents face.
If you want to know more about how much sleep most babies need, take a look at our in-depth article How Many Hours Of Sleep Does A Baby Need?
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How To Deal With Baby Growth Spurts
Since youre already struggling to get enough rest, its extra exhausting to have a newborn who suddenly expects a 24-7 all-you-can-eat buffet. So make sure youre drinking plenty of water to stay hydrated, ask your partner or a friend to tackle household chores and settle in for some extra feedings. Your favorite show or a good book can help pass the time.
If you’re breastfeeding, try to stick it out. When your baby seems hungrier and crankier than normal, you may worry that hes not getting enough to eat and think about abandoning breastfeeding altogether. But those temporary round-the-clock feedings are actually your babys way of boosting your milk supply to keep pace with his oh-so-healthy appetite.
If youre really concerned, keep an eye on two things: diapers and weight gain. If hes packing on ounces and soaking five or six diapers a day, hes doing just fine.
From the What to Expect editorial team and Heidi Murkoff, author of What to Expect When You’re Expecting. What to Expect follows strict reporting guidelines and uses only credible sources, such as peer-reviewed studies, academic research institutions and highly respected health organizations. Learn how we keep our content accurate and up-to-date by reading our medical review and editorial policy.
Factors That Affect The Timeline Or Temporarily Shake Things Up
Baby sleep patterns are shaped by a mix of genetic and environmental factors. For instance, in two studies of 6-month old babies, almost half the individual variation in nighttime sleep duration could be explained by genetic factors .
How do genes influence baby sleep patterns? One route is by shaping infant temperament. If your baby tends to be less adaptable and more irritable, its going to be harder to quiet him or her down, and studies confirm that such babies sleep less overall .
Its also likely that some babies need less sleep than others, and that specific aspects of sleep like how easily an infant is awakened are shaped by genes.
But its clear that parents can affect baby sleep patterns. Weve already noted the effects parents have on napping. In addition, parents can influence the development of circadian rhythms, and help babies learn to resettle themselves after waking at night .
Finally, it appears that baby sleep patterns vary from one country to the next. For example, studies suggest that babies in Japan and Italy tend to sleep less than their counterparts in Switzerland and Canada .
And motor milestones like learning to crawl, learning to stand, and learning to walk tend to disrupt baby sleep patterns . If your baby is mastering a new physical skill, you might observe temporary changes.
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Short Naps + Avoiding The 45 Minute Intruder
Heres the scenario: Baby falls asleep, but only stays asleep for maybe 45 minutes . Baby wakes up, probably crying and upset, because he is still tired, and just doesnt know how to go back to sleep. Its like he has FOMO or something.
You get baby up, try to move on with your day, but the next nap is just as short. By the end of the day, your baby is overtired, cranky, and has meltdowns in the hours before bed. And this is happening every single day.
I get it. Its totally frustrating to be working hard to put your babe to sleep, and then hes awake just 30 minutes later. Babys tired, and you just want some time to yourself to maybe catch a quick nap too or get some things done around the house.
Keep reading to learn more about what causes short naps, and how to avoid those things so your babe can start taking longer, restorative naps.
Whats causing these short naps?
Just like most others things with babies, that answer is probably pretty complex, meaning there could be multiple things that are causing your baby to take short naps. Here are 5 areas that you might want to focus on when beginning to troubleshoot.
1. Environmental- Is there something in babys sleep space that could be causing her to wake up early from a nap? Common environmental things that contribute could be:
Irregular sleep environment
Ambient light in the room
Temperature is too hot or too cold
Noises from outside of babys room
3. Hunger- Is baby hungry?
Regulate Your Baby’s Sleep Patterns
Babies have shorter sleep cycles of around 50-60 minutes, and they also spend more time in lighter sleep. This means theyre more prone to wake in the period when theyre transitioning from one sleep cycle to the next. Spend some time observing when your baby normally wakes to find out how long their sleep cycle is.
Once you know roughly the time your baby is prone to wake, you can help them successfully transition into the next cycle. The best way to do this is to stand next to their crib and gently pat their back or make shushing sounds when you notice them starting to rouse. After a few days, your infant should start making this transition into another sleep cycle without any help.
How Do You Teach Your Baby To Connect Sleep Cycles
First, make sure that youve completed all of the steps that we listed in our previous nap posts . In these posts we covered the importance of sleep environment, age-appropriate expectations and nap initiation. Make sure the following are in place before starting to teach your baby to extend naps:
Dont start until your baby is mature enough to put sleep cycles together .
Ensure that your babys room is extremely dark, so that he or she doesnt get distracted by the surroundings.
Dont start until your baby knows how to fall asleep independently at nap time.
In order to teach your baby to connect sleep cycles, you need to help your child learn to recognize that more sleep is needed. When your baby wakes up from a nap, he or she expects to see you and expects that when you arrive, youll pick him or her up out of the crib. Therefore, it is really frustrating for your baby to have you come in the room and try to get him or her to go back to sleep. For this reason, you cant really go to your baby and repeat the nap intervention at the end of a nap cycle he or she will just get angry, and that will lead to a lower probability of him/her falling asleep. Instead, you need to teach your baby to wait. This will allow him or her to begin to wake in a more calm state and begin to recognize that he or she is still sleepy and can go back to sleep. There are a few ways to do this:
Know Your Babys Sleepy Cues
Youll want to pay attention to both the clock and your babys signals. If your baby shows signs of being tired like yawning, rubbing their eyes or looking drowsy, its time for a nap. React quickly and put them in their designated sleeping spot, ideally their crib with no distractions like toys or blankets.
