The New Parent’s Guide to Baby Sleep
We’ve all heard the stories: “My baby slept through the night at two weeks old”, or, “It took 18 months before my little one got eight hours!”
For a new or soon-to-be parent, these conflicting tales can be a little confusing and nerve-wracking to hear. Sleep is such a big topic and it can be difficult to know if what you’re experiencing with your baby is typical.
However, when it comes to sleep, it’s important to remember that there is no normal! Different babies have different needs, and your experience as a parent will vary from others.
Having said that, there are some general rules and tips for new parents that can guide you about the topic of newborns and sleep.
How much zzz’s should my baby be getting?
For babies, the amount of sleep they need is very much dependant on their age and their individual needs, however for the first six months expect them to sleep a lot!
When they come home from the hospital, newborns can snooze for up to 18 hours a day, with the average being around 16 hours. As they will be feeding often, sleep is usually broken up into two to three-hour stretches where they eat, take in the world, and then go back to dreaming. Breastfed babies typically wake up more regularly than bottle fed ones, so take this into account if you’re breastfeeding.
By one-month-old, they’ll usually sleep for around 14 hours a day. However, they will begin to have one long stretch in the first part of the night of four to five hours and will wake up every two to three hours to eat after that.
At three months, snooze time is down to 13 hours a day, including eight hours at night. Some lucky parents find their little ones sleeping through the night at this age and taking three or four naps in the day.
By six months, the average amount of sleep is down to 12 hours, with many babies sleeping through the night with two or three naps during the day. However, don’t worry if your baby still wakes up in the wee hours, as some may take longer than others to sleep a full night.
Providing a safe and comfy sleeping environment
When it comes to where your baby sleeps, it’s important to provide her or him with a secure, comfortable and relaxing environment.
For the first few months of their life, it’s best to share a room with your baby. Place a bassinet, cradle, or crib near your bed so that you can easily reach out to comfort and feed them through the night.
When laying them down to rest, the safest position you should place them is on their back and not on their side or stomach as this decreases the chances of sudden infant death syndrome. Keep an eye on their temperature too, as they are unable to regulate their heat as well as adults meaning they’re more likely to overheat or become cold quickly.
As for the bed itself, ensure it’s a firm sleep surface that’s covered with a well-fitted sheet. And although it’s cute to see, keep soft objects like cuddly toys, pillows and loose blankets out of the bed as they can be a health risk for your baby.
Getting a routine down
After arriving home from the hospital, many parents are anxious to start a bedtime routine. However, in the first few weeks, your little one will sleep a lot. They’ll only wake up for feeding for short stretches, therefore it’s best to hold off for a few weeks.
By weeks six to eight, a pattern should start to emerge and although they’ll still wake up during the night at this age, it’s a good time to start introducing a sleeping routine for your baby.
When it comes to sleep training, there are a number of different methods you can choose, and it’s up to you to decide what’s best. However, if you’re unsure or interested in knowing what might work for you, don’t hesitate to ask your GP, obstetrician or midwife for advice on what to do.
No matter the method you choose, here are some general rules of thumb that all parents can follow when it comes to sleep routines:
- Observe your little one’s sleeping habits: This should give you a sense of their natural routine and let you know when they sleep the longest, so you know when you should be laying down or feeding them. This also lets you know if they are sleeping too much in the day instead of at night and allows you to slowly change this.
- Start slowly: Don’t try to rush your little one into a routine. Instead, slowly introduce actions that will establish a routine such as: a relaxing bath, gentle massage, feeding, placing them in a dark room when it’s time for bed and using sound to soothe them to sleep.
- Stick to a consistent routine: although it may seem difficult, it’s important that you stay firm and stick to a routine as much as possible. This will help your baby learn what the difference between day and night is and ensure they’re dozing off at the right times.
Overall, it’s important to remember that no two babies are the same. Some sleep easy, while others need a little more attention. Simply focus on what feels natural and get advice from your doctor if needed. This should lead to a well-rested and happy little baby.