The Gentle Baby Sleep Guide
Do You Have a Super Power?
Knowing Your Baby’s Sleeping Pattern.
Infants (Age 0-1 years).
Toddler (Age 1 to 3 years).
Preschooler (Age 4 to 5 years).
The Circadian Rhythm.
Bedtime Routines and Sleep Training.
At what time should your child go to sleep?.
Why Can’t Your Baby Sleep?
Night Waking & Night Weaning.
How Does Napping Affect Sleep?
How Does Napping Affect Night Sleep?
Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS).
Swaddling Your Baby
Reduce the risk of SIDS.
Help feel calm and comfortable:
Babies Sleep Better.
Less crying, more sleeping:
When should you stop swaddling?.
Habits To Avoid.
What About The Parents?
Start Preparing Early.
Learn To Unwind Yourself.
Don’t Stop Meeting Other People.
Make Time For Each Other.
Communication Is Key
Do You Have a Super Power?
It is not surprising to hear parents say, “I’m not able to get enough sleep because the baby doesn’t sleep.” Many parents struggle with newborns when it comes to getting them into bed at their designated bedtime.
Getting your baby to fall asleep is one of the most challenging tasks that every new parent has to endure. It gets tedious and often frustrates many parents. On top of it, they are not getting enough sleep for themselves, which leads to more frustration and stress.
If you are looking for ways to get your little one(s) to sleep on time and get a goodnight’s sleep, you have come to the right place. We will help you gradually turn into a ‘Super Parent’ by adopting a routine that will help your child go to sleep!
Knowing Your Baby’s Sleeping Pattern
If you want your kid to sleep better, you need to understand some key facts about how much sleep your child needs at different ages. Your baby’s diet also plays a vital role in developing the sleeping habit, which is why you need to recognize the eating pattern of your baby to have a good sleep.
How much sleep does an infant need?
Infants (Age 0-1 years
You need to make sure your infant gets enough sleep. As sleep deprivation in the early months may impair the mental and physical development of a baby. An infant between 3 to 4 months needs at least 13 to 17 hours of sound sleep; whereas, an infant of up to 12 months needs a minimum of 12 to 16 hours of sleep.
Some babies even tend to sleep for 18 or 19 hours a day. As much as the amount of sleep is important, the quality of sleep should also be a consideration for the baby’s health.
How often should you feed Your infant?
A one-month-old infant should be breastfed at least 8 to 12 times a day at regular intervals of 2 to 3 hours. Newborns naturally tend to feel hungry because the breast milk digests quickly. If the newborn baby does not wake upon his/her own, you can gently stroke the hair or the cheek of the baby and lift him/her. When the infant reaches up to 1 to 2 months of age, you should breastfeed 7 to 9 times a day.
It is better to start breastfeeding before the child begins to cry as it is difficult to calm down a baby once he starts crying. Also, babies use a lot of energy when they cry and may get tired. Therefore, it is better to feed the baby at regular intervals. Although during the initial months, babies are fed on demand, which means that there is no set pattern, and you should feed the baby whenever he/she feels hungry. It naturally changes as the baby gets older and develops an eating pattern.
Some parents prefer bottle feeding instead of breastfeeding due to various reasons such as flexibility, convenience, comfort, diet, or medications. Although bottle-feeding provides similar nutrients to the baby, it still lacks in certain antibodies that are only found in breast milk.
Sometimes, parents switch from breastfeeding to bottle-feeding a month after birth. It is always better to consult your doctor before switching to make the right decision about feeding.
A bottle-fed baby requires about 1 to 2 ounces of feeding every 3 to 4 hours. However, since the baby milk formula is not as easily digested as breast milk, babies usually need to consume less.
Toddler (Age 1 to 3 years)
How much sleep does a toddler need?
Toddlers should sleep at least 12 to 14 hours a day, which includes naps and nighttime sleep. A 1 to 2-year-old may take a two-hour nap, whereas a 3-year-old usually takes a 1-hour nap. This may vary for each baby. Toddlers may not nap as often as they did as an infant, but they will gradually start sleeping through the night and wake up less in the middle of the night.
