Timing is important in everyone's life, most of all a baby's. Their biological or circadian rhythms help to tell them when sleepy time is. At about 4 months of age, most babies internal clocks and routines start to regulate. Their hormones will start to tell them that nap time should happen around 9am and around noon.
Depending on your baby's biological age, premature babies will differ, they need a certain number of hours of sleep in a 24 hour period. A 6 month old baby, for example, should be sleeping for 10-11 hours at night (possibly waking to feed) and 3-4 hours during the day for a total of 14 hours a day. Whereas a 6 year old may only sleep for 10-12 hours at night (not waking to feed) and not need a nap during the day. The best advice, if you're baby is sleepy let your baby sleep. A well rested baby means better night time sleeps!
Naps are an important step to a well rested baby. As mentioned before, a well rested baby will sleep better at night! This is because a baby's sleep hormones tell the baby when to sleep (see timing above). But, if a nap time is missed those hormones build up and actually create a more disturbed sleep. Depending on the age of your baby, they should be having anywhere from 9 naps a day, if they are a newborn, to 1 nap a day, if they are a 2 year old. Generally, children 3 years and up grow out of nap time, but still may want 1 nap a day.
The best rest anyone can get is a consolidated rest. That means the total number of hours slept without waking. As new moms, we can all understand how valuable a consolidated rest can be! Anyone getting more than 3 hours yet? During this time, the baby's brain can relax and slow down to dissolve everything the baby has experienced while awake…and that can be a lot to take in!
A baby depends on patterns and schedules to help it adjust to the world around it. Sleeping patterns are no different. After a baby is 3 months old, you can start to implement a bedtime routine. Have a bubble bath, story time, bottle, quiet time. It's really up to you and your baby. Remeber this, however, after 3 months of age babies start to remmeber the conditions they fell asleep to. So…if you're feeding your baby to sleep. Then your baby will start to associate sleeping with the feeding and will need that to help them fall asleep on their own. At around 4 months of age, start letting your baby fall asleep on their own in their crib little by little. Eventually, your baby will start to understand they are sleepy and will be able to fall asleep on their own.
There will always be times in your baby's life where sleep will not come easily. And no matter what you do, it will not get any easier. Some of these times include travel, teething through the gums, illness and developmental milestones. Just remember to stick to your routines, use your lovie and remember to breathe – a baby has to sleep sometime….right?
Krista Guenther, from Sleeperific, taught a session about infant sleep to our momstown Kitchener-Waterloo moms, at Baby Basics.