Are some babies naturally good sleepers? Katie Hilton, midwife, health visitor and consultant to healthcare professionals as well as the mother and baby industry says yes – to a certain extent – read on for her answers to your most commonly asked baby sleep questions:
I am always asked if certain babies are simply better sleepers and I would say yes, this can be true. However there are specific patterns of sleep that are the same in all babies and toddlers. Let’s take a look at how you would typically expect your baby to sleep from newborn phase up to toddlerhood.
How much will my newborn baby sleep?
In general when your baby is first born he will experience a period of wakefulness for the first few hours after birth, followed by a long period of intermittent sleep. You will need to wake your baby to feed roughly every 3-4 hours.
But the gestational age of your baby very much determines sleep patterns at this age, so if he was born prematurely use your EDD to calculate the true age of your baby. If your baby was born early you will probably find he will sleep through most of the days until his due date, when he may suddenly become more alert. At this age your baby is most likely to fall asleep soon after or sometimes during a feed. If you watch your newborn sleeping you will see eyes flickering, sucking or wriggling of fingers and toes. This is when your baby is in REM or “dream sleep”.
Unlike adults and older babies, newborns go directly into REM sleep, which will continue until they are roughly 3 months old. Your newborn baby can sleep from 11 to 20 hours each day and may make sudden twitchy movements whist sleeping, due to the startle or Moro reflex. It often occurs for no reason, although frequently it is the result of a loud noise. Newborn babies have very brief periods of alertness, this will however gradually lengthen. During the early weeks your baby shouldn’t go for longer than 6 hours between a feed in the night and 3 hours during the day – it will be important to wake him up for feeds if he has slept this long.
During these early weeks there won’t be any type of a routine and there is little point trying to introduce one at this time. By the time your baby is 2 weeks old, feeding will be fully established and hunger is most likely to drive your baby’s sleep-wake cycles, you will also start to notice a particular time of day when your baby is most alert – for most babies this is during the evening time.
When will my baby sleep through the night?
Don’t expect your baby to fully sleep through the night just yet! Gradually your baby will start to have longer periods of wakefulness and, at a month old, he is now alert for a few hours each day.
Some believe the earliest your baby will sleep through the night is 6 weeks, however your baby’s second growth spurt will be occurring around this age, prompting an initial period of more night wakenings and night feeding. After this growth spurt you may find your baby will sleep a little longer: most 6 week old babies will wake on average 3-4 times each night. At this age your baby will fall asleep anywhere including in the car, their pram, in a restaurant or at a friends house.
Take advantage of this ability as it will change significantly when he reaches 4 months of age, when he will start to need a quiet, darker environment to fall asleep. At 3 months old you will notice your baby starts to have 3-4 sleeps at a similar time each day when he will crash out and if you allow this to happen, this should eventually turn into consistent, regular nap times. By roughly 4 months of age your baby should be reliably sleeping 8-10 hours during the night, which can occasionally be broken by a feed. He will likely be taking 3 daytime naps, a long one in the morning and afternoon and a shorter nap during the late afternoon.
My baby is suddenly resisting sleep, why is this?
Around this time you will find your baby has outgrown his moses basket and it will be time to move to a cot. To get your little one used to the openness of the cot, place him inside the cot in his moses basket for the first few nights. Your baby may also be learning to roll over and will temporarily start waking in the night to practice this new skill. Unfortunately there will be a period where he won’t be able to roll back again and you will be summoned to reposition him, luckily this will only last a week or two.
By 6 months your baby’s world is full of fascination and he will be wide awake and alert during periods of play. Whilst he is more likely to sleep well after these periods, he may well be less likely to co-operate as there are so many interesting things to do. Your baby is now capable of sleeping for 12 hours, uninterrupted, each night. Most babies will be napping 2-3 times each day but if your baby is only napping twice, the lunchtime sleep will be longer, lasting between 2 – 3 hours.
Teething mode will also have started at this age and unfortunately can interfere with sleep but this will soon pass. Around this age your baby will move from your bedroom into his own nursery and whilst this can be a nerve-wracking experience for both of you, in most cases this new experience passes with little upset and disruption.
By 10 months your baby’s sleep patterns have become very predictable, so he wakes up and goes to sleep around the same time each day and sleeps anywhere between 13 and 15 hours in a 24 hour period. He may have dropped his third nap and his increased mobility will mean it is more difficult and takes longer to encourage him to lie down and go to sleep. This is the age he will start to pull himself up with the help of his cot bars. With a little consistency from mum and dad he will soon learn that it is bedtime and he has to go to sleep!
By the time your little one reaches his first birthday the average parent will have lost a huge two months sleep. By this age most babies are sleeping through the night, but may wake early for a feed and then go back to sleep for an hour or two. It’s been a long, sleepless year but worth every moment!