Every person, and especially every parent, knows that sleep is vital, both for you and your little one. So how can you make sure that your little one gets as much sleep as they need? To help combat the confusion and simplify some of the gargantuan amount of information out there, we’ve compiled a sleep guide that will help you understand your little one’s sleep and sleeping needs in their first year of life. Whilst there’s no one size fits all approach to children’s sleep patterns and challenges, we’re here to help with some of the most common issues that parents can run into, and potential solutions.
We’ve broken our guide down by age brackets:
From there we’ve addressed things in 6 sections, going from ‘How much sleep do they need?’ all the way to ‘Common mistakes and how to fix them’. As children grow they are likely to experience growth spurts and psychological developments which hinder their sleep temporarily. Scary though it may be, this normally shouldn’t worry you, it’s all part of them growing.
Without further ado, let’s get to it, because you’re probably already tired, you’re a parent after all.
Newborn Sleep Guide: 0 – 3 months
Congratulations! You’re a parent! Which means your sleep has just gone completely out of the window. But never fear, this will pass, and to abate some of your worries, take a look at our newborn sleep guide.
How much sleep do they need?
During the first 3 months of your baby’s life this will change a lot. At the very beginning, your baby’s brain will not understand the difference between day and night, and as such sleep will be almost equally split between day and night hours. By 4 weeks, they’ll be moving towards sleeping more at night, and by 3 months the majority of their sleep will be at night. Thank goodness! Below are the expected total sleep hours for your 0 – 3 month old.
- Total daytime hours: 8 hours
- Total night time hours: 8 hours 30 minutes
- Total daytime hours: 6 to 7 hours
- Total night time hours: 8 to 9 hours
- Total daytime hours: 4 to 5 hours
- Total night time hours: 10 to 11 hours
What this doesn’t take into account is the fact that newborns never really sleep for more than 2 – 3 hours at a time. They constantly need feeding at this stage in their lives, but this nap only stage will end, we promise.
Where should they sleep?
During the first 6 months your newborn should be in the the same room as you when they’re asleep, both during the day and the night. In these first 3 months, particularly in the early weeks, you might even find that your baby can only fall asleep when they’re either being held in you or your partner’s arms, or when you’re stood next to the crib.
But you can get them used to going to sleep without you comforting them fairly early on too. To do this, try putting them down before they fall asleep or just after they’ve finished a feed. This may become easier once your baby starts be more frequently be alert for longer periods of time.
How to get a good night’s sleep
After the first two weeks you can start to putting steps into place that will help form good sleep habits later on. This includes practising different behaviours at different times in order to help your baby learn the difference between day and night.
Day time habits:
- In the morning (when baby is alert) change their clothes as soon as they wake, to help them understand that it’s the start of a new day.
- Play, talk and interact with your little one as much as you can.
- Make daytime feeds social. Chat and sing as you feed them.
- Keep the house and their room light and bright.
- Let your baby hear everyday noises, such as the radio or the washing machine.
- Wake them gently if they nod off during a feed.
- It’s a good idea to teach your baby that night-time is different from daytime from the start. During the day, open curtains, play games and don’t worry too much about everyday noises when they sleep.
Night time habits:
- Change them into their pyjamas to mark the beginning of his night-time routine and show them that it’s the end of the day
- Try not to speak to them when you feed
- Keep lights and noises low
- Keep the lights down low
- Don’t talk too much and keep your voice quiet
- Put your baby down as soon as they’ve been fed and changed
- Don’t change your baby unless they need it
- Don’t play with your baby
All this should help your baby to start to understand that night-time is for sleeping.
Studies show that by the time your baby is around three months old, babies are capable of settling themselves back to sleep. With that said, some experts suggest waiting to start sleep training until your baby is six months old. However, all babies and parents are different. You may think your baby is ready to learn to settle themself earlier than six months. Or you may feel able to put up with sleepless nights for a little while longer. The choice is yours to make.
Mistakes and fixes
- The number one mistake you can make at this point is to expect too much too soon, or even worse, compare your child to others you know. Every baby is different, and putting pressure on them and yourself to achieve a set goal won’t make things any easier.
- Doing too much with your baby before bed. As a newborn, they’re constantly being bombarded with new sights, smells, sounds and sensations. Each new, unfamiliar thing will be highly stimulating for your baby. In the run up to bedtime, this is something you want to avoid. With their brains already working overtime, your baby is liable to become overstimulated, overtired and then it’s even harder to get them to sleep.
- Not having or rushing the bedtime routine. Even as early on as 6 weeks in, having a bedtime routine will do wonders for both you and your baby. Signalling that it’s time to sleep in a consistent way helps your baby get ready for sleep. Your bedtime routine doesn’t have to be any one thing, you’ll have found something that is unique to your family. Whatever you do, don’t skip it, even when you’re tired, even when you’re stressed. Having a consistent bedtime routine helps make your little one feel secure, more relaxed, and more inclined to sleep.
- Waking your baby up from a nap. If your baby is sleeping all day but wide awake all night, then you might be inclined to wake them up during the day so they’ll sleep more at night, right? No! Fight this urge! The only person who really knows how much sleep your baby needs is your baby. Waking your baby will only deprive them of some of the rest they need, making them overtired and then harder to get back to sleep later. Whether it’s during the night, or the day, let your baby nap for as long as they want to. If your baby’s having a nap, you could be too! It may not be the extended periods of sleep that you’re used to, but it’s better than no sleep at all.
- Keeping things too quiet. We know you don’t want to wake your baby up, you’ve probably only just gotten them to sleep! But, keeping your house perfectly silent is going to make your life harder long term. Yes, when a baby first hears a new noise they’re going to wake up, just like you do when you hear an unfamiliar noise. Once they’re used to a noise they’ll sleep right through it, so get them used to you walking through the house or talking in another room. Otherwise, you risk having to creep through your house and keep the noise down for far longer than anyone wants to.