As a new parent, it’s completely normal to wonder if your baby is getting enough sleep. During the first few months of your baby’s life, it’s likely that he won't stay asleep for more than 1-3 hours at a time, as he will need to wake frequently to be fed.
At this time, most mothers understand that interrupted sleep (for both them and their baby) is normal. However, as your baby gets older, sleep becomes an important component of early development.
10 Why is a Baby’s Sleep so Important?
It is extremely important to understand that sleep deprivation in babies and small children is a concerning issue. Why? As mentioned, babies need sleep to support healthy development in the following categories:
Learning: Sleep has been shown to help further develop and mature infants’ brains and consolidation of their memories. In fact, studies have shown that babies who get efficient nighttime sleep had higher cognitive scores than babies that did not receive enough sleep during the night.
Mood: Babies who get more sleep at night are easier to approach, less distracted, more adaptable, and have easy-going temperaments. In a study of well rested vs. fatigued infants, the fatigued infants became easily agitated and were found to be more dependent on their mothers.
Health: Many studies have shown that babies who get enough sleep are generally healthier than babies who do not. In fact, babies who get less sleep tend to be fatter, and are at higher risk of being overweight by the age of three.
If you’re worried that your baby may not be getting enough sleep, here is a guide on many hours of sleep your baby may need between the ages of 1-12 months:
- Newborn: 16 hours, 30 minutes of total sleep
- One Month: 14 – 16 hours of total sleep
- Three Months: 14 – 16 hours of total sleep
- Six Months: 14 hours of total sleep
- Nine Months: 13 hours, 30 minutes of total sleep
- 12 Months: 13 hours, 30 minutes of total sleep
Keep in mind that every baby is different. Though this is a general guide, it may not provide the proper advice for your baby. Depending on his size and overall health, your little one may need less (or more) sleep than this guide suggests.
9 Why Won’t My Baby Sleep Properly?
As your child gets older, proper sleep becomes important for both his mental and physical development. That is why establishing a proper sleep pattern in infancy is so important.
The truth is, however, about a quarter of children under the age of five have sleeping problems. Refusing to go to bed or waking in the night are both common, and often go together. To prevent this from happening in early childhood, we have listed some amazing ways to get your baby to sleep longer and more efficiently.
8 Make Nighttime Feeds Quiet and Calm
By keeping nighttime feeds quiet and calm and daytime feeds social and lively, you will help your baby set his body clock to learn the difference between day and night. Make sure to reinforce this with every feed, as consistency is the most important thing when teaching your baby sleeping rituals.
7 Try Lavender Oil
Lavender oil is known to allegedly calm, relax, and promote better sleep, not only for adults but for babies as well. While there’s no specific evidence to prove that lavender oil is directly responsible for improving sleep, there are studies indicating that lavender aids in the relaxation and soothing of babies, leading to better, deeper, and longer sleep.
To use lavender oil as a sleep aid, you can put a drop of it on your baby’s mattress, pillow, or blanket. Additionally, diffusing lavender oil can actually help to not only assist in a longer, deep sleep, but it can also clean and purify the air in your baby’s room. Should you use a diffuser, we suggest using a cold air ultrasonic diffuser, as heating the oil can alter its benefiting properties.
6 Cuddle Your Baby
Your baby should associate sleep time with peace and comfort, which is why it can be a good idea to cuddle him as soon as he is about to fall asleep. As your baby begins to get tired, lie down together and cuddle, pretending to sleep, firmly letting him know that it’s bedtime.
Though cuddling can be a great way to get your baby to sleep, it is important to keep it relatively short and boring. In other words, you must give your baby the independence to sleep on his own. Cuddling him for too long can actually have the reverse effect, causing separation anxiety. Though this is a normal occurrence, over-coddling can lead to prolonged separation anxiety and sleep deprivation.
5 Develop a Good Bedtime Ritual
If you haven’t already, create a soothing bedtime ritual for your baby. This will not only help him relax before sleep time, but it will also provide the kind of consistency and predictability he needs to feel comfortable and safe.
Make sure to keep the sleep routine short and simple. For example, you could draw a bath for your baby, or sing him a bedtime song. You could also try massaging your baby as a way to get him extra relaxed before bed. Whatever you do, finish the bedtime ritual in your baby's bedroom and make sure that his room is a pleasant place to be.
4 Make Sure Your Baby is Comfortable
Before putting your baby to bed, make sure that he’s well fed, and dressed cozy. Ensure his room is the proper temperature for sleep. At times, it may take a while to figure out what your baby likes, but once you’ve established a comfortable atmosphere, he will find it easier to fall asleep.
3 Give Your Baby a Security Object
Providing your baby with a security object, such as a blanket or a stuffed animal, can help him feel more comfortable, especially if he’s agitated while being put down.
Moreover, if you’re breastfeeding, you could try expressing some breast milk on a soft cloth as a way to help your baby smell your scent right before he falls asleep. Babies have a strong sense of smell, so if your little one startles awake in the middle of a nap, the smell of your breast milk could actually help calm him down.
2 Give Your Baby Time to Fall Asleep
If your baby startles awake or is fussy before completely falling asleep, wait a few minutes before going into his room and comforting him. Many parents walk in at the first sound of a whimper, but sometimes babies need to whine so they can learn to fall asleep on their own. Walking into your baby’s room at first whimper will only rob him the chance to figure out how to self-soothe. Who knows? Your baby may surprise you by falling right to sleep.
1 Establish an Early Bedtime
Putting your baby to bed early (between 7:00 – 8:30 pm, and no later than 9:00 pm) will ensure that he isn’t overtired when you put him down for the night. If your baby is overtired when being put to sleep, he will try to fight falling asleep, which could actually backfire as he will become more fussy and restless.
Whether you have a toddler or a newborn, it's important that your child gets enough sleep. The truth is, perfect sleep won’t happen on its own. Almost all babies, at some point or another, will have trouble sleeping throughout the night. It is important to try everything you can to get your baby the rest he needs. By following these tips, you will have a better chance of finding peace in both yours and your baby’s nighttime routine.