New parents know how much of a struggle it can be to get their newborn baby to fall into a normal sleeping pattern. In fact, many newborns confuse their days and nights, thinking they should be awake at night and sleep throughout the day. So what is a normal sleep pattern for an infant and how do you get yours to follow that pattern?
WHAT IS A NEWBORN SLEEP PATTERN?
A newborn baby can sleep as many as 17 hours a day. Typically a newborn sleeps up to eight or nine hours during the daytime and around eight hours at night. A newborn normally won’t start to sleep through the night until he or she is three months old; however, this can vary depending on the child. In fact, some infants don’t sleep through the night until they’re almost one year old.
Most infants will want to eat every two or three hours depending on age and what he or she is being fed. It’s important that you communicate with your pediatrician to determine if and when you need to wake up for feedings
HOW TO HELP YOUR INFANT GET TO SLEEP
It is not easy for newborns to develop their own sleeping patterns. It’s even more difficult for them to fall asleep on their own. It is crucial for you to know the signs that your child is ready for sleep such as yawning, fussing, looking away and rubbing his or her eyes.
While many infants will fall asleep while breastfeeding, it’s important to wean them off this as they get older so it doesn’t turn into a pattern. When babies carry on this habit, they may begin to expect they can be in your arms as they go to sleep. It is recommended that after the newborn period, you allow your infant to become sleepy in your arms, transferring him or her to their bed while still awake.
WHAT TO KNOW ABOUT SWADDLING YOUR BABY
Swaddling is a great way to make your baby feel safe and to help him or her fall asleep. In fact, special blankets have been designed just to make swaddling easier. However, there are certain precautions you need to take when swaddling your baby.
You should only swaddle your baby is he or she is under two months old or cannot roll over on his or her own. If a swaddled baby is able to roll over onto its stomach, he or she is at risk for SIDS (sudden infant death syndrome).
WHEN TO BEGIN SLEEP TRAINING
It is recommended you begin sleep training when your baby is between 4 and 6 months old. Around 4 months of age is when babies start to develop normalcy in their sleep-wake cycle. When you are preparing your infant for sleep training, it’s crucial you start to introduce a bedtime routine. A good routine may include a warm bath, book reading and a lullaby. It’s also smart to choose a consistent bedtime. Sometime between 7 and 8 o’clock is ideal so your baby isn’t too tired.
HOW TO SUCCEED AT SLEEP TRAINING
Getting (you and) your baby to succeed at sleep training will take some time and practice. However, there are a few things you can do to ensure you and your baby are sleeping peaceful through the night in no time.
- Prioritize sleep: It is imperative that children get enough sleep. Studies show that children who don’t get enough REM sleep are more likely to struggle with a short attention span as they get older. This causes them to have trouble learning as well.
- Log your baby’s sleep: It is a good idea to keep track of how much your baby sleeps each night. This will allow you to notice patterns (i.e. if your baby wakes up at 7pm each night) and learn how to improve these problems.
- Have your baby go down while still awake: After you have gone through your entire bedtime routine with the lights on, try putting your baby in the crib while he or she is sleepy, but still awake. Don’t be surprised if your baby does cry some at the beginning. It’s OK if you chose to sit next to the crib in a chair as your baby falls asleep.
- Create a peaceful environment: One of the best ways to get your infant to sleep is to keep a cool and comfortable room. Keeping your temperature between 65 and 70 degrees is great. Also, if your baby’s room gets a lot of natural light, you may want to install room-darkening shades so he or she can fall asleep during nap times. This will also help prevent early wake-ups.
- Be consistent: It isn’t easy to train your baby to follow a normal sleep pattern, but it’s important that you stay consistent. There will come a time when your baby cries in the middle of the night. It’s a good idea to go check on your infant to ensure he or she is OK then move outside the door to continue comforting him or her. If you are forced to go back to old habits due to travel or illness, it’s important to get back on track as soon as possible.
WHEN TO SEE A DOCTOR
If you notice any changes in your infant’s sleeping pattern you should contact a doctor. Changes in sleep pattern could indicate a problem like an ear infection or fever. You should note that when your child starts to go through growth spurts, he or she will also wake up more throughout the night for food.
If you believe your child is suffering from an abnormal sleep pattern, rest assured that Medical City Children’s Urgent Care has pediatricians that are board certified, offer convenient access to the expert care you need right when you need it and are even open after hours or on the weekend.
Disclaimer: Patients’ health can vary. Always consult with a medical professional before taking medication, making health-related decisions or deciding if medical advice is right for you or your child.