How much should toddlers eat?
Toddlers may be breastfed or bottle-fed up to the age of 2. Additionally, they should be given soft to semi-solid nutritious food to induce healthy eating habits.
Preschooler (Age 4 to 5 years)
How much sleep does a preschooler need?
Most children of this age group sleep through the night and wake up fresh in the morning. Preschoolers require at least 10 to 12 hours of sleep per day, inclusive of naps. The naps are shortened though, and may not be as frequent. Some 5-year-olds don’t take any naps during the day. As already mentioned, the important thing is the quality of sleep your child is getting.
How much do preschoolers eat?
A preschooler usually starts eating food on his own. At this age, children even get a little selective about what they want to eat which is fine. . It is essential to encourage healthy eating habits to keep them physically fit and well-nourished. Remember, a well-nourished diet will also stimulate a good night’s sleep.
You can also feed your child some healthy night snacks such as non dairy milk, whole wheat crackers, whole grain toast, or bananas mashed and fed in small quantities that help induce sleep.
A healthy diet is crucial in helping children get an adequate amount of sleep, and they also feel better, which makes them less cranky. The first few months can be very tough for parents as the baby may wake up in the middle of the night several times. But remember, parenting isn’t easy. It gradually gets better, and in a couple of months, you will get used to the new lifestyle.
The Circadian Rhythm and Baby Sleep
What is a Circadian Rhythm?
A circadian rhythm is a natural process that stimulates the sleeping cycle of a person. You may have noticed that you feel energetic at some point in the day and extremely drowsy at other times. This also means that you have a biological clock that automatically signals your body and lets you know when it is time to sleep.
When do babies develop Circadian Rhythm?
Newborns don’t have any circadian rhythm. They sleep and wake up according to their own time at will. Babies usually develop a circadian rhythm as they turn 3 to 4 months. Some babies at this age start sleeping through the night as well.
There are ways in which you can help develop a circadian rhythm in your child at an early age:
- Fix a routine: When you start engaging your baby in a regular patterned routine, they will get used to the daily cycle and start sleeping on time. For example, you can enjoy some light playing activities with your child an hour before bedtime. If you follow the same routine every day, the child will start following it too.
- Natural light helps a long way: Natural light and the absence of light play a significant role in developing circadian rhythm in children. It is important to let the child see the natural light in the morning and afternoon to adopt a healthy sleep cycle.
- Bath time: A soothing and warm relaxing bath in the late evening can be exceptionally comforting for a baby. This will help your child sleep better and will also contribute to adapting the circadian rhythm.
- Differentiate between day and night: Your baby needs to understand the difference between day and night. Make sure that you switch off the lights while putting your child in bed so that he/she may understand the variance.
- If your baby is mixing up day and night sleep, here are some important tips:
- As your baby gets a little older, try to shorten daytime naps so that the baby starts sleeping through the night.
- Do not close the drapes to block sunshine or switch off the lights during the day. Your baby will begin to differentiate between light and dark sooner or later.
- Try to keep the room darker during the night. In case you need to feed your baby at night, do not switch on too many lights. You could keep the lights dim or just feed in the darkroom so that the baby notices the difference between day and night.
- When your baby is taking a daytime nap, you shouldn’t worry much about walking around the house and carrying on with your day. However, when your baby is sleeping during the night, you should be extra cautious and try not to make any
Bedtime Routines and Sleep Training
After two months, your baby will start showing signs of a regulated sleep pattern. It will get easier once you start following a bedtime routine and some sleep training. The ideal time is about one hour before bed. A timeline has been reproduced below to give you an idea of what the routine should look like:
One hour before sleep: Change the diaper and bathe the baby. Use lotion or baby oil after the bath.
30 to 45 minutes before sleep: Gently massage the baby for comfort and relaxation. Swaddle the baby and dim the lights in the room to induce drowsiness.
15 to 30 minutes before sleep: You may feed healthy bedtime snacks as mentioned earlier for the baby to get a good night’s sleep.
