Helping Babies Sleep for Longer: Insights Into Your Child’s Sleep Needs

Becoming familiar with the sleeping patterns of a new born baby is critical for any new parent. Adequate sleep is a necessity not only for you, but also for your child. It becomes unmanageable when the baby doesn’t sleep for long stretches at night or constantly wakes up. This can lead to fatigue, hindering your ability to perform routine tasks smoothly throughout the day. This piece conveys valuable information regarding understanding your baby’s sleep requirements and ways to facilitate them in improving their sleep!

How much sleep does my baby need?

Newborns (0-3 months old) should get 14–17 hours of sleep over a 24-hour period, and infants (4-11 months old) should get 12-15 hours.

With all the rapid growth and development happening in their bodies, babies need a lot of sleep! The amount of sleep they need varies, though. Every child is different when it comes to how much sleep he or she needs – another child in your mother’s group might be doing well on less sleep, where yours needs more to thrive.

Babies who seem alert, otherwise healthy, but regularly grizzly may need more sleep. Little ones who you could describe as the ‘eternally content’ baby are probably getting enough sleep.

As babies get older their needs change – they’ll sleep less during daylight hours and more during the nighttime. The awake time between naps will increase and they’ll need more nighttime sleep.

How long is a baby sleep cycle?

A baby sleep cycle is around 45-50 minutes.

The 45-minute sleep period is usually only one cycle of deep sleep. As they develop, babies will learn to link a number of cycles together for longer periods of deep sleep.

You may have a baby who wakes up really often at night, sometimes every 45 minutes, which can be confusing and frustrating. Keep in mind that babies under 3 months are still adjusting to the outside world. While it can be tiring for parents, this is completely normal behavior for newborns.

When are babies able to sleep through the night?

‘Sleeping through the night’ is typically considered to be sleeping for 6 hours straight. Most babies will be physically able to sleep through the night around 3-6 months old, when their stomachs are big enough that a full feed before sleep will sustain them for longer.

When they’re born, babies only have a very small stomach, and as a result, need to be fed more frequently. They’re also having to make a significant adjustment to life in the outside world.

This period is often referred to as the ‘4th Trimester’ – the first 3 months where your baby is still behaving as it would in the womb. They\’re eating and sleeping whenever they do, with no real routine or pattern.

During the 4th Trimester, it’s normal for babies to have erratic and short sleep cycles. It is important to know that although you can introduce good sleeping routines during this time, what is more important is caring for your baby with love and soothing them when they wake up.

What are some ways to help my newborn sleep well?

Things you can do to help your newborn sleep better include:

Shifting your baby’s sleep cycle. When your baby is around 2 to 3 months old you can start guiding them about the differences between day and night. When babies are born they may have their days and nights mixed up. You’ll also find that their sleep habits are quite closely connected to how they’re feeding, so as you’re teaching them about day and night, keep the lights dim when you feed them overnight.

Understanding your baby’s signals. Parents should be aware of their baby’s signs for being sleepy. Signs include becoming fussy, yawning, crying, tugging on body parts or rubbing eyes. Waiting to put the baby down until these signs are present will help them associate those things with sleep.

Establishing a bedtime routine. Your baby may benefit from a routine before bed. This includes bathing, cuddling, reading stories, and singing gentle and calming songs over the hour leading up to bedtime. Setting up this pattern now can create future habits that will help your child sleep better on a regular basis.

Around the age of 6 months, work on stopping those last feedings immediately before bed. It may be beneficial to introduce a blanket or stuffed animal into your child’s bedtime routine if they seem interested – these things can help them self-soothe if they wake overnight.

The bedroom environment should be made quiet, cool, dark and as comfortable for sleep as possible. If you’d like, or if it makes your child feel more comfortable, a nightlight set on the lowest brightness setting can be used.

Understanding your baby may make sounds or move a lot during sleep. Your baby may seem like they’re awake when they’re actually asleep! You’ll notice him/her smiling, sucking, twitching, or jerking; all of these are common when they’re sleeping soundly. However, if your infant cries for more than a few minutes it’s time to check on them.

