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While parents stay sleep deprived for the first several months, babies actually sleepover most of their life during their newborn phase. Although babies are such sleepers since they wake up and fall asleep so often sometimes it can be hard for parents to tell or measure if their baby is sleeping enough. Sleeping is beside eating, probably the biggest need of each baby, they grow and develop so quickly at this stage and sleeping provides them enough time for resting, restorative and growing processes.
We have all heard the “sleeps like a baby” phrase, which implies that babies sleep really well and that they easily fall asleep, which is something with what many parents would probably have to disagree. In today’s post, we are going to share a few tips for parents to help them establish a safe and healthy sleep routine of their baby.
Will I Ever Sleep Again?
If you are reading this and you are a sleep-deprived parent, to console you first, yes, you will get your sleep back, someday. While trying to establish baby’s sleep pattern, many parents will spend many, and by many, we mean weeks and months of sleepless nights, except those few who got lucky with a quiet and sleepy baby, which is so rare that it is almost a myth. Although parents were aware that sleepless nights are going to become a part of their life, nothing can really prepare them for that, because in reality, being awake because your baby cries and screams at 3AM is far from staying up all night and binge-watching favorite tv shows.
But, eventually, it will all settle down when babies get to that point when they can establish a sleep routine and schedule. The reality is that babies demand full attention, commitment, and for new parents, it can be hard to put someone else in the center of their lives and adjust to someone else’s needs, even though that someone is their child just because that is not the way we are used to functioning.
Even when a baby starts to sleep on a schedule, that does not mean much more sleep and free time for parents, because they will probably have to use that time to do all the chores around the house, laundry, cleaning, etc. But as hard as it sometimes can be, all parents know that it was all worth it.
How Much Sleep do Babies Need?
All babies need a lot of sleep, up to 18 hours per day, but that varies a bit throughout the first year, so we are going to go into detail and present you the optimal sleep routine for baby’s first year. Many parents cannot wait that their baby starts sleeping for the whole night, but younger babies need feeding more frequently so they cannot connect many hours of sleep. As babies grow and their stomachs develop and hold more, and they start to sleep for longer stretches. When establishing newborn sleep routine, babies should be placed to sleep before they are actually fully asleep, for example when you notice that the baby is yawning and the eyelids are fluttering, because babies need to learn to self soothe and fall asleep on their own. We would like to remember parents that every baby is different, and so are their sleep patterns, that is why parents should not stress about the fact that their baby is not doing everything by the book or if she is not making progress as quickly as some other babies.
- 0 – 6 weeks – this is a very hectic phase of adjustment for parents and newborns, sleeping is irregular, it is too early for any type of sleep schedule, babies are awake usually when they need feeding or changing since they can stay awake approximately for 40 minutes consecutive. This is a so-called sleep-eat-poop phase, and babies generally sleep for 15 to 18 hours total each day.
- 2 – 3 months – at this time parents can start their baby sleep training. Babies are able to stay awake longer in between the naps, around 1.5 hours, and parents are learning more about baby’s sleep habits. Babies will need from 14 to 16 hours of sleep, and some might even connect between 3 to 6 hours of sleep during the night. Parents should schedule their bedtime around 8 PM, but not later than 10 PM.
- 4 – 6 months – this is a transitional phase, and babies have different ways of getting through it, some will reduce their daily naps to only 2, some babies will experience sleep regression, while others might be sleeping tight during the whole night. If your baby is still unable to pull a full night of sleep, you need to know that you are almost there, since this is a period when babies start connecting more sleep hours during the night. The transition from bassinet to a crib can be tricky, but also the changes in sleep cycle itself are affecting on the baby too. Babies should sleep from 12 to 15 hours in total, and they can stretch their nighttime sleep up to 8 hours. Bedtime should be around 8 PM.
- 6 – 10 months – this is a stage when some babies are still struggling to connect more than 4 hours per night, while others are sleeping whole night for more than a month, and that is ok too, because like we said, babies are different, and they do not have to do all things equally at the same time. It is important to stick to their routine and eventually they will sleep for those magical 8 hours. They will spend around 11 to 15 hours sleeping, with maybe one or two naps during the day, but make sure that the naps are not postponing their bedtime which should stay around 8 PM.