10 to 15 minutes before sleep: Gently rock the baby and cuddle or caress the hair to make your baby feel sleepy.
5 minutes before sleep: The baby will be drowsy at this point and should be put in the crib very gently.
At what time should your child go to sleep?
You are already aware that babies require an ample amount of sleep. The appropriate bedtime may vary for different age groups:
0 to 1 month: No bedtime. Baby sleeps and wakes at will. Babies will wake up at least four times in the middle of the night.
1 to 3 months: 8:00 to 11:00 PM. The baby will wake up 3 to 4 times in the middle of the might.
4 to 8 months: Around 6:00 to 7:30 PM. The baby may not wake up as often during the night.
9 to 12 months: 6:00 to 8:00 PM. The baby may sleep through the night.
You may have noticed that as the baby gets older, the bedtime starts to change accordingly. Younger babies are inclined to staying up late since they have no fixed sleep pattern. But as they get older, a circadian rhythm is established.
Why Can’t Your Baby Sleep?
Sometimes babies resist sleep, and it may not just be because of hunger. Babies may start to fuss or start flailing their arms and legs rapidly when they are put in the crib. This is because some babies don’t want to sleep on their backs. They feel more comfortable when they are on their tummies. Still, this sleep position is not recommended because it could lead to respiratory problems and may result in Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS). You may try to rock the crib of the baby a little or swaddle the baby to induce sleep.
Some babies sleep through the day and stay awake during the night. This may not be so much fun for you. One way to encourage your baby to sleep through the night is by familiarizing him with the difference between day and night. This also helps to develop Circadian Rhythm, and your baby will eventually start sleeping at the right time.
You must ensure that your baby does not nap right before bedtime. If a baby takes a nap just 30 to 60 mins before bedtime, it may be difficult to put him to sleep again. Try to stick to the bedtime routine to develop a consistent sleep cycle.
If your baby shows signs of teething such as biting, drooling, or irritability, the teething pain might be keeping him up at night. Some babies grow their first teeth when they are 2 to 3 months old; whereas others may take longer. The teething pain does not last forever though, and your baby will settle down eventually.
Night Waking & Night Weaning
Some parents think that they might as well just forget about sleeping after having their first newborn. But don’t worry; there are ways in which you can get through the initial months of childbirth. Babies up to 3 to 4 months of age have a habit of waking up in the middle of the night more often than older babies. This is usually because they require more frequent feeding than older babies, and they have irregular sleep patterns. But it is the crying that makes it a little frustrating and stressful for parents to handle.
Every baby is different in his/her way. Some babies generally sleep through the night while others wake up in the middle of the night and demand to be fed. Some parents get frustrated when their baby wakes up and starts crying in the middle of the night. Instead of getting frustrated, try to spend some quality time with your baby, especially if you have been away during the day.
Always remember, by feeding your baby at night, you are not just nourishing them, you are nurturing them. The baby feels loved and safe and develops a special bond with his mother. This is especially relaxing for the mother. As the baby grows older, typically after 4 to 5 months, they may substantially reduce or end night feeding on their own.
You can help your child go back to sleep by gently cradling him or swaddling again. Some parents also cuddle their babies and sleep close to them so that the baby feels safe. Sometimes certain light musical jingles also help babies fall asleep. These may hang on their cribs or perhaps somewhere nearby.
Most mothers sing lullabies to make their children fall asleep, which is also an effective way as it is soothing for both the mother as well as the baby. It is also wise for parents to sleep in the same room with the baby rather than in a separate room as it helps the baby sleep better. Nonetheless, you may choose to sleep in a different room after the preliminary months.
How Does Napping Affect Sleep?
Studies suggest that certain physical and mental developments in babies occur while they are asleep. Children who do not get enough nap time are likely to throw more tantrums and can be irritable. This is why napping for at least 1-2 hours is an essential part of a baby’s overall health. By getting enough sleep, your baby will not feel tired throughout the day and can also comfortably sleep at night. Besides that, it will also give you a break to focus on other things.
