Set Your Baby’s Body Clock
The guidelines on how to care for babies seem to be subject to continual change. For new parents, it can be rather daunting assimilating all of the advice offered up from a myriad of helpful family members and health professionals.
One of the more difficult areas for new parents to deal with centres around the sleep pattern. This is mainly because in the early weeks the majority of new parents suffer from a level of sleep deprivation that they will never have encountered before.
Some new-born babies appear to sleep for hours on end but others seem to need barely any rest, particularly during the night time. So how soon should a new parent try to establish a workable schedule which will enable both parent and baby can flourish together?
Read on for a few notes on how much your baby will need to sleep, from birth to one year old, and also some ideas of how to set your baby’s body clock.
The first three months
The majority of new-born babies will sleep for up to 17 hours a day but rarely for more than 2 -3 hours at a time, day and night. So, for the first six weeks, all parents should expect to be woken three to four times during the night. Your baby needs small levels of sustenance very regularly for optimal growth and development.
Always remember that new-born babies have spent approximately nine months in semi-darkness and any woman who has carried a baby will tell you that her baby loved to play soccer every single time she lay down to sleep. Conversely, during all active parts of the day, the baby would be totally still – presumably enjoying being lulled to sleep by the daily routine.
It’s hardly surprising, therefore, that some level of routine has already been set, pre-birth and the goal therefore is to switch this schedule back around so that the rest period is primarily at night rather than during the day.
- During these early stages it is important to establish the difference between night and day:
- Make sure that your household maintains a level of activity and noise through the daylight hours. Your baby will still nap even if you have the radio on and the neighbour’s dog barks.
- Refrain from cuddling your baby for the entire time they are asleep between feeds. It’s very tempting but they need to get used to sleeping without your arms around them.
- After the first couple of weeks try to interact with the baby rather than putting them straight back down to nap. Gradually extend the period of wakefulness with stimulation but try to make sure that they don’t become overtired.
- By the end of the first three months it is a good idea to ensure that you are feeding baby at regular periods during the day and not letting them sleep through feeds.
- At night time make sure that any noise is muted and lighting is low level. Use nightlights to see during feeds rather than bright illumination.
- Bathing your baby just before their early evening feed will help to signify the end of the daytime period. Warm water will induce a feeling of sleepiness and hopefully help baby sleep after their feed.
- Change nappies prior to feeding whenever possible to allow baby to naturally fall back to sleep without having to be disturbed.
- Restrict talking during these night feeds and absolutely avoid playtime.
From 6 months – 1 year
Your baby should be weaning and beginning to have more or less regular mealtimes by this age and with longer periods of wakefulness between naps. At six months taking up to three naps a day is still important during the daytime but be aware that excessive daytime napping will stop your baby sleeping well at night.
- Wake baby up if they are sleeping beyond late afternoon (5 pm) because it will encroach upon settled night sleep.
- By the time your baby is a year old they will have an established meal-time pattern and be far more active during the day. At this point, it is likely that they will have probably naturally reduced to two good naps per day – two to three hours during the morning and up to two hours in the afternoon. They should also be sleeping through the night.
- Some babies do require more sleep so avoid capping daytime naps unless they are actually encroaching upon good solid night sleep.
- At this stage, a good bedtime routine is essential – a bath before the last feed will help them wind down and then story time for up to twenty minutes should ensure that your baby falls to sleep naturally.
Obviously, all of the above information is merely a guideline because all babies are different and need varying amounts of sleep. However, establishing good routines and behavioural patterns early will pay dividends in the long term. Unfortunately, some babies will continue to wake during the night until long after their first birthday but take comfort in the fact that they will eventually sleep well if you continue to strive for a routine.