Sleep pattern is a highly personal aspect, and that goes for both adults and children. From the beginning of our lives we find that we need much sleep or, on the contrary, can do with just a few hours’ shut-eye. While an adult can take care of himself/herself, sleep of babies and children is partly the parent’s concern, so it’s advisable to be aware of the average sleep statistics round the clock.
How much sleep do babies need and how is sleep duration changing as they grow?
Usually newborn babies spend their first three months in an almost uninterrupted sleep. Some of them can sleep up to 18 hours, although the difference in the duration of sleep manifests itself right from the start, and for other babies’ daily sleep of eight hours can be quite sufficient. As a rule, they wake up when they want to be fed (at any time of day or night) or because they feel too cold or too hot to go on sleeping peacefully.
As they move into their second three months’ period, their sleep stretches become longer because they don’t need to wake up for feeds as often as they used to, especially at night. There are babies who can sleep through the night almost as long as adults do. At 4-5 months nighttime sleep becomes approximately twice the duration of daytime one.
After 6 months and to a year the baby can do without night feeds, and nighttime sleep gets longer still, lasting for up to 12 hours for some. Nevertheless, there are babies who still want to be fed during the night and wake up; other common reason interfering with their sleep is teething aches.
One year-old babies’ sleep totals to 12 hours plus or minus a couple of hours.
Having turned two, the average child requires 10-12 hours’ night sleep and usually has a nap during the day.
Three-four-year olds either go on sleeping for 12 hours as before, or start to spend less time sleeping (something like 8 hours) and no longer sleep in the afternoon.
The baby must learn to feel the difference between day and night
When you handle your baby during the night, take care that your behavior is markedly different from that in the daytime – you go about your attendance quietly, without undue conversation, and you are not playful. Keep the room lit but dimly.
Make little disturbance when nightfeeding
When your baby wakes up to be fed during the night, think about the most comfortable time to change the nappy so as to create as little disturbance as possible. Don’t do it when the baby is sleepy and heavy with feeding. The best time may be when the baby has eaten some but is not satisfied yet; change the nappy and move the baby to the other breast.
Try and put the baby off night feeds letting it night-sleep longer
When the stomach is small, it needs to be refilled very often, but after a time you will find that sleep periods between feeds become longer. It is advisable then to try and move the baby round towards feeding more during the day and sleep longer during the night. In the daytime you can encourage the baby to feed after every four hours, even if it means waking it up, but take care to do it gently without undue forcing. If the baby resists your offers, lay off and try it again in a few weeks.
Lull the baby with sounds
A good way to encourage longer nighttime sleep stretches is by playing repetitive music through the night. During the pregnancy the fetus got accustomed to hearing your body sounds – heartbeat, fluids flowing, muscles moving, etc. There is special baby music enhanced with such body-sound-like elements that can also help you make the baby’s night sleep sounder and longer.