The following timeline illustrates the recommended napping hours for babies at different ages:
3 to 6 months: at least 3 to 4 naps daily
6 to 9 months: 2 to 3 naps should be enough every day
9 to 12 months: 1 to 2 naps daily
12 months to 3 years: some babies may or may not nap once a day at this age
Try to put your baby to bed if you notice any of the following signs which indicate that the baby is tired:
- Fidgeting and making quick movements of arms and legs.
- Clenching fists, frowning, yawning, and eye rubbing
- Fussy and irritating behavior
- Lacking alertness
- Constantly crying
Here are a few tips to help put your baby down for a nap:
A quiet and dark environment will make the baby drowsy and ready for a nap.
When your baby gets fussy or has droopy eyes, it indicates that he is tired and needs a nap.
Make sure your baby is wearing a clean diaper. A dirty diaper makes them uncomfortable and they may not be able to fall asleep.
Put the baby in the crib on his back. Do not make babies sleep on their stomach or the side.
Try to create consistency during nap times so that the baby starts to get used to the routine. Although the nap timings may vary sometimes and it is nothing to worry about.
How Does Napping Affect Night Sleep?
Your baby needs to take naps during the day to sleep well at night. It is considered that sleeping through the night means at least 6 hours of consistent sleep without waking up. The night sleep for babies may get disrupted if they don’t get enough sleep during the daytime or if they take a nap too close to bedtime.
Daytime naps are important at least till the age of 2 because babies tend to get tired easily. If your baby does not sleep during the day, he might get too tired by the end of the day and may not nurse well even if he wakes up in the middle of the night.
Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS)
Sudden infant death syndrome is the unexpected and unexplained death of an infant. Most deaths occur when the baby is sleeping, which is why it is also known as ‘crib death’.
There is no definite cause of SIDS, but some of the following factors may be one of the reasons for SIDS:
Environment: It has been proposed that prolonged exposure to heat or smoking around the baby may be a factor.
Sleep Position: You should never let your baby sleep on his stomach or side. This will cause breathing problems and might be linked to SIDS.
Co-Sleeping: Co-Sleeping is when the parents sleep on the same bed as the baby, which may cause accidental suffocation. While co-sleeping may develop a special bond with the baby, it is not recommended to sleep for long hours in the same bed.
Soft toys or extra sheets: If you fill up your baby’s crib with extra blankets or sheets or too many soft toys, he might not be able to breathe properly, which will cause respiratory problems.
Other causes proposed included congenital disabilities such as some sort of deficiency or brain damage.
Effective Ways To Prevent SIDS
There are some ways in which you can protect your baby and prevent SIDS. Some of the practical techniques are mentioned below:
The best way to prevent SIDS is by making your baby sleep on its back. One way of making your babies sleep on their backs is by swaddling.
You should use a firm mattress rather than a soft one. Babies tend to sleep better on a firm mattress. This will also prevent any back problems as well as SIDS.
Let your baby sleep in a relatively calm environment. Make sure that the lights are off and the baby is in a comfortable place.
Avoid smoking tobacco in the baby’s room. Babies are vulnerable and have fragile immune systems. The tobacco smoke will affect the baby’s lungs and cause breathing problems. If you want a smoking break, you should smoke somewhere away from the baby.
Avoid using extra bed sheets, blankets, pillows, or soft toys while putting your child to sleep. It may be too suffocating for them.
It is suggested that breastfeeding reduces the risk of SIDS as well.
The use of pacifiers may also contribute to a reduction in the risk of SIDS. Although the exact reason is unclear.
Swaddling Your Baby
Swaddling is when you wrap up a baby in a piece of clothing in a way to restrict the movement of arms and legs. Many benefits come from swaddling babies. Some of them are mentioned below:
Reduce the risk of SIDS:
One of the main reasons to swaddle babies is to avoid the danger of Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS). Swaddling helps babies to sleep on their backs, thus, prevents sleeping on the stomach or side, which may cause difficulty in breathing.
Help feel calm and comfortable: Swaddling generally soothes the baby and keeps them calm. They feel more secure and protected when they are all wrapped up like a tiny burrito. Swaddling also sometimes makes the baby stop crying and is used as a sleep generating technique.
