These tips can help you understand the sleeping patterns of newborns, infants and babies and how you can help them get the sleep they need.
Newborns (0 - 2 months)
Newborns sleep a lot. They have no concept of day or night and sleep in short stretches and wake up to feed every few hours. This can be very disturbing for parents but it will go away as the baby grows up. During the first couple of months, babies sleep anywhere from 14 to 20 hours per day. There is not much you can do to to change your newborn's sleeping pattern but you can help by starting some regular habits that will help her sleep as she becomes older. If you do these regularly every night, your baby will slowly learn to associate sleep with night time.
Some habits that can help baby are:
- Do not initiate active play with the baby, at night times
- Do not create a lot activity when baby gets up to feed in the middle of the night. Keep it quiet
- Turn bright lights off and use a nightlight
- Keep the noise down but don't make the baby's environment noisefree. In the future. she maybe unable to sleep even if there is the slightest disturbance.
- Play some soft music or sing softly to her
- Give him a warm bath (be careful of infecting the umbilical cord)
- A soft massage can also be helpful
- Rock your baby to help him settle down at night. However, if you rock your baby all the way to sleep, he may expect this every time he needs to go to sleep.
- Use a night time feed to lull your baby to sleep
- Lie down next to your baby as she starts getting drowsy.
Baby (3 - 6 months)
At 3 months, your baby will start spending more time asleep at night (maybe up to 5 hours at a stretch).
You can help baby understand that daytime is for staying awake and for activity by doing some of the following:
- Play with him actively during the day
- Take her out for walks, drives, shopping trips etc. during the day
- But do not force him to stay awake during the day. This may be harmful to his health and will not really help him sleep better at nights.
During nights, or as night time approaches, use a routine every day. A routine will help baby understand when it is night time and to sleep more during it. This routine can include:
- A warm bath
- A soft massage
- Play soft music or sing softly to her
- Rock your baby for a while. However, if you rock your baby all the way to sleep, he may expect this everytime he needs to go to sleep.
- Lie down with baby for a while as she starts getting drowsy
- It will help your baby learn to sleep in bed, if you put her to bed when she is drowsy rather than when she is fast asleep. This may work for some and not for others. So do not get stressed if it does not work for your baby.
6 months or more
By this age, most babies will be sleeping mostly at nights and almost through the night. They will still be sleeping 12 to 16 hours a day with a nap or two in the daytime. By this time, you should have set yourself and your baby up with a regular nighttime routine that will help both of you.
Your baby will tend to get up once or twice a night. Don't take a very active approach right away. Step it up gradually. Some of the time, the baby may go back to sleep on her own. Sometimes, she may just need her blanket readjusted. Sometimes, she may need you to hug her. And sometimes, you may just have to take all possible action including walking around with her. Do what works for you and your child.
Crying it out
A number of friends and family will tell you to let the baby "Cry it out" or to let the baby "Cry himself/herself to sleep". There is no right way or wrong way here. It is up to the parents to decide this. A baby crying his heart out, is always tough on anyone. Before you let your baby "cry it out", you should read all you can about the different view points on it.