6 Baby Sleep Patterns & Scheduling Tips New Parents Wish They Knew
Newborn Sleep Patterns
A baby is considered a newborn from birth until about 3 months of age. During the first 3 months of life, your newborn sleep patterns will look nothing like yours – your baby will sleep in short bursts (anywhere from 30 or 45 minutes – 3 or possibly 4 hours), and then eat between periods of sleep. In this way, newborn’s don’t follow a typical day/night sleep schedule; resulting in super sleep-deprived new parents. Here are 6 baby sleep patterns and scheduling tips all new parents wish they knew:
How much Sleep does my Baby Need?
The answer is A LOT! Many new parents are surprised to learn that children need anywhere between 12 and 18 hours of sleep per day, depending on the age of your child. Here are some specific guidelines for babies of different age groups and their sleep patterns:
- 0-3 months of age: 16-18 hours per day
- 3-6 months of age: about 15 hours per day
- 6-12 months of age: about 14 hours per day
- 12 months of age and up: 12-13 hours per day
A good night’s sleep gives children the energy they need to wake up each morning feeling happy, refreshed, and ready to learn. Whether you decide to co-sleep or sleep train your baby, well-established sleep patterns are essential to give both you and your baby the well-needed sleep.
A common complaint among new parents is that their child seems to sleep very well during the day, but becomes very active at night – just the opposite of most adults! In fact, newborns come out of the womb having their days and nights completely mixed up! This is called day/night confusion, and babies who struggle with it tend to have irregular sleep patterns (sleep a lot during the day and then wake up frequently at night).
This is quite natural during the first 4-6 weeks, so try to make the best of it. Here are some tips you can try to combat day/night confusion:
- When possible, sleep when your baby sleeps so you have the energy to deal with frequent night time wakings.
- Make sure that you make a clear distinction between daytime and night. This means keeping the house brighter and more active during the day, and darker and quieter at night. Yep, that means avoid the temptation to get up and start watching TV or doing chores in the middle of the night.
- Stimulation during the day, no stimulation at night: Daytime is for play. Nighttime is for sleep. Don’t treat days like nights, afraid to wake the baby up.
Many parents discover that their newborns are extra sleepy in the first week or two after birth – you may find that you have to wake your newborn to feed, or that your newborn often drifts off during a feeding, before eating her fill. But rest assured, your newborn will definitely “wake up” within three weeks after birth – at that point, you will start to deal with more wakefulness (in fact, you may start to miss the early weeks of having a super-sleepy newborn!!). A baby cries more often as she gets a bit older, sometimes, depending on temperament. And, thankfully, you will learn quickly how to soothe a crying baby.
When Should my Baby be Sleeping Through the Night?
It depends. Every child is different. Some babies will begin to sleep for longer stretches between 4 and 6 months, but sleeping through the night for more than an 8-hour stretch typically occurs after 6 months. The ability to sleep through the night is helped by the elimination of nighttime feedings, which the infant is ready for after six months. This may be delayed for breastfeeding babies because they metabolize breast milk relatively quickly and require more frequent feedings. If you think your baby is ready, there are things you can do to help him along the way. Put him down at the proper bedtime for his age. For babies under 1 year of age, it is usually 7 or 7:30 p.m. If your baby is up late, he may become overtired, which can cause him to take longer to fall asleep, to wake up more often during the night, and to wake up in the early morning. Bedtime routines matter, too. You don’t need a strict one with a baby under 4 months because he isn’t ready to sleep through the night anyway, but once your baby is older, establish a bedtime routine and keep it every night to encourage consistent sleep patterns.
How Can I Tell When My Child is Getting Tired?
ONe of the most common mistakes new parents make when it comes to newborn sleep is waiting until their baby is overtired before putting the baby to bed. This is a big no-no as it actually makes falling asleep much more difficult for your little one to establish good sleeping patterns. You can tell when your baby is starting to get tired by the following sleeping cues:
- Rubbing eyes
- Arching back
- Pulling ears
When you notice your baby starting to show these signs, it’s either naptime or bedtime (yay!). Getting your baby into bed before over-tiredness sets in will make things much easier for everyone!
How Can I Get My Baby to Sleep Longer?
Your baby will sleep for longer stretches once they have learned the skills needed to fall asleep independently. This simply means that your child must be able to get to sleep without any help from you. A “sleep cycle” lasts about 45 minutes in both adults and children. This means that we all wake up (very briefly in most cases) every 45 minutes or so. In most adults (and children with well-established sleep patterns), these “wake-ups” are so brief that we aren’t even aware of them. However, if your child relies on you in order to fall asleep (i.e. if you rock or nurse your child to sleep), then he will quite often need to be rocked or nursed back to sleep every time he wakes. That’s why it is key to put your child to bed when they are sleepy, but not asleep. You can also play some white noise to encourage longer stretches of sleep. Here’s a list of our favorite infant-friendly white noises to help you get started.
How Many Naps Should My Child Take During The Day
It depends on the age of your child. Of course, every child is different when it comes to sleep patterns, but here are some good guidelines to follow:
- Age 0-3 months: 4-5 naps per day
- Age 3-6 months: 3 naps per day
- Age 6-14 months: 2 naps per day
- Age 15 months – 3 years: 1 nap per day
Note that each nap should last somewhere between 1 and 3 hours! There are many causes of early wakes; if your baby has a consistent short sleeping cycle, ask yourself the following questions to find out the cause(s):
- Is bedtime too late for your baby? is he overtired?
- Did he not nap well during the day? Many times, good naps lead to good night time sleeps.
- Was there too big of a wakeful window from last nap to bedtime?
- Is your child going to bed drowsy, even a couple of fluttery eyelids?
Here’s a cheat sheet for baby sleep patterns from birth to toddlerhood:
Surviving New Parents Sleep Deprivation
Sleep is important for everyone. When your baby sleeps well, you sleep well. You can read more about our personal experience in 5 things we did to get 8 hours of sleep in my son’s first few weeks of life. We hope the tips we have presented here on baby sleep patterns help! Comment down below if you have any ideas/experience in helping new parents survive the first few weeks/months of parenthood.
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