The first three months with your baby, although exciting, can be exhausting and emotional.
Apart from the long list of baby necessities, lack of sleep is one of the bitterest complaints from new parents. Nights kept awake by the unpredictable baby sleep patterns are an inevitable part of parenting. Babies aren’t meant to sleep for long stretches at night and they don’t sleep the way parents expect.
Take comfort in knowing that this is common and that you are never alone.
Baby Sleep Time
Some babies need more sleep than others, and some may start sleeping longer stretches at night earlier than others. Sleeping through the night is a broad definition ranging from six to eight hours. With time, the duration and timing of your baby’s sleep patterns will become more predictable.
The first few weeks of baby sleep patterns
Your baby’s sleep time may seem like a lot for the first few weeks.
Babies tend to sleep 16 to 20 hours in total, and they can fall asleep any time of the day or night. Your baby has not grasped the cycle of day and night. Depending on your baby’s appetite too, he or she will need to be fed every two to three hours. These initial weeks are also when his little tummy digests milk quicker and the call of hunger disturbs his sleep.
Tip: Keep night feeds in the same room as your baby sleeps in. Moving rooms, turning on lights and walking around will encourage waking. Practise short, dark and quiet feeds.
3 to 6 months
Your baby’s sleep time will reduce to about 15 hours of sleep in total, mostly at night and with two or three naps during the day. He’s able to discriminate day and night, and is ready to take on one long stretch of sleep during the night. His daily patterns of sleeping and waking will be more predictable. Your energy level will return and even if your baby still require night feeds, you will manage these feeds with little fuss.
A new emotional milestone of separation anxiety is beginning around this time too. Your baby may not understand that when you disappear you will come back again. This can be quite unsettling for your baby.
Tip: Sleeping in close proximity can change your baby’s sleep routine. The closer your baby is to you at night, the more likely you are to be nearing the end of waking up from a deep sleep for feed.
6 to 12 months
Your baby will sleep about 14 hours in total. His night time sleep can stretch to 10 hours and during the day he may take two naps lasting up to two hours each. This can also be the stage when a baby sleep routine will revert to the unpredictable pattern.
At this exciting stage where your baby goes through developmental milestones of increasing mobility and awareness, it’s common to get his little brain over stimulated to be switched off or resettled after being woken.
The good thing is that as your baby masters each new milestone, there will be spells of sound slumber again.
Tip: Try to stretch the time that your baby spends awake during his last active period of the day. Your baby may need less help falling asleep at night.
Baby sleep routine can be stress-free!
Avoid developmental comparisons on your baby’s sleep time with other babies. With patience and some strategies, you will be able to create a healthy baby sleep routine that respects your baby’s developmental needs. Don’t feel pressured or stressed by question like, ‘Is your baby sleeping through yet?’ bother you.
Keep in mind that you will be more responsive and better able to manage your baby if you take good care of yourself by balancing your baby’s needs together with your own.