- 10 – 12 months – here is the part when babies sleep patterns start looking more like the adult ones, well, except for the naps. Most babies will sleep during the night, play and explore during the day, maybe have a nap or two and that is it. The only potential challenge could be sleep regressions, which many babies experience around their 10th month. Many milestones, changes of environments and routine or separation anxiety can be the cause of setbacks or sleep regressions at this age. But, regardless of that, as babies approach their first birthday, they will be sleeping 11 to 14 hours, with one or two hour-long naps during the day.
Safe Sleep Environment for Babies
Babies are particularly sensitive, and their sleep is very fragile, so parents need to make sure that they have proper conditions and a safe environment for their baby. American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) often prescribes new safety wise regulations for babies and baby products, so make sure to check their recommendations. Since babies cannot talk, it is sometimes hard for parents to understand baby’s needs although they are all pretty basic and simple, so here are some things on which parents should pay particular attention when it comes to safety.
- Sleeping surface – mattresses for babies need to be firm and supportive because soft and cozy surfaces are potential risk factors, when babies start turning on sides, stomach or moving, soft surfaces may prevent them from rolling back, block the airway and cause suffocation or SIDS.
- Crib – babies should not share a bed with their parents; they can safely sleep in a bassinet or crib, which are designed with their needs and safety on the mind. Sleeping between parents, or in arms of one parent can lead to accidental suffocation and many other complications.
- Sleep position – it is always recommended to place babies on their back since it is the safest and healthiest sleep position for them. It also helps with the prevention of SIDS since in this position airway is not blocked. But, while babies are awake, they should also have their tummy-time supervised by parents, since spending too much time on their back may lead to the flat head syndrome.
- Toys and pillows – although they are cute and playful, cozy pillows, stuffed animals and plushy toys should not be placed inside of baby’s crib, they are another potential blocker of airway and cause of SIDS.
- Pacifier- start using the pacifier only if your baby was breastfeeding for at least a month, to avoid confusions or create a preference for the pacifier. Place it in the infant’s mouth before once you put them to bed, if the baby does not want it, do not force it. Pacifiers, as well as breastfeeding, have been associated with a lower risk of SIDS.
- Temperature regulation – it can be hard to tell what is the optimal temperature for babies or the amount of clothing since parents tend to exaggerate and care a little bit too much sometimes. Overheating can occur while the baby is sleeping and it is another cause of SIDS. Do not go over the top with layers on baby, it is important that the pajamas are comfortable, use one layer of sheets or a blanket as a cover, and make sure that the room temperature is optimal.
Sleep Mistakes that New Parents Make
Parenting can be harsh, especially if you are having your first child, many changes are happening, and some situations are hard to manage. To help out, we are going to suggest what you should avoid by listing some common mistakes that new parents usually make.
- Sleeping with a newborn in arms – this is a huge no, it does not matter if you are in your bed or napping on a couch in front a tv, by doing so you will put your baby at high risk of dropping down or suffocation which is one of the leading causes of SIDS which stands for sudden infant death syndrome.
- Sleeping in a car seat – since for babies is so easy to fall asleep, while you are driving home, doing some errands around the town or traveling, babies will snooze in their car seat. And you might think that that is a good thing, well, it is better than crying anyway, but you should not let the baby stay too long in the car seat for a few reasons. The first one is the angle of a car seat if it is too upfront baby’s head can fall forward and block her airway, and the second risk is developing positional plagiocephaly which is actually a flattened head syndrome.
- Bumper sets for cribs – while shopping for your baby you have probably seen many crib designs, colors, followed by even more colorful bumper sets for cribs. Although it seems reasonable to use bumpers since they are softer than the typical wooden rail, they are also a possible cause of SIDS, and their sale is even banned in some states of the US.
- Room-sharing – sleeping in the same room with a newborn baby in its bassinet or crib is recommended, but no longer than the first six months. Many parents do not have enough space in their bedroom to fit a crib, bassinets are smaller, but they are used only up to six months, and some babies sleep better when they are alone, without any potential noise or movements around them. Once your baby gets older or becomes a toddler, it will be much harder to teach her how to sleep in a separate room, and you might have to use the notorious sleep training called cry-it-out method.