When you first start telling everyone you are pregnant, immediately after the hugs and congratulations, come the jokes about the impending lack of sleep. Every parent knows that sleep loss is part of having a child. But the question is ‘how much sleep should your child be getting at different stages of their development?’
To give you a guide I’ve put together a general pattern of sleep at varying ages.
Newborn 0-6 Weeks:
Your newborn baby's sleep pattern will be irregular and erratic. Your baby will spend most of their time sleeping and only waking to feed. They typically cannot stay awake for longer than 40 minutes at a time.
Ironically this is the time you get the least amount of sleep yourself! Your baby will be awake again within two hours and the process of feed, nappy change and sleep starts again. As their little tummies can only hold a small amount of milk you need to feed on demand. The only ‘sleep rule’ during this stage of your baby’s life is to ensure you are following safe sleeping practices.
Despite the erratic sleeping patterns at this stage, you can start to teach your baby the difference between night and day from day 1. This is an essential skill for them to learn as you start to introduce a more scheduled routine as they get older. Things like feeding your baby her first feed of the day in a room with as much natural light as possible is just one of the tips I can discuss with you to get your baby to start to recognise day from night early on.
Your little one is getting ready to start a more scheduled routine. They will still be sleeping for a large part of a 24hr cycle (about 15/16 hours) but they will now be able to stay awake a bit longer between feeds. Getting daytime naps down to about 3-4 longer stretches is the key during these early months. As their tummies have now stretched to hold larger amounts of milk these longer naps are possible. You want your baby to be tired and content but awake when you put them down for their nap.
The ideal amount of sleep is 12-15 hours however it‘s during this time that I see the most differences between babies’ sleep patterns. Some babies have settled into their rhythm and are down to 2 naps per day and sleeping a 12 hour night. Others are still finding their way and need some additional help getting there and some were in a great pattern but are going through a sleep regression. These last two categories are where most of my clients fit into.
If your baby still hasn’t found their rhythm it is so important to remember that this is no reflection on you or them. Some babies just need some additional support which is something I can help with. All babies are different, and I always deliver a bespoke plan for each family, but most of the behaviour is very typical and can be resolved with the right training program.
My top tip for this stage is to really focus on your baby’s self-soothing. This is something I am very focused on in my training programs and to me is one of the most important aspects of your baby’s sleep routine. It is so important when putting your baby to bed at night that you find it an enjoyable experience whilst ensuring they stay asleep all night.
Your baby should still be sleeping between 12-15 hours a day but this will be heavily weighed to 11-12 straight hours at night and a solid 2 hour nap after lunch with one other short nap during the day. One of the hardest things about this period is listening to the stories of your friends. Whilst your baby is still waking twice at night for milk, your friend’s baby is sleeping through the night! Remember that your baby will get there, some just need a little bit of extra help to do so. According to the National Sleep Foundation, up to 80% of babies are sleeping through the night by 9 months old.
You will find your baby is still doing about 13-14 hours per day spread over 11-12 hours at night with a 1.5-2 hour nap after lunch. It’s at this stage that you might find the hardest thing is sleep regressions which can occur at 8, 9, or 10 months old, and some babies even experience sleep regressions at 12 months old. Tip: if they are still having a second day nap at 12 months and the additional wakes occur, then I’d suggest dropping that second day nap before anything else. Another problem that occurs at this stage is separation anxiety. This can be a challenging time for you and them, as parents often feel guilty by not letting their little ones creep into their bed at this stage. I have worked with so many families going through separation anxiety and the best thing you can do for your child is to help them learn to be independent with sleep.
At any time throughout your baby's first year, and going into the toddler years, you can instil good sleeping habits to give your baby the best opportunity to have the right amount of sleep at the right times. I work with families with children of all ages who have sleep issues for various different reasons that are ultimately all solvable. Please contact me for a free initial consultation to discuss how I might be able to help your family.