How much sleep does my baby need?
Babies need significantly more sleep than adults to support their rapid developmental, both mental and physical.
Whilst every baby is slightly different with regards to how much sleep is right for them, most require the following to be fully rested.
- Newborn – 3 months: 16-18hrs in a 24hr period (8-9hrs overnight)
- 2 – 4 months: 14-16hrs in a 24hr period (9-12hrs overnight)
- 4-6 months: 14-17hrs in a 24hr period (10-12hrs overnight)
- 6-9 months: 14-16hrs in a 24hr period (11-12hrs overnight)
- 9-12 months: 14-15hrs in a 24hr period (12hrs overnight)
Why is my newborn so restless?
You may have heard your baby’s first 3 months be labelled the ‘Fourth Trimester’ The first 3 months is a time of great change and development for your baby as well as a time of great adjustment for your baby outside of the womb.
Babies are born with only their instincts and primitive reflexes to help him/her to control movements and behaviours. Your baby needs to develop so much in the first few months from developing all his/her senses, controlling reflexes and learning how to respond to you. Your baby needs to get used to not only outside influences, like light, movement, smells, noises and sensations but also what is going on inside their little bodies. Getting used to digestion and working out how much food they need. In the beginning your baby may receive an oversupply of breast milk.
Your baby’s brain is also developing rapidly during these early weeks and it’s like a sponge, soaking everything around them up. Young babies are really affected by overstimulation which can also make them very restless as your baby may be trying to switch off from the stimulation around them.
Does my newborn need to be swaddled?
Yes, all newborn babies will settle and sleep better if swaddled.
Babies are born with primitive reflexes and one of these is called the Moro or ‘startle’ reflex. This is where their arms will fling out when they are either startled, position is suddenly changed or they feel vulnerable or cold. Very young babies have many but very short sleep cycles (transitioning from light to deep sleep and back again). Swaddling helps your baby feel secure and helps them to settle down into sleep (switch off) and even more importantly helps your baby sleep longer by minimising the startle reflex when they move during light sleep.
Is it safe for my newborn to sleep on their tummy?
It is not safe to sleep your baby on their tummy or let them roll to sleep onto their tummy under the age of 4 months of age. It is recommended by the Red Nose organisation to sleep your baby on their back to help reduce the risk of Sudden Infant Death Syndrome. It is thought that very young babies may breathe in their own air or ‘rebreathing’ as its termed. This happens when your baby has not developed enough to be able to move their head for optimal breathing. If their head is facing downward they can breathe in the air they have breathed out and this is unsafe for some babies. They are also at risk of suffocation from not being able to move their head when their breathing is compromised. These risks and minimised by encouraging your young baby to sleep on his/her back.
When can I expect my baby to sleep through the night?
Babies have the ability to sleep longer stretches at night from approximately 8-12 weeks of age. As an early parenting sleep expert who has worked hands on with babies and sleep for over 30years as well as a mother of 3, I know that many babies can sleep 10-12 hours over night (with a 10pm dream feed) when:
- 12 weeks of age
- 5-6kgs in weight
- Feeding well during the day
- Having 5 feeds in a 24hr period
There is no right or wrong to when your baby sleeps through the night and the definition of ‘sleeping through’ may mean something different to different people. In most cases it is really up to you when you would like your baby to sleep through and your baby may just need a little prompting to do so. It is also OK to feed your baby throughout the night if this is what you think is best for your baby.
Babies by the age of 5-6 months have really developed a lot, are usually established on some solid food and their sleep patterns have also changed, becoming much more like the way us adults sleep- so it is really worth asking the question “Is my baby waking from hunger or is this sleep related”?
Is it OK to let my baby cry?
The answer to this question depends on ‘when’ you are letting your baby cry.
If you have fed your baby, your baby is clean and dry, you have burped your baby, have wrapped or swaddled your baby, your baby is calm when you put them into bed and then it is perfectly OK to let them have a little cry or grizzle for a minute or two. If your baby is 2-3 weeks plus, feeding well, putting on weight and is awake after feeds then it is perfectly OK to look at sleep like a process. You can ‘help’ your baby wind down to sleep and this may involve your little one making some noise before they do. It is not OK to leave your baby to cry themselves to sleep but it is OK to leave them for a minute or two to give them a little space to wind down before you pat or intervene. As your baby grows you will become more familiar with their different cries and once you have attended to their hunger cry and other needs cries you will know when they are having a wind down cry to. It is not uncommon for young babies to cry or grizzle before falling off to sleep, especially at the end of the day. Its normal!
