Baby Sleep Habits – Babies will, pretty much, just doze off when they feel like it. Some may sleep for extended periods whereas others may sleep in parent-exhausting ‘cat naps’, waking up every hour or so ready to be amused!
Phasing out baby sleep habits
Most babies will sleep for extended periods and spend a lot of their time asleep, assuming they’re comfortable and well-fed. Their sleep patterns may vary considerably though both by individual child and age.
Up to around 3 months, they’ll typically sleep for 15-16 hours out of each 24 but much of that will be in periods of just 1-2 hours. This is why parents can find the early months so exhausting. In reality, apart from sharing the load with partners, families and friends, there is not a great deal that can be done about this.
Fortunately, this phase usually passes naturally and without the need for intervention. The baby’s needs for sleep will diminish and also regularise, with nighttime sleep slowly increasing and daytime reducing.
By the age of 6-8 months, roughly 70% of babies should be sleeping for 6 hours plus during the night. By 12 months, most will be sleeping for 10-11 hours at night and around 2-3 during the day.
However, babies don’t pay a lot of attention to statistical averages and the individual parental experience may vary very considerably from the above.
A notable variable in baby sleep habits is “sleep problems”. These can make life very difficult for parents and babies alike and might include children that:
Become distressed when put down;
- are seemingly unable to sleep other than for 30-minute durations before waking and crying;
- continue to sleep in the same fragmented way as younger babies, even though that are long past the 3-month stage where things should have started to regularise;
- are clearly distressed and crying extensively when put down to sleep, at any age.
If a baby has passed the age of three months or so but continues to experience problems sleeping for extended periods, then it’s important not to panic. The warning above about paying too much attention to statistics should be remembered.
Yet some thoughts about trying to analyse and diagnose what the problems may be might be sensible. Some common problems to look for in cases where it is proving tricky to phase out baby sleep habits include:
- too much surrounding noise and/or light in their sleeping environment;
- the baby isn’t taking in sufficient food to keep them content and satisfied;
- their bed, crib or cot is either too hot or too cold for their comfort;
- early teething causing discomfort;
- other physical symptoms that might suggest illness.
This list isn’t exhaustive and there may be many other things to look for. Some may be subtle, such as your baby needing a little more parental presence and reassurance after being put down to sleep.
If sleep problems continue and you’re unable to diagnose an exact cause, it would be sensible to have a chat with your doctor who will most likely give your baby a quick examination to check for underlying symptoms.Phasing out baby sleep habits – practices
Sometimes a baby can benefit and be helped to adopt more regular sleeping habits by taking a few simple steps. You can try:
- keeping some gentle soft background music (designed for babies’ sleep) in their bedroom;
- rock and cuddle them until they’re sleepy in the family room before moving them into their room;
- feed your baby a little earlier and before they go down;
- try to wean you baby off the dummy at night, as if they lose it in their sleep they may wake to try and find it.
With a little effort, by the age of 3-4 months, many children will have been helped to move away from exclusively baby sleeping habits – though don’t expect success overnight!