How Much Should a Baby Sleep?
Infants tend to sleep a lot, typically 14 to 18 hours a day. It can take several week or maybe months before a baby’s sleep settles into a pattern. Following the tips in this article helps establish healthy sleep habits, and you can start as early as the first month of your baby’s life. But remember your baby won’t be ready for formal sleep training until he’s at least 4 months old. By then he’ll not only be ready to sleep for longer stretches, but he’ll also be much more open to the techniques you use.
1. Check your light
Although you might be tempted to keep things quiet and darker for your newborn to nap well, it might prolong the day-night confusion that almost all newborns will have. Day-Night confusion can last up to 6 weeks.
Lights push your child’s biological and darkness triggers the brain to release melatonin, a key sleep hormone. So, during the day, allow plenty of sunlight into the house or take him outside. Put your baby down for daytime naps in a well-lit room (unless he has trouble falling asleep at nap time). If you keep days bright and nights dark and boring, it will help your newborn sort out her days and nights faster. If early morning sunlight prompts your child to wake too early, or if he has trouble napping in the afternoon, consider installing room-darkening shades
2. Put your baby down drowsy
Instead of waiting until the baby’s out, put him down when he’s almost asleep. Babies who drift off on their own are more likely to learn to soothe themselves to sleep. Learning to fall asleep on their own is essential to helping little ones snooze for longer stretches. That’s because when they rouse and notice things aren’t the same as when they drifted off. Try to put your baby to bed as he’s quieting down, just before he nods off.
3. Swaddle your baby
Swaddling is the art of snugly wrapping a baby in a blanket for warmth and security. It can keep your baby from being disturbed by her own startle reflex, and it can help her stay warm and toasty for the first few days of life until her internal thermostat kicks in. It may even help to calm your baby and let him sleep for longer stretches. It’s fine to keep swaddling your baby for naps and nighttime if he seems to sleep better that way, but the American Academy of Pediatrics recommends you stop swaddling when your baby is 2 months old – before he starts trying to roll over.
4. Room-share but don’t bed-share
Safe sleep guidelines from the American Academy of Pediatrics recommend baby sleeps in the same room as you for at least the first six months (and up to the first year) of life—but not in the same bed. Sleeping in the same room encourages breastfeeding, is known to help baby sleep for longer stretches and can also help reduce the risks of Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS).
Once your baby is beyond the six-month mark, you can work on settling her into her own room. You can start with putting your baby in his own room for at least one nap a day to start. A daily solo nap also helps baby (and you) get used to being apart these little breaks are healthy and necessary.
5. Let your baby learn to self-soothe
Some babies learn how to fall back asleep on their own, while others may need some nudging with the help of sleep training. This could happen at any age past 4 months. If you jump at every squeak heard over the baby monitor, you’re only teaching your baby to wake up more often. Wait a few minutes to give her time to settle back to sleep on her own. If he doesn’t, and it sounds like he’s waking up, try to reach her before he escalates into a full-blown howl. Stepping in before a meltdown means you’ll catch her before he’s too worked up to fall back asleep.
6. Set a simple bedtime routine
By the time your baby is around three months old you can introduce a bedtime routine in the evening. A simple and consistent routine will help her to learn healthy sleep habits that will stand you both in good stead for the future. Aim to introduce a regular time for going to bed between 6.30pm and 8.30pm. Any later than this and your baby may become overtired. Keep your routine fairly short to begin with, around 20 minutes to 30 minutes will do.
7. Regulate the temperature
Your baby sleeps best when the temperature is consistent and cool—between 69 and 73F. That also means your baby shouldn’t be over-bundled. Instead of heavy clothes, dress baby in layers, so you can regulate baby’s temperature and comfort levels accordingly. Baby should wear what you have on to be comfortable, plus one layer. If your baby feels cold then he should have more clothes on. If he’s sweating, he may be over-bundled.
Putting your crib in the right spot is also key. Pick a location that isn’t in the direct pathway of your air-conditioning or heating vents. The crib should also be placed away from windows to protect baby from drafts and outside noise.