Your baby’s first year of sleep
A guide to the first 365 nights.
Sleep is crucial to a baby’s development. As they grow, their patterns and habits will change – and so will yours. To make sure you’re both prepared, take a look at our roadmap of your little one’s first year of adjusting to a nighttime routine. It might take some time, but before you know it your child will be snoozing like a champ!
Newborn sleeping habits
Newborns still don’t differentiate between day and night and will sleep most of the time. Because this is important to their development, let them take the lead and try to stick to their sleeping pattern as often as possible. Make sure you give them their own space to rest, too. Some babies feel more comfortable if their clothes apply gentle pressure to their body. See if a certain pyjamas are more soothing for your child. While all children are individuals, newborns typically need around 16 hours of sleep: 8 to 9 hours at nighttime and 8 hours during the day.
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When babies are this little, they should be immediately attended to when they wake up unhappy. Infants need to know that they are loved and cared for and ignoring their cries at this stage can be dangerous, instilling in them the feeling that their needs don’t matter. It’s not possible to spoil babies when they are this young, and the time for sleep training will come later.
Three-month-old sleeping habits
At this stage, babies no longer fall asleep immediately after feeding, but they will definitely be ready for a nap. It’s best to place your baby in her crib for naptime. To help teach her to associate her crib with sleep, try singing a lullaby or simply staying nearby. Your three-month-old will typically need about 15 hours of sleep: 9 to 10 hours at nighttime and 4 to 5 hours during the day.
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When it comes to bedtime, sticking to a routine helps to regulate a baby’s body clock. They’re a sign that night has come and it’s time to rest. The pace within your house should slow down, people should speak more softly, and the lights should be dimmed.
The same sequence should be followed every night and should come naturally to both you and your baby. Try giving her a warm bath, food, a diaper change, and then putting her to sleep. When she is in her crib, sing a lullaby, kiss her goodnight, and then let her sleep. Some children may prefer one parent to put them to bed. Others may find comfort in an object, such as a favourite blanket or a cuddly toy.
Six-month-old sleeping habits
At this stage of development, feeding your baby at nighttime isn’t the best idea – it creates additional discomfort in their diapers. Feeding should be gradually spaced out until the child can sleep through the night.
Because being asleep isn’t a constant state, it’s normal to come out of a deep sleep several times throughout the night and babies might even be close to waking. If they gradually learn to calm down and self soothe, they will go back to sleep on their own. Your six-month-old will typically need around 14 hours of sleep: 10 hours at nighttime and 4 hours during the day.
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Believe it or not, crying during the night doesn’t always mean your baby is fully awake. If you pay attention to the sound of his cries, you will gradually be able to tell whether or not your little one is in pain or afraid. When this happens, go over to his crib and try calming him down with soothing words or a massage. It’s not recommended to pick him up. These episodes can be very short and if the cries don’t worsen, you can go back to sleep too.
One-year-old sleeping habits
For a child, bedtime means missing out on the party and separation from you. As this time approaches, many signs of independence can disappear. For instance, a child who uses a cup during the day may ask for their bottle at night.
To keep children calm and prepare them for bedtime, it helps to stick to a routine. Try your best to slow things down during the evening – your little one will be less likely to protest if there is nothing fun or exciting happening. A bedtime story is a great way to spend quiet time together and wind things down for the night.
When it’s time for bed, it’s very important to show your child equal amounts of love and firmness. The best technique to use at bedtime is some good, soothing cuddles combined with the firm message that “it’s time to sleep.” Your one-year-old will typically need about 14 hours of sleep: 11 hours at nighttime and 3 hours during the day.
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Letting children sleep in your bed or leaving them to fall asleep in front of the television isn’t a good idea. It is best for children to get used to sleeping alone in their own bed. If they are frightened you can soothe them, but always insist that it is bedtime, that they must sleep in their own bed and that you are close by if needed. Giving children their favourite object can help them to feel safe even if they are on their own.
Getting a toddler to go to sleep can be difficult to say the least, but as your child gets used to a routine it will become easier for both of you. In the meantime, try your best to remain patient but firm. Showing signs of annoyance or stress won’t help your cause, and neither will going back on your decisions.
Though it can often be an exhausting first year, it will get much better! Before you know it, you will have a toddler who is a bedtime professional.