8 min read. Ways to understand our baby’s sleep patterns and how to help with a healthy sleep routine.
Sleep is important for baby's health
Getting enough sleep is essential for baby’s mental and physical development. Babies' brains are pretty busy working when they’re sound asleep. A well-rested child will pay more attention, has a better ability to learn and memorise new information. Babies who do not sleep enough may experience a negative impact on their growth hormones, as those are mainly produced during sleep. Growth hormones play a key role in body growth, repair of tissue, muscles and bones.
Newborns generally sleep around 18 hours a day, for 3 to 4 hours at a time. Between 3 to 12 months old, babies sleep an average 14 hours a day.
How to make your baby sleep at night
1. Implement a sleep routine
One of the ways a baby learns it's time to sleep is from hints in the environment. Setting the right lighting will help baby’s internal clock as our brain associates dark with sleep time and light with being awake.
To help your baby through this new process, implementing a nighttime ritual as early as 6 weeks old is ideal. A nighttime ritual can be to take a warm soothing bath, get into a clean diaper and new pyjamas, get his/her little hair gently combed, little snuggles with mummy or daddy, lullabies or a story, and little goodnight kisses. Consistency is key. Keep the same bedtime ritual and repeat it every night in the same order. That way it gives your baby a clear signal that bedtime is around the corner and it prepares their little body for sleep.
When implementing a bedtime routine, choosing the right timing is important. At around 3 months old, babies have a rise in melatonin, our sleep hormone. Melatonin levels rise in the evening. Your baby is ready for an early bedtime, in consistency with the sun setting. As you notice your little one being drowsy, seize the moment to start your bedtime routine.
Help your baby sleep through the night
While some babies aged between 4 and 6 months will start sleeping longer, it can take more time for others. No worries, every baby is different and we let them progress at their own pace. Sleeping through the night (over 8 hours) usually occurs at 6 months old, when your baby doesn’t need to be fed in the middle of the night anymore. Although, this milestone might be delayed for breastfed babies. As breast milk is easier to digest, their stomach will empty faster and they will require more frequent feedings.
When you believe your sweetie pie is ready to sleep through the night, there are a few things you can do to help, such as putting your baby to bed at a proper bedtime — usually around 7 to 7.30pm for children below one.
2. Naps are precious
Keeping your little one awake during the day, in hopes that they will sleep longer at night sounds like a good plan, but it doesn’t work that way. When children are overtired, their stress hormones rise, triggering cortisol and adrenaline. Overtired children have a harder time falling asleep and there is a good chance they will wake up through the night.
To help prevent your baby from being overtired, you can watch for sleep cues:
- Eye rubbing
- Ear or hair pulling
- Clinginess: your little one may hold onto you a little extra to be taken care of
- A bored look
- Less active — becomes calm
Before 4 to 5 months old, babies don’t have the tolerance to stay awake for more than 90 minutes between each sleep. Once they’re capable of being awake for longer periods, you can create the most appropriate nap schedule for your little one. Think of your baby’s day and pay close attention for a week if you notice each day starts to have a similar pattern. Then organize the nap schedule accordingly.
The number of naps your baby needs will vary depending on their age. Newborns need 3 to 5 naps a day, or even more. Around 4 to 6 months, babies usually need 3 naps a day. From 6 to 12 months, babies need between 2 or 3 naps a day. Although, it may vary from one child to another. What’s important is to notice every sign of fatigue and to keep an eye on the clock to understand your baby’s sleep patterns.
Regular and consistent naps are essential. Ideally, your baby should sleep in the crib to get the quality rest they need and deserve. 'Babies should nap in their cribs every day so they recognize their surroundings and feel safe.’ according to pediatrician Dr. Deborah Lonzer.
3. No snacking
During the first 8 weeks, babies should be fed on demand every 2 to 2.5 hours. If they feel hungry every hour, it means they do not eat enough at each session. Keep track of how many bottles you feed your baby every day and how many minutes for each session. If they only eat for 5 to 10 minutes during the day but eat for over 20 minutes at night, it means their little tummy isn’t full enough to sleep through the night and they’re only snacking during daytime.
If your baby eats well during the day, they should be able to sleep with no interruption 4 to 6 hours at night by the age of 3 months old. To help your little one eat more efficiently, you can try to space out their meals so they’re actually hungry each time.
4. Put your baby to bed drowsy but awake
If you put your baby to bed once they’ve already fallen asleep, they won’t recognize their surroundings if they wake up in the middle of the night, and will need your help to go back to sleep. If you always let your little one fall asleep in your arms, they may start to expect it to happen every time in order to fall asleep — and that’s what we want to avoid! Getting your baby to bed drowsy will help them learn to fall asleep on their own.
5. Self-soothe training
If you always rush into your baby’s room to soothe them back to sleep, you’re creating a cycle that will be difficult to break. As long as you know your little one cannot possibly be hungry, you can take a moment before rushing in. It is recommended to start a »soothing-ladder«, a gentle pre-sleep training. When you hear your little baby fuss, try to let them work it out. If they struggle to calm down, you can go in but it’s best if you don’t pick your baby up — just gently shush them. If it doesn’t work, you can gradually climb the soothing ladder until your little one falls back asleep. The point of the soothing ladder is to help your baby practice their emerging self-soothing skills.
Many parents notice their 3-4 months old babies demonstrating self-soothing behaviours.
The self-soothing method can be slowly put into place when your baby is around 6 months old. At this age, most infants have the capability to sleep 8 hours straight and to fall asleep on their own, which makes it an ideal period to encourage them to self-soothe to sleep — in case they wake up at night.
Introducing a comforter to your baby can help them learn to sleep independently. Comforters, also called security blankets, can be used as a friendly companion to accompany your child everywhere they go.
For your baby, it is preferable to use a soft toy that is made of light, natural, and breathable fabric. And as your little one may get super attached to their comforter, it’s probably best to get them a well-made and long-lasting toy. An ideal comforter for your cutie pie can be our Organic Peace Silk Baby Comforter 'Lullaby Lune', filled with 100% fluffy organic cotton.
Sleep regression and baby sleep problems
A sleep regression describes a period of time, usually 2 to 4 weeks, when a baby who has been sleeping through the night suddenly has trouble sleeping.
When does sleep regression happen?
Sleep regression can happen anytime as it is linked to unpredictable factors. But there are some periods when sleep regression is rather likely to happen, due to growth spurts, teething or reaching new milestones:
The 4 months sleep regression can be caused by teething pain, hunger from growth spurts, or your little one’s new excitement of mastering how to roll over or sit up
At this age, your baby’s world is quickly expanding. They’re experiencing a lot of growing up. Their little world is full of new discoveries, which might leave them a bit too excited to go to sleep — there is just so much to explore!
8 - 10 months
Many babies usually start crawling around this age. Separation anxiety is also very common at around 9 months, which may cause your baby to wake up at night for some reassurance.
Between 9 to 12 months, babies usually start standing up and take their first steps. Reaching big miles can temporarily disturb your baby’s sleep.
No worries, sleep regression is only a matter of a few weeks. Once your little one gets used to their newly found skills, they’ll go back to their sleeping routine. Parents, don’t overthink too much! There isn’t any magical book that can give you all the answers. Your little cutie is unique and is in good hands. 💕