Babies Sleep Better: Swaddling helps babies sleep better and longer as it makes them feel safe. This way, newborn babies are also prevented from being startled by unintentional arm movements.
Less crying, more sleeping: Since newborn babies will sleep more while swaddled up, they will cry less and even wake up less during the night. This will also give you the peace of mind they need, and they may catch up on their sleep as well.
When should you stop swaddling?
The exact time to stop swaddling may vary for each baby, but it ranges from about 4 to 6 months. You can stop swaddling if you notice your baby showing any of the following sings. Starts taking arms out during sleep. Starts sudden movements while swaddled. Tries to get out of the swaddle due to increased arm and neck strength Starts to roll over on his own
Habits To Avoid
Sometime, parents unintentionally spoil their children’s sleeping habits. We all love babies (especially when they are your own), but it is your job as a responsible parent to raise your children in a well-nurtured environment and help them differentiate between good and bad sleeping habits.
The following are some of the habits that some parents adopt. These practices are not advised and should be avoided because they might have long term consequences.
- Sleeping With a bottle: Most people think that letting the baby sleep with a bottle would help keep him calm, but they don’t realize that it might cause some problems in the long run. Studies suggest that letting your baby sleep with a bottle may result in tooth decay or an ear infection. Not only this, but it may also be a choking hazard. It is better to feed the baby an hour or 30 minutes before bedtime while he is sitting upright.
- Co-Sleeping: Most parents find it hard to sleep separately from a newborn baby. As already mentioned earlier, co-sleeping may be linked to SIDS; therefore, it is better to share a room with a baby rather than sleep on the same bed.
- Using Pacifiers: It is understandable that pacifiers are used to calm the baby and are also the most effective when the baby won’t stop crying. But it is crucial to ensure that they don’t make a habit of sleeping while chewing a pacifier. This is because pacifiers can lead to dental problems. It would be great if you could avoid using pacifiers overall, but it is okay to soothe your child once in a while with the use of a pacifier.
- Thumb Sucking: As adorable as it may look, it should be stopped. There is nothing wrong with thumb sucking if an infant does it. But as your baby grows a little older, it could be a cause of concern. Most babies suck their thumbs because it calms them, but you should ensure that it does not develop into a habit, especially while sleeping at night.
- Rocking Your Baby: It is not uncommon to see many mothers gently rocking their babies to get them to fall asleep. It may seem like a good temporary solution to make your baby sleepy, but it can have some impact in the future because it might turn into an unhealthy habit. Your baby needs to learn to fall asleep on his own. You may sing to your baby, or you may gently stroke his hair, but rocking your baby every single night might turn out to be a strenuous task.
- Breastfeed To Sleep: Some mothers breastfeed their babies during bedtime to make their babies fall asleep. It may be soothing for the baby, and it may induce drowsiness, but it is still not recommended. This is because the baby might develop the habit of falling asleep only by being fed or by staying close to the mother’s bed. It may become a problem for older babies. Thus, it is advisable to feed the baby a while before bedtime to make them sleepy enough and then gently put them in the crib so they may fall asleep on their own.
What About The Parents?
All that incessant crying, cooing, diaper changing, feeding, and waking up in the middle of the night contributes to the amount of stress that you, especially if you are the mother, have to face after having a new member in the family.
These tiny creatures may look cute and adorable, but they are not easy to handle. You may often find yourself reminiscing over the past, wondering what life was like before you had the baby.
This is not anything unusual or disturbing, and I assure you that it is normal to feel stressed out during the initial months after having a baby. A lot of parents feel the same way, and you should not let this ‘baby stress’ make you feel like your life is over. It has only just begun!
Fear not, for some of the following tips might help you overcome or at least cope up with the stress:
Start Preparing Early
You must start preparing during the early stages of pregnancy. You should work with your partner and establish a plan for when the baby arrives. Both partners need to work together. The burden should not fall solely on the mother.
