Oh Sleep! I am an advocate of consistent sleep habits for myself as well as for my daughter. During those early years, everything we planned as a family, including going to the store, revolved around naps and bedtime. I know how I feel when I do not receive enough sleep; I did not want to encounter a sleep deprived baby/toddler with NO self-control! 🙂
Children thrive on consistency with routines but more importantly, great sleep patterns. I have been asked often by parents about baby's sleep patterns. I am not a sleep guru, however, as a pediatric physical therapist, I understand the significance sleep has on overall neurological development. Therefore, I went searching for one of the most common questions. "How Much Sleep Does My BABY Need?"
After researching various organizations and research based resources, I have found some AVERAGES that will give you, the parent, an idea of what is needed. The National Sleep Foundation is a great resource if you are looking for more information.
Helping your baby fall asleep
Babies may not be able to establish their own sleeping and waking patterns. Surprisingly, not all babies know how to put themselves to sleep, or are able to go back to sleep if they are awakened in the night. Standford Children's Health recommends the following: When it is time for bed, many parents want to rock or breastfeed a baby to help him or her fall asleep. Establishing a routine at bedtime is a good idea. However, be sure that your baby does not fall asleep in your arms. This may become a pattern and your baby may begin to expect to be in your arms in order to fall asleep. When your baby briefly awakens during a sleep cycle, he or she may not be able to go back to sleep on his or her own.
Babies who feel secure are better able to handle separations, especially at night. Cuddling and comforting your baby during the day can help him or her feel more secure. Other ways to help your baby learn to sleep include the following:
- Allow time for naps each day as needed for the age of the baby.
- Avoid stimulation and activity close to bedtime. Stimulation includes excess noise, screens, overhead lights.
- Establish a bedtime routine, such as bath, reading books, and rocking.
- Play soft music or white noise while your baby is getting sleepy.
- Introduce a transitional object such as a small soft toy or security blanket that your baby can take to bed, but NOT before your baby is old enough (able to roll and sit) to avoid the risk of suffocation.
- Tuck your baby into bed when he and she is drowsy, but before going to sleep.
- Comfort and reassure your baby when he or she is afraid.
- For night awakenings, comfort and reassure your baby by patting and soothing, but avoid taking your baby out of bed. Be mindful of feedings/hunger.
- If your baby cries, wait a few minutes, then return and reassure with patting and soothing. Then, say goodnight and leave (repeat as needed).
- Be consistent with the routine and your responses.
Reducing the risk for sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS) and other sleep-related infant deaths
Here are recommendations from the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) on how to reduce the risk for SIDS and sleep-related deaths from birth to age 1:
- Make sure your baby is immunized. An infant who is fully immunized can reduce his or her risk for SIDS by 50 percent.
- Breastfeed your infant. The AAP recommends breastfeeding for at least six months.
- Place your infant on his or her back for sleep or naps. This can decrease the risk for SIDS, aspiration, and choking. Never place your baby on his or her side or stomach for sleep or naps. If your baby is awake, allow your child time on his or her tummy as long as you are supervising, to decrease the chances that your child will develop a flat head.
- Always talk with your baby's doctor before raising the head of their crib if he or she has been diagnosed with gastroesophageal reflux.
- Offer your baby a pacifier for sleeping or naps, if he or she isn't breastfed. If breastfeeding, delay introducing a pacifier until breastfeeding has been firmly established.
- Use a firm mattress (covered by a tightly fitted sheet) to prevent gaps between the mattress and the sides of a crib, a play yard, or a bassinet. This can decrease the risk for entrapment, suffocation, and SIDS.
- Share your room instead of your bed with your baby. Putting your baby in bed with you raises the risk for strangulation, suffocation, entrapment, and SIDS. Bed sharing is not recommended for twins or other higher multiples.
- Avoid using infant seats, car seats, strollers, infant carriers, and infant swings for routine sleep and daily naps. These may lead to obstruction of an infant's airway or suffocation.
- Avoid using illicit drugs and alcohol, and don't smoke during pregnancy or after birth.
- Avoid overbundling, overdressing, or covering an infant's face or head. This will prevent him or her from getting overheated, reducing the risk for SIDS.
- Avoid using loose bedding or soft objects—bumper pads, pillows, comforters, blankets—in an infant's crib or bassinet to help prevent suffocation, strangulation, entrapment, or SIDS.
- Avoid using home cardiorespiratory monitors and commercial devices—wedges, positioners, and special mattresses—to help decrease the risk for SIDS and sleep-related infant deaths. These devices have never been shown to reduce the risk of SIDS. In rare cases, they have caused infant deaths.
- Always place cribs, bassinets, and play yards in hazard-free areas—those with no dangling cords or wires—to reduce the risk for strangulation.