Baby sleep: guidelines and tips - UrbanHello

Published : 07-09-2021 16:52:21
Categories : baby-sleep

Baby sleep: guidelines and tips - UrbanHello

You have just welcomed home your newborn baby and you are about to experience wonderful moments as parents! But the next few months will also be marked by an intense upheaval and adaptation around the baby's needs. It is therefore completely normal to ask yourself all types of questions. And among all these questions, there is a major concern: your baby's sleep. When will my little one sleep through the night? Can a baby sleep on its stomach? How to help my baby sleep better? Indeed, everyone knows it, a good sleep is part of growing well and healthy. Furthermore, when the baby sleeps well, the parents are well-rested and can enjoy a fulfilling family life!

In this article, we are going to explore in detail the stages of the evolution of sleep in children from 0 to 3 years old in order to answer the main sleep-related questions that occupy parents’ minds.

The baby’s sleep: the different sleep phases

Before looking at baby’s sleep by age group, it is important to review a few concepts. A baby’s alertness consists of 4 stages: calm sleep, agitated sleep, calm awakening and agitated wakefulness.

Calm sleep: During a “calm sleep” your little one is motionless. The arms and legs are usually bent, and they can have their arms brought back towards the face. The eyes are closed, and the breathing is steady. This stable sleep is never interrupted by a period of wakefulness and lasts an average of 20 minutes.

Agitated sleep: Unlike the calm sleep, during the "agitated sleep" phase, your little one starts to move. He can stretch, growl; turn red and yawn. Their face becomes more colourful and the eyes often move under the closed eyelids. They can even open his eyes. This period of baby sleep is much less stable and is often accompanied by micro-awakenings that last from a few seconds to a minute. Even if the baby seems awake, they’re actually sleeping! So, you don't have to wake them up. Agitated sleep phases are often misunderstood and considered sleep disorders by young parents. To make the distinction, check out our article on the subject: Sleep disorders in babies.

Calm awakening: During this phase your little one is awake, calm and attentive. Although they move a little, they study their environment! Very sensitive to colours, noises and smells, their face is very expressive. The baby recognizes their mother's face and can even smile at her. This wakefulness is, during the first weeks, limited to a few minutes and only happens a few times every 24 hours. Around the 3rd month, these periods of awakening can last up to 2 hours.

Agitated wakefulness: Agitated wakefulness is a time when your little one withdraws to themselves. Less attentive to their environment, they often suck their thumb, lets their gaze float and react little to what surrounds them. Their breathing is irregular and the baby often cries. During the first weeks, the phases of agitated awakenings are very frequent and will gradually decrease.

Now that the phases of wakefulness and sleep are known to you, we can go into more details on the evolution and the development of sleep in babies.

The baby’s sleep during the 1st month of life

During the 1st month of life, a baby sleeps a lot - on average, 16 hours out of 24 hours. But the needs of every child can be quite different. Some babies will need 20 hours of sleep while others will only need 14 hours without this being abnormal. It is important to note that these distinctions do not predict the future on the quality of your baby's sleep.

To help you find your way around, here is a table on the hours of sleep needed by babies:

Baby sleep Infographic

Of course, the baby’s sleep differs greatly from that of an adult. Here are the different points that are important to know:

Your baby does not differentiate the day from the night: As you already noticed, your baby sleeps as much during the day as during the night. Insensitive to the daily light, the baby’s awakenings are linked to their internal clock and their main needs, in particular hunger. So, usually a baby needs to sleep 3 or 4 hours in a row before waking up for a period of 30 to 60 minutes. This type of sleep specific to the first months of life is called the “ultradian” rhythm.

Babies always fall asleep in the agitated sleep phase: This is one of the main characteristics of sleep in babies. Contrary to adults who fall asleep in a phase of slow calm sleep, the baby's sleep at the beginning is agitated. When a baby falls asleep, they move their fingers and toes slightly, make movements with their arms and legs. They stretch, growl, yawn and their face can even turn red! The eyes move under the eyelids, and your baby can even open them for several seconds. On the other hand, if a baby is really awake and hungry, they will move the whole body and their eyes will be wide open. It is important to make the distinction and not to wake your little one when they are actually sleeping. An agitated sleep generally follows a phase of calm wakefulness and then a feeding.

The awake phases are states of agitated wakefulness: During the first days, when a baby wakes up, they are very often acting agitated. A baby who doesn’t sleep enough is therefore often a baby who cries a lot, which can be challenging for the parents.

If you want to know more about the baby’s sleep at 1 month and discover our tips, check out our article: 1-Month-Old Baby Sleep

Baby’s sleep: from 1 to 6 months

Although baby’s sleep is very different from adult sleep, it also evolves very quickly - great news for sleep-deprived parents! From the end of the first month, the periods of sleep lengthen little by little until they reach 6 consecutive hours at night. It is only at around 3 months minimum that your baby will be able to sleep for 9 hours. Obviously these figures are an average and each baby's sleep is different, some babies will sleep for 9 hours only after the first year.

Here are the main characteristics of baby’s sleep between 1 and 6 months:

The development of the day-night rhythm: Little by little, the baby's biological clock evolves to correspond to the day/night alternation. And it is the alternation of light and dark which is the first guide!