Learn To Unwind Yourself
Make time for yourself whether it is an hour or even just fifteen minutes of your day. Try to do something you enjoy for yourself. Allocate this time of the day to ease and relax. You can watch TV, do some exercise or even read for a while.
Don’t Stop Meeting Other People
You should stay connected with your family and friends. It will help take your mind off of stress, and you will get some adult time as well. It is not necessary to go out and visit friends; you can always call them over or have a video chat. This will relieve you from all the tension and prevent anxiety.
Make Time For Each Other
This principle applies to both the mother and the father. You should try spending time with your partner by helping out with the baby and with the daily chores or simply by sleeping in the same room with the baby which is comforting for everyone.
Communication Is Key
It is always helpful when you talk about how you feel. By expressing yourself, you allow your partner to understand your feelings. The father should always support the mother in taking care of the baby and calm her down by saying things like “I’m here for you” or “you are not alone.”
Some Tips For Mommy
We all know how stressful the first few months or maybe even the first few years can be for parents, especially for those hardworking, nurturing, tired, and sleep-deprived mommies! Don’t you worry; we have got you covered too.
The first thing you need to know is to take it easy. Do not worry about that laundry or the dishes. Take a deep breath and just look at your adorable baby. Sometimes what your baby might need is the presence and awareness of his mother.
The second most important thing is to sleep when the baby sleeps. You might have heard of this before as well. It is an effective way of catching up on some of your sleep, and you wouldn’t even have to worry about the baby
You could utilize some of the napping hours of your baby to do some other chores around the house. Or you may just sit back and relax for a bit, because why not?
Another important thing is to try and get some exercise. All you have to do is take out 15 to 30 minutes from your busy schedule and allocate them to doing quick cardio or some yoga.
You can do this when your partner is home or if there is another member of the family to look after the baby for a while. Or perhaps even when the baby is asleep! Trust me, a little exercise will make you feel relaxed and will reduce stress. Plus, you will also get into shape after the birth.
Always remember that there is no such thing as the ‘Perfect Mom’. We all know that being a mother is one of the hardest jobs in the world, but it is also the most rewarding.
Do not blame yourself or be too hard on yourself during this journey. You learn every step of the way even by making the smallest mistakes. Make honest efforts and trust your motherly instincts; you will be the ‘Super Mom’.
Mothers must stay well-nourished, just like the baby. Especially if you have to breastfeed, you must take care of your diet. Stick to foods that are packed with the right nutrients that your baby needs. Also, a healthy mother will be a happy mother!
Some mommies get too excited during pregnancy, and they have already envisioned life-altering changes the baby will bring. However, sometimes things don’t always go as planned. Sometimes there may be a huge difference between what you imagined it to be and the reality. The best thing you can do is accept it and make the most out of every moment. In the end, you do have a beautiful child to hold and love, and that is all that matters.
What’s Next In Parenting?
It is a strenuous yet somewhat fun to look after a baby. After all, you have a tiny new human in the house! The essential part is to make the most out of every moment because as your child grows up (and trust me, kids grow up fast), you will start missing these days, and one day you will look back to this moment and smile.
You will then realize that all of this effort was worth it because it will help your child become mentally and physically healthy. Isn’t that what every parent wants? There are a lot of ways in which you can create an impact in your life after the arrival of the baby. You are halfway there when you learn to respond to your baby’s needs reasonably quickly. You should also maintain a log for your baby about his different sleeping or eating habits.
Try to spend as much time as you can with your children and allocate at least one hour to ‘playtime’ every day. You can start teaching your child different skills by introducing them to various colors and puzzles made for babies. This will keep your baby engaged as well as keep you stress-free.
Moreover, by spending more time with your children, you will also establish a bond that is stronger than any other band in the world and it will only strengthen over time. Your children will also learn to respect and appreciate you as a parent when they gradually grow up.
Therefore, it is fair to conclude that a few small acts and changes in the way we do certain things for our kids in everyday life may go a long way. As a responsible parent, we must ensure that our babies are provided with the best environment and grow up to become well-nourished and well-nurtured humans.