baby - months 2-3 / caring for your baby / baby’s sleeping patterns

Baby’s sleeping patterns

Your bundle of joy is quite the little sleepyhead. But at night, she's not being so cooperative. In fact, your newborn's irregular sleeping patterns are probably throwing off your internal time clock and chosen hours of sleep. Here are some tips to help you and your baby adjust to these new sleeping patterns.

Sleepy-time tips

Most of a baby's sleep is active sleep. When she dreams, she may show signs of irregular breathing and twitching. In this type of sleep, a baby wakes up often, but briefly. The older a baby gets, the more soundly she'll sleep.

Soft background noise - a television, gentle music or a ticking clock - can help an infant get a restful sleep.

To make it easier for her to sleep, it's better to put your baby down at the same time every night, and to follow the same bedtime rituals.

Starting at 3 months, you'll probably want to start teaching her how to fall asleep on her own. The best way to do this is to put her in the crib when she's still drowsy, not yet sound asleep.

Newborns to 3-month-olds

When your newborn needs sleep, she sleeps. You (and she) just can't fight it. So let nature take its course, and allow your baby to sleep on her own schedule. During the first weeks, she'll probably wake up 6 to 8 times every 24 hours, and go back to sleep almost immediately after feeding. This is the pattern your baby will usually follow if she's eating enough and sleeping comfortably.

A newborn sleeps 12 to 17 hours a day. At about 2 weeks, you'll notice longer periods of sleeping and wakefulness. Many babies (about 40%) sleep through the night at the age of 2 months, and most do so by 3 months. Remember, "sleeping through the night" means sleeping for 5 uninterrupted hours between 11 p.m. and 8 a.m.

Don't try to get your newborn to sleep through the night the first couple of months. Instead, try to provide her with a sense of security that you're there for her, no matter what time of day or night it is.

If your baby seems to have her days and nights mixed up, relax; most newborns wake up two or three times a night. Within the first few weeks, you'll notice that she'll start feeding more during the daytime, and this could be an indication that she is storing up food to sleep for longer at night. In the meantime, keep her room dark and quiet at night, and try to stimulate her only during the day.

A newborn may not be comfortable going from the womb directly to a crib. Instead, she may prefer sleeping in a snug bassinet or carriage for the first few weeks. When she's ready, the Canadian Paediatric Society recommends that infants sleep in their own safe environment such as a crib, and not in bed with you. Instead, you might want to keep her crib in your bedroom for a few months. And remember to always put your baby down on her back, to help reduce the risk of sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS).

3 to 6-month-olds

Life with your baby starts to get a bit more predictable at this stage. Most babies sleep through the night at the age of 4 months. Between the ages of 3 to 6 months, she may require a feeding during the night. (This is especially true for breast-fed babies.) It's important to make sure your baby gets this night feeding as well as your attention, as she may be crying for another reason other than hunger - you'll want to reassure her.

If you want to teach your baby to fall asleep on her own, put her into her crib when she's sleepy but still awake. This will give her a chance to learn "self-comforting" and maybe fall back asleep on her own through the night.

7 to 12-month-olds

As their sleeping habits develop, many babies between the ages of 6 and 12 months will sleep from 8 to 10 hours a night, and for a total of 15 hours a day.

If your baby hates to be alone, bedtime can bring special challenges and often lots of tears. Babies cry at bedtime because they feel anxious when a parent leaves the room.

By teaching your baby to fall asleep on her own and by establishing a predictable bedtime routine, you'll feel better about letting her cry a little bit before she relaxes and falls asleep during this critical period of separation anxiety.

During this stage, if your baby is not sick and nothing has changed in her bedtime routine, don't rush back in if she cries when you leave her room. Instead, give her time to fall back to sleep on her own. Then, if her crying lasts longer than a few minutes, go check on her, but don't pick her up. Try rubbing her tummy and whispering sweet nothings to help her relax and fall asleep.

Now that your baby has gained greater mobility, she may be practicing sitting up or pulling herself up to a standing position. Make sure your crib is sturdy enough to handle her newfound strength. You should also adjust the height of the mattress and remove the bumper pads because she may use them to try to climb out of the crib.

For more information on this topic, check our Q&A Section. If you don't find the information you're looking for, please feel free to Ask a Dietitian.

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