Sleep is an essential part of your baby’s life – it helps them grow and stay healthy as well as cope with all the new experiences they face each day.
Young babies sleep a lot, but they also wake up a lot – at all hours of the day and night! This is because newborns don’t have a set day-night sleep cycle, but with the help of regular sleep routines, they will usually settle into a pattern of sleeping for longer periods through the night after a few months.
How much sleep do babies need?
The amount of sleep a baby needs can depend on factors such as their age, stage of development, their health and how active they are. Generally, newborns require the most sleep with the amount reducing as they get older.
All babies are unique and so is their need for sleep – the following is a guide to what you may expect with your baby:
- Birth – 3 months: The recommended total sleep time for babies up to about 3 months is 14 to 17 hours. This is usually made up of one period of sleep lasting anywhere from 30 minutes to around 4 hours and they will wake regularly during in the night for feeds.
- 4-12 months: By about 6 months babies can be sleeping for 5 to 8 hours at a time during the night. The recommended total sleep time is now 12 to 16 hours and by 12 months the number of daytime naps generally reduces to 2 (from 3 to 4) per day.
Knowing when your baby is tired
Babies cannot tell us when they’re tired so it’s important to learn to look for your child’s particular ‘sleep cues’ which may include:
- Rubbing their eye
- Clenching their fists
- Being grumpy or irritable
- Slowing down or being inactive.
Sleep time tips
It’s important to provide a safe and calming environment to help support your baby’s sleep.
Sleep-time relaxation: Soothing or relaxing activities before bedtime can help calm your baby and may include a warm bath, massage, playing soft music or gentle rocking.
Sleep routines: Some babies will fall asleep quickly, while others will take longer and need more settling. Good sleep habits are important – but have to be learnt – and it can be helpful to set bedtime routines (as soon as you can) to help prepare your baby for sleep. 1f, Don’t forget to look out for any sleep-time distractions such as a dirty nappy, bright lights, noises or the room being too hot or cold.
Safe sleep environment: Your baby will spend a lot of time sleeping and relies on you to provide a safe, comfortable sleeping area. Some important recommended ways to help you create a safe sleeping environment include:
- Placing you baby on their back to sleep (rather than tummy or side)
- Keeping your baby’s head and face uncovered
- Not exposing your baby to smoke – both before and after birth
- Making sure your baby has a safe sleeping area both during the day as well as during the night
- Having your baby sleep in their own safe area in the same room as you (or another adult caregiver) for the first 6-12 months.
Being a new mum or dad can be very exhausting and demanding and it is important to look after your own health and sleep needs too. Remember it will get better and the sleepless nights will eventually end.