Should I be concerned if my baby isn’t sleeping at night?

Infant sleeping patterns change all the time, so it is normal for them not to sleep well overnight from time to time. If your child is showing other signs of distress such as daytime fatigue, extended periods of irritability, or they’re not eating as well as you’d expect, reach out to your doctor.

Brief situations where your infant is disrupted (like illness or travel) may make sleep more challenging for your child. To help them regain their usual routines as quickly and effectively as possible, maintain a consistent schedule for them to encourage better nighttime rest.

If you’re concerned about your little one’s sleeping, use a sleep tracker to keep a record of what is happening. A baby sleep tracker makes it really easy to see patterns in your child’s behavior and will provide your pediatrician or doctor a wealth of information if you choose to bring your child to them.

Practical things you can do to help your baby sleep longer

Fulfill all needs before bedtime – Try feeding or changing your little one before bedtime, so that he or she will be less likely to wake up in the night for these needs.

Put them down to sleep where they will be waking up. To help your baby get back to sleep on their own between sleep cycles, keep their sleep environment consistent. If they wake up or stir, they will realize “okay I’m in my crib just like when I fell asleep. I can still hear my white noise and I’m still in my sleeping bag. Nothing has changed about my environment, and I know how to go to sleep here. I’ll do what I did earlier.” Their familiarity with this sleeping environment builds comfort and confidence, which will help them relax back into sleep.

Build associations with their sleep environment. Things like a dark, cool bedroom will support the development of their body clock. (or circadian rhythm) Connect daytime naps with slightly brighter or noisier sleep environments, and nighttime longer sleeps with darker, cooler environments and a sleeping bag.

What might prevent your baby from sleeping through the night?

A baby’s alertness is also influenced by their hunger and thirst levels, whether or not they’re being fed at a set schedule, what environment you’re in (bright/dark), if there are any new faces around them or loud noises that might startle them out of slumber.

Your baby’s immune system is also developing, so they may be more likely to catch a sniffle from a doting visitor. Like adults, blocked sinuses and an itchy throat could prevent your baby from getting good sleep.

What should I do if my baby’s pacifier falls out during sleep?

If your baby goes to bed without a pacifier, you do not have to replace it when it falls out. However if the pacifier falls out during sleep and your baby starts crying, give them their pacifier to calm them.

Try not to make this a habit as your baby may become reliant on the pacifier for their sleep routine. 45 minutes later when they stir after a sleep cycle and the pacifier is no longer in their mouth, they’ll want you to come back in and give it to them if they’re too young to put it back in by themselves.

The same applies to nursing your baby to sleep – when they wake they won’t be in the same environment, and that can be distressing to them. Ideally, you’ll want them to know that they can go to sleep on their own, without having a pacifier or being nursed.

Is it bad to rock a baby to sleep?

Rock them for a short while before laying them in their crib, until they feel calm and comfortable, but try to put them down before they’re completely asleep. If you can’t put them down awake and need to rock them first, do so for a shorter and shorter period of time before laying them back down in their bed.

Can Implementing Strategies to Help My Baby Sleep Longer Also Help Them Sleep Without Being Held?

Implementing baby sleep techniques without being held can indeed help your little one sleep longer and more independently. By establishing a consistent bedtime routine and gradually transitioning them from being held to self-soothing methods, you can teach your baby to fall asleep on their own. Techniques like gradual retreat and responsive settling can aid in this process, ensuring your baby sleeps longer without needing to be held.

You can help your baby sleep longer, but be patient!

It’s important to remember that as your baby grows, their sleep needs will change. Keep in mind the impact of illness and other factors on their sleeping habits too! If you are concerned about how long your baby is sleeping for, don’t be afraid to reach out to a doctor.

Do you have any tips that may help our readers get more sleep at night? Let us know by leaving a comment below!

Helping babies to sleep for longer
Ann Barr

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