Rainbow Pediatrics
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Infant Sleep Challenges and How to Prevent (or Overcome) Them

Most parents would agree that sleeping well and having a baby doesn’t go hand in hand. While the sleep disturbances that parents experience are challenging, they are also temporary. The most effective way to ensure good sleep habits are formed is to begin early. Here are some tips to help you better understand infant sleep and some of the most common challenges parents face.

About Infant Sleep

Newborn babies sleep a lot, but they don’t sleep for very long. Short one to two-hour sessions is quite common for a newborn. It is highly recommended that whenever possible, moms also rest while their newborn is snoozing.

As babies grow, their sleep patterns change, and they can sleep for more extended periods without waking. During the first year of life, babies need 13-16 hours every day. This time is split between the daytime and nighttime. To reduce the risk of SIDS be sure to:

  1. Always place babies on their back to sleep.
  2. Remove any loose bedding from their crib and ensure their crib sheet is on snugly.
  3. Instead of having your baby sleep in bed with you, let them sleep in their bassinet or crib in your room. The AAP recommends that babies do not get moved to their own room until at least six months of age. The recommendation, however, is 12 months.

Sleeping through the Night

One of the biggest misconceptions regarding infant sleep is getting babies to sleep through the night. It is important for parents to understand that healthy babies do not begin to sleep through the night until they are around three months of age or are about 12-13 pounds.

Parents often believe that six months of age is the magic time when sleep increases. New research has found that at one year of age only 57 percent of babies slept for eight hours straight.

Recognizing the Signs of a Sleepy Baby

New parents often struggle with this one. Babies can’t communicate that they are tired so you have to look for clues. The most easily recognizable include yawning, fussiness, and rubbing their eyes. When babies sleep time is pushed to the limits, they become overtired and often inconsolable. Try to avoid letting this happen by getting your baby to sleep when they first become tired.

Nap Time is Critical

Until kids are around five years of age, naps are essential. Recent studies show that naps are important for adults too. The number of naps your child needs each day varies by age. Babies four months of age to one year typically take at least two naps per day, once in the morning and once in the afternoon.

Help Your Baby Fall Asleep

Babies thrive on routines, so it is important to develop one for yours. Start your evening routine with a bath, dim the lights and put on some soft music while you cuddle with them and read them a story. When your baby begins to show signs of falling asleep, move them to their crib. Avoid holding your baby when they fall asleep as this can develop patterns where they need to be held to fall asleep. A transitional object such as a blanket or soft toy can help with separation anxiety. However, this shouldn’t be introduced until your baby is twelve months of age because of the risk of suffocation.

Night Wakings

Night wakings are where the struggle is most real for parents, and moms in particular. When your baby wakes in the middle of the night, if it is not time for a feeding, soothe them by rubbing their back for a few minutes before leaving the room without picking them up. If they cry again, repeat the same process. Stay consistent with your response to cries to ensure success.

Recognizing Infant Sleep Problems

Catching sleep problems early on is vital for the health and well being of the entire family. Once a baby starts sleeping through the night, many parents are concerned when their child begins waking or having trouble going to sleep. This is a normal part of the developmental process, called separation anxiety. Babies do not know that your separation from them is temporary, so they become scared from being apart.

While teaching babies to sleep well can be exhausting (literally and figuratively), it doesn’t last forever. If you have concerns about your baby’s sleep, schedule an appointment with their pediatrician.