It is important to help your child assimilate this difference if possible by exposing them slightly to daylight and avoiding places that are too dark during the day. Of course, you need to avoid that this affects their sleep quality. The regularity of meals, moments to play and walkings are all time givers that will help them synchronize with this new rhythm.

Towards a calmer sleep: The agitated sleep of the first weeks will gradually transform to a more stable sleep! This is the period when the nights are getting longer, little by little. Around 3 months already, we can notice fewer awakenings during the night.

Baby’s sleep: 6 months old and over

Baby is growing up step by step! At 6 months, some babies still need 3 to 4 naps a day. Usually only two naps are left at around 12 months and finally only one at around 18 months. Your little one still needs a lot of sleep: 15 hours are needed on average. At that age, children sleep a lot for a long period of time because it is only around the age of 4 that their needs change again little by little. A few particularities should be taken under consideration during this period:

Difficulties at bedtime: It is at this age that difficulties at bedtime develop. Your kid is becoming more and more aware of themselves and their environment. They can face separation anxiety and may need the presence of their mom to fall asleep. They may also start having nightmares or simply be afraid to fall asleep. Sleep being fundamental to your kid’s development, you may need to see a specialist if your little one cannot get enough sleep.

Multiple awakenings during the night: It’s midnight, but your child is calm in bed, playing with their teddy bear, and being wide awake. Do not worry - this is perfectly normal. Studies estimate that 40% of children wake up at least once a night and 20% wake up more than twice. You should only be worried if your child needs you to go back to sleep, which can disrupt the sleep of the whole family on a daily basis.

Baby sleep

Our baby sleep advice

Baby's sleep remains THE concern of parents. Knowing the particularities of babies’ sleep is the first step towards a good night of sleep. But some tips can also be life-saving if your baby can't sleep. Here are some tips to help you prepare for all (un)expected events once the night comes!

PATIENCE: All parents dream of spending calm nights without too many nocturnal awakenings. However, it is important to remember that it is normal for an infant to have difficulty falling asleep and to cry. You will have to be patient, it is only from 5/6 months on that your little one will find his rhythm and will be able to sleep 8 to 9 hours in a row.

BEDTIME ROUTINE: everything is new for babies, even sleep! Infants gradually learn to adapt to the day/night rhythm and need to discover their own biological rhythm. Each step is of crucial importance to help them fall asleep and have a good night of sleep. Without being too rigid, it is important to establish a regular bedtime routine. The advantages are numerous! You give your baby time markers, on which they can count and which will help them feel calm and secure. You gradually condition sleep, which will lead to calmer nights. Finally, it's a special moment to spend with your little one!

BEWARE OF ADDICTIONS: When setting up the bedtime routine, certain steps can lead to addictions and prevent the baby from falling back to sleep if they wake up at night! This is particularly the case with the bottle if it is given just before bedtime. By teaching them that feeding in the evening corresponds to a period of sleep, babies may not be able to go back to sleep during the night if you are not there for the feeding. At one point, your baby no longer asks for a bottle out of hunger, but only to go back to sleep! The same thing is valid for pacifiers when they fall during the night! If your kid has trouble falling back to sleep at night, it may be important to move the bedtime ritual a bit earlier (15-20 minutes) to teach them how to fall asleep without conditioning. You can also give the last bottle outside the nursery to avoid the bottle and sleep association.

BEWARE OF NAPS: A baby who sleeps well is a baby who has a good rhythm at night but also during the day! Naps are very important and can lead to difficulties at bedtime. If baby has trouble sleeping, take a diary and write down the times of naps, their duration and bedtime. Keep a place to jot down notes on the quality of sleep. Unlike an adult, too short naps can lead to sleep debt and prevent a baby from sleeping. Naps situated too close to bedtime can also be a problem.

CRYING: If a baby is crying, they need you - it is important to listen and meet babies’ needs. Note that crying in babies is completely normal! Many infants tend to cry a little before going to sleep. If the crying is light and the baby has just been put to bed, wait a few seconds (30 seconds for instant) before intervening to give them time to calm down and fall asleep gently on their own.

SLEEP PHASES: A Baby's sleep phases change every 30 minutes. If they wake up at night, it's completely normal that they can't go back to sleep right away! Keeping this idea in mind, accept that after you hold them in your arms, and you put them back in the crib, they cry a little and do not fall asleep right away.

SLEEP DISRUPTORS: If your baby has trouble falling asleep, there may be something that’s bothering them! Here is a non-exhaustive list of possible baby sleep disruptors! Number 1, colic. The baby's digestive system is still immature, and babies can have a lot of trouble digesting. If they have gas regularly and their belly is swollen, a massage can help them sleep better. If the problem is too regular, a paediatrician can prescribe antispasmodics. Number 2, the environment. When night approaches, it is important that everyone participates in creating a soft and warm atmosphere. By reducing the noise, the light and the gestures, you prevent baby from having trouble falling asleep because of too much stimulation! Also, avoid leaving a colourful mobile or sound toys that could wake them up at night.

SEE A SPECIALIST: If your baby has trouble sleeping, and it has too much of an impact on your family life, it is strongly advised to see a specialist. In addition to making you de-stress about the child's sleep, an outside opinion can help you understand the reasons that prevent your little one from sleeping. Often, small changes in your everyday habits can lead to huge improvements in just a few weeks!

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