What Are Normal Baby Sleeping Habits?

baby in a cot mom looking on

Normal Baby Sleeping Habits

 Both new and experienced parents need to be familiar with normal sleeping habits for their baby, and be able to differentiate when there may be a health concern. Also, parents should be trained in infant and adult CPR in case of an emergency, as well as first aid. Knowing what’s normal and what isn’t will help you spot problems right away. You need to be aware of your baby’s breathing patterns during sleep and keep in mind that when babies sleep it won’t always be peaceful.

 There may be kicking, groaning, whimpering and other noises that your baby makes which can be a source of concern but are mostly normal behaviors. There are other behaviors such as head banging, teeth grinding, or rocking that can seem even more concerning but are also mostly normal behaviors. Head banging is a habit where babies bang their forehead or the back of their head on their crib headboard. In spite of how concern this habit is, parents don’t need to be worried about it, although it should be brought up to the baby’s pediatrician just to be certain.  

Be aware of changes in breathing patterns

The above mentioned sleeping habits are usually not a point of concern, but parents do need to be aware of their baby’s breathing patterns and catch any signs of abnormalities. The rhythm of your baby’s breathing can change throughout the night; she may breath rapidly and then pause for up to 10 to 15 seconds before breathing normally again.

If this happens you should remain calm, as this type of breathing is called periodic breathing and is common in many babies up to the age of 6 months. This breathing pattern only happens about 5 percent of the time during the evening. Premature babies can show periodic breathing up to 10 percent of the time, and your pediatrician should advise you on particular issues you may need to be cautious about if your baby was born premature. If you see periodic breathing happen more often or if your baby is continuing this breathing pattern after 6 months you should speak to your physician.

What to do when you are concerned about your baby’s breathing

If you are ever concerned that your baby has stopped breathing, nudge her to see if there is a response. If there is no response there may be an emergency or an episode of apnea. Immediately start administering CPR, and be certain that your baby has stopped breathing before administering infant CPR. If you are alone, administer CPR for two minutes then call emergency services and resume CPR as soon as possible until help arrives or until your baby begins breathing again.

If there are two people present have one person call emergency services while the person who is best trained in infant CPR should perform CPR. In some cases your baby may have had an apparent life threatening event (ALTE) which would need further diagnoses by your medical doctor to pinpoint the condition and prevent it in the future. Always be sure to place your baby on her back for sleeping to ensure that breathing is as easy as possible.

baby sleeping with teddy

Baby Sleeping Habits and Behaviors to be Aware of

Your baby can make a wide range of different noises when he is sleeping and most of the time there is nothing to worry about as long as the breathing is at a steady rhythm. Knowing the difference between normal sleeping habits and medical emergencies or illnesses is important, and some of the more common sleeping habits are described below.

Snoring and snorting

Snoring and snorting are common for healthy babies, but if your baby is snorting more than usual he might be sick or have a stuffy nose. You can try using a humidifier to help making breathing easier for your baby, or if you are concerned you should visit your pediatrician for a checkup. Also, be aware that snoring may be a sign of another problem that may need to be diagnosed by your doctor, so always bring it up at your checkups along with any other sleeping habits that may seem out of the ordinary. 

For instance your baby may have a syndrome called obstructive sleep apnea due to an obstruction from the tonsils, or there may be allergies that need to be addressed and treated. Obstructive apnea can be treated by your physician and allergies can be dealt with by using an air filter and moving your baby to an allergen free room, along with any medications as prescribed by your pediatrician.

Rocking

Babies are soothed by rhythmic motions and will often rock themselves naturally back and forth when they are sitting up. This behavior usually starts at around the age of 6 months along with head banging. There’s almost never a concern with this behavior, even though it can be common at nighttime, although it can create some noise. Don’t try to stop your baby from rocking, but you can take steps like moving the crib away from the wall to reduce banging noises. Also make sure that the bolts for the crib are tightened and there is no risk of the crib breaking apart.

Sweating

Sweating is a sign that the room temperature is too hot, and if this is the case you should double check that the room is at the recommended 20-22C. If this temperature is too hot it can be reduced from 18-20C. Some babies wake up sweating in the middle of the night regardless of what the room temperature is, because they spend more time than adults in the deepest stage of the sleep cycle which involves heavy brain activity.

Some sweating is common but if you notice that your baby excessively sweats while sleeping there may be a sign of another issue, especially if accompanied by a fever. If you notice your baby sweats excessively go to your pediatrician for a visit who may be able to diagnose an issue such as sleep apnea, a congenital heart problem, or an infection.

Always check with your doctor if you have any concerns over your babies health or breathing just to reassure you and put your mind at peace.

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Our Experts

Our Expert

Jane Cooke - Baby Sleep Expert