What is the difference between co-sleeping and sharing a room?
Co sleeping is when your baby is actually in the same bed as you. You are sleeping in the same space your baby is sleeping. Sharing a room is different – you can create your babies own sleep space within your room. A cot or a bassinette either next to your bed or even further away across the room.
As your baby grows and develops their sleep changes and it actually starts to permanently change to be more like our (adults) sleep. And just like us when our sleep is disturbed, our baby’s sleep can be disturbed by outside influences and the stimuli around us. Babies really need a primed sleeping environment to promote optimum sleep. Older babies (4 months plus) who are not sleeping well in the same room as their parents, I say, are co- sleeping, because bub is aware that you are right there. Sleeping in the same room whether in a cot or actually in the same bed is exactly the same thing when no one is getting any sleep!
Can teething disrupt sleep?
Like anything- development, sickness, travel, teething can affect sleep. But it shouldn’t be the reason your baby is not sleeping night after night. Teething isn’t the cause of ongoing sleepless nights. Teething may cause a little discomfort for a day or two, usually when the tooth is cutting through the gums and it may make for a restless night. Some infant friendly pain relief should help with this. If your baby has good solid foundations for sleep and has been sleeping well teething will not change this. If your baby has not been a good sleeper, then it’s not teething that gives this longevity. Ask yourself when you think its teething causing your baby to be wakeful during the night…
- Is bub eating well during the day?
- How many nights has it been happening? (More than 3 -it’s something else)
- Does bub have a temperature?
- Is bub happy during the day?
- Is bub sleeping through the day?
- Was bub able to resettle himself before the queried teething started or did you always have to help them?
- Are there actually any teeth showing?
When will my baby not need day naps?
Your little one may stop wanting to physically sleep but in my opinion day resting is very important up until your child is close to school age. Our little ones develop so fast and are learning so much every day. They are busy little people and they need time out to help them cope with it all. Little brains are like sponges so it’s important to let them rest.
Little people like to start resisting rest, and or bedtime and this can actually mean the total opposite to what we think; that they don’t need rest. It actually usually means they are overtired and physically need the rest even more. That’s why it’s important for new parents to know that babies and young children will act the opposite way to us when they become really tired and then we can misread this resistance to down time as a sign they don’t ‘need’ it.
It is up to us to realise the importance of down time for our little ones and to implement a routine which is consistently encouraged by us, even when we think it’s not working.
My three children had day naps, rests, down time- whatever you want to call it until they were 4-4.5 years of age.
Is my baby going through the 4 month sleep regression?
- Is your baby around 4 months of age?
- Has your baby started struggling with going off to sleep sometimes or all the time?
- Has your baby started waking up more often overnight?
- Have you started feeding your baby more often over night?
- Are you up all night replacing your baby’s dummy?
- Is your baby waking right up and crying before midnight more often?
This most probably means your baby has hit the 4 month development shift more commonly known as the ‘4 month sleep regression’
The so called 4 month ‘sleep regression’ is a time for permanent change in your baby’s sleep patterns. Simply put; your baby’s sleep becomes just like yours. This change happens somewhere between 3-5 months of age and may or may not affect your baby’s sleep too much.
Before 3-4 months your baby would immediately enter deep sleep when they fall asleep, but when their sleep changes they will enter light sleep before deep sleep as they go off to sleep. They will also do this as they journey through their sleep- transitioning from light sleep into deep sleep – multiple cycles throughout their sleep journey. This is the same as how we as adults sleep.
When this all starts to happen but your baby is not yet used to the feeling of being semi awake between cycles they may wake right up, or if there is an external sleep association (feeding, dummy, patting, rocking) they are used to help them fall asleep they will call out for this to help them transition from light sleep to deep sleep again. This can easily become a vicious cycle.
If your baby has healthy foundations to sleep from the beginning and you implement consistency with teaching your bub to self-settle and resettle without associations their sleep will not be disrupted for long – babies learn FAST!
- Jen Hamilton, WOT Baby’s Safe Sleeping Expert