Within a short time, youll know your babys schedule and can begin to plan accordingly.
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How Much Will My Baby Sleep In The First Year
Over the first year of life, your baby will sleep and nap a lot from 12 up to 18 hours a day. The amount of sleep an infant gets at any one stretch of time is mostly ruled by hunger. Newborns will wake up and want to be fed about every three to four hours at first. Do not let your newborn sleep longer than five hours at a time in the first five to six weeks. Thereafter, you can keep the following general milestones in mind:
- By six months, many babies can go for five to six hours or more without the need to feed and will begin to “sleep through the night.”
- Daytime naps reduce in number as the baby grows. A 2-month-old may nap up to four times a day, whereas an older infant may nap only one to two times a day.
Why Does My Baby Wake Up After 30 Minutes
Many parents complain their baby wakes up 30-45 minutes after falling to sleep.
Unfortunately, this can potentially end the nap, leaving parents with an overtired baby for the day. Overtired babies also seem to find it even harder to get to sleep when its time for their next nap.
Babies often wake up prematurely because theyre shifting from light sleep into a new sleep cycle and need help resettling.
Make sure your baby is sleeping in a calm environment this might help you get your baby back to sleep gently. Lots of parents swear by white noise machines for exactly this reason.
Naps : How Do I Teach My Baby To Sleep More Than One 3045 Minute Sleep Cycle
Teaching a baby to connect nap sleep cycles is probably the most difficult type of sleep issue to tackle. Virtually every baby does better with a 6090 minute nap, yet 3045 minute naps are the norm from about 4 months on. This is extremely frustrating, but you can teach your baby to connect sleep cycles once he or she is old enough to do so.
At What Age Do Babies Connect Sleep Cycles
Newborn babies enjoy mammoth naps, and you might think you have a good sleeper. Dont feel too smug just yet, though.
However, by the time your baby is six months old, she might be learning to connect baby sleep phases and should soon start sleeping for longer stretches.
All babies are different. Your baby might master these skills earlier or later than her peers.
If your baby was born prematurely, you should expect her to master this skill around six months after the due date rather than the date she was born.
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Kirstens Story: Developing Sleep Routines In Children
Balancing the demands of work and parenthood, Kirsten explores how developing sleep routines in her children can help ensure a lifetime of healthy sleep habits.
In many cultures, napping continues to be a normal part of daily life for both young and old. This practice, which in Spanish-speaking countries is called a siesta, tends to be more common in the tropics than in more temperate latitudes. Naps in these cultures typically take place in mid-afternoon and coincide with the hottest time of day, as well as a lull in the brain’s alerting signal that works to counteract the drive to sleep.As a consequence of these regular daytime naps, nighttime sleep is often shifted to a later hour than it is for societies or individuals that don’t nap during the day.
Create A Naptime Routine
Just like adults have bedtime routines that cue our bodies for bed, you can do the same for babies to help train them for sleep. Whether its a bedtime story, a cuddle session or changing into comfy loungewear, your infant will begin to associate these activities with sleep, which should make settling them in for naptime a breeze.
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If You Cant Predict How Long Your Baby Will Nap For
his sleep cycles are erratic. Whatever age your baby, if his nap length is unpredictable it shows that theres a sleep issue going on, says Lucy. And your babys sleep cycles have probably become erratic because hes overtired. That sounds contradictory, but babies have a stress response to being tired. Their brain thinks there must be a reason why they need to stay awake, so it releases the hormone cortisol, which has a stimulating wake-up effect. That makes it harder for babies to get to sleep and to stay asleep, which leads to broken nights, tricky nap times and out-of-sync sleep cycles.
Dealing with this starts at bedtime, says Lucy, because its at night that your baby will get most of his sleep, which sets his sleep cycles up for the next 24 hours. So, if you can get the night-time sorted, it becomes easier to resolve the day-time sleep. Plus, its in the early part of the night up until midnight that your baby spends most of his sleep cycle in deep, brain-soothing slumber. So, you need to:
Prevent Factors That Might Wake Him Up
Loud noises, barking puppies, sirens, ringing phones, the doorbell or a blaring television, can all wreak havoc on a babys sleeping schedule. While you cant ensure total silence, control what you can. Set your phone to silent or vibrate, close babys bedroom door and keep the room at a comfortable temperature to ensure the most prolonged, uninterrupted sleep possible.
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Newborn Sleep Patterns And Behaviours
Crying is the way babies communicate with you. In the first three months, newborns cry a lot because they need your help to feed, change or settle so they can get back to sleep. Although they seem to spend a lot of time sleeping , they do not have established sleep-wake rhythms like we do. These first three months are an important time for you and your baby to start to learn and understand each other.
Sometimes newborn babies cry for no apparent reason, even though you have helped to soothe them. This is normal as long as your baby is growing, gaining weight and is happy at other times. However, if you are worried about your newborns crying, please talk to your maternal and child health nurse, doctor or phone the Maternal and Child Health Line on .