Guide to Your Baby Sleep Patterns
Your newborn’s first twelve months will be an adjustment period when it comes to sleeping patterns. A baby’s sleeping patterns during these times may be sporadic and will require even yours, as a mom or parent, to adjust with it. In general, you should expect 4 progressions in your baby’s sleep in the first 2 months, 2-4 months, 4-6 months, and 6-12 months, respectively.
At first, you might find it hard to get accustomed to sleepless nights and waking up at 3 in the morning to breastfeed, having developed your own sleeping pattern over the years. Do not despair. As long as you are able to condition your baby in the crucial months to sleep on his or her own, everything will come easy afterwards. If you are curious about the typical sleeping patterns of infants in their first year, read the information below to get a understanding of what to expect and how to deal with the fluxes in your newborn’s sleeping patterns.
Of Sleepless nights and Night-time Feeds: 0-2 months
In these first months, you will notice an inconsistency in your baby’s sleeping “pattern” (Actually, their might not even be a definable pattern at all.). Variations in the time and duration of your baby’s sleep will be evident. Psychologist Nicky Cohen, Ph.D who specializes in children’s sleep issues explains this phenomenon to be a correlation between hunger and waking that is why newborns may switch from 2-4 hours of sleep to 1-2 hours of waking (usually to feed and sometimes to interact) and to sleep once more.
A newborn will typically sleep for 14.5 hours in 24 hours on the average. Most infants at this stage, however, will have 9 to 19 hours sleep a day. . Moreover Cohen says that “Temperament and biology determine sleeping patterns at this age”
The first 2 months will mean broken sleep and sometimes sleepless nights for most parents which could be devastating. Nonetheless, Cohen says that parents can begin to exert some influence during this period to help their babies develop good sleeping habits in the next months to come. Aside from hunger and temperament, much has to do with biology. The presence of light during sleep can have an effect on sleep regulation. Newborns have not yet fully developed their sense of sight and will find it hard to differentiate between light and day in the first 2 months.
This means that though it is already night time, your baby might mistake it as day as long as the lights are on and vice versa. Parents can make a difference and help their babies identify night and day, says Jennifer Waldburger, co-founder of sleepy Planet and co-author of the Sleep easy Solution book and DVD, by “exposing your baby to lots of natural sunlight throughout the day… to help a baby who has her days and nights mixed up.” If your baby wakes up at night or in the wee hours of the morning to feed, minimized amounts of light as well as minimal eye contact and interaction is best.
What you should avoid doing: Parents misconstrue that their babies will sleep better at nights by keeping them mostly awake during the day. On the contrary, babies who get more sleep during the day will sleep better at night. So, avoid forcing your baby to stay awake during the day.
The crucial stage: 2-4 months
At this point, your baby’s should very much be able to differentiate day and night and are more likely to develop a more patterned sleep. Normally, infants at this age would sleep at 9 or 10 in the evening and could either sleep all throughout the night (which is ideal for most parents) or wake up every three hours to feed. Whichever the case may be, it is essential for your baby to get at least two-thirds of his or her total sleep time during nights. It becomes problematic when the baby wakes up every hour.
Specialists in this field offer two possible explanations for this dilemma. One has to do with a medical condition and the other with natural sleeping cycles. Acid reflux is a medical condition that could cause your baby to behave this way. It is possible that your baby has acid reflux. The best thing to do is to consult your doctor or get your baby a check-up. Another possible cause has to do with your baby’s inability to lull itself to sleep. This means that the transition from active and quiet stages of sleep is disturbed and the baby has problems with going back to sleep. Having a white-noise machine run while your baby is sleeping could help.
A Must: What you should do is to promote longer sleeping patterns.
Creating regularity: 4 to 6 months
It is typical for your baby to take an average of 4 naps during the day and 11 to 12 hours of sleep at nights. Moreover, during this period, your baby would have already established a normal or regular sleeping pattern which begins at 7 or 8 pm in the evening (ideal sleeping time for most infants). According to Waldburg, being able to maintain a regular sleeping pattern is essential to your baby’s brain development. What you have to do is to make sure that your baby takes his/her naps regularly and ideally, sleep early in the evening.
One way to successfully maintain a regular sleeping pattern is by creating a bedtime routine that your baby will be able to associate sleep with. Daily bedtime stories during or followed by breastfeeding will encourage excellent bedtime associations. Also, at this point, your baby would have been able to soothe his or herself back to sleep which lessens your problem if ever he/she wakes up in the middle of the night.
Easy does it: 6-12 months
By 6 months, broken sleep patterns are minimal. Your baby’s stomach has grown thereby being able to accommodate more food. Normally, infants at this stage could sleep longer or if not, are able to lull themselves to sleep easily without yearning for milk. The only problems you will encounter at this point are developments in your baby’s motor skills which Waldburg aptly calls as “motor milestones”.
When a baby discovers something new like a body function, he might stay up later than he is supposed to because of the excitement of a new activity. This will cause some days and nights of broken sleep but rest assured that everything can return to normal just as long as you guide your baby into regaining his established habits.