6 Healthy Sleep Habits for Babies
Babies tend to sleep a lot, especially when they are newly born. Newborns sleep for about eighteen hours every day for the first few weeks of their lives. This time frame is not on a single stretch though. The baby could sleep for three hours at a time, waking up intermittently for feeding even during the night. This suggests that you must be prepared to have a couple of sleepless nights after delivering your baby; don’t fret though, it’s a phase, and it’ll pass.
Sleep Experts point out that when the baby grows up to about 6-8 weeks old, sleeping patterns will change. The baby will sleep for shorter periods during the day and longer periods during the night. There will be less “light” sleeps and more “deep” sleep, although you will still have to wake up during the night to feed him.
Any time after the first eight weeks, your baby may start to sleep through the night. There will still be the occasional interruptions during the night, but all of this should clear up after a few months. One thing that you need to understand and accept is that every baby is different and if your baby is taking a little longer than expected to fall into a comfortable sleeping pattern, be patient for a while before you worry about it.
Additionally, the sleeping habits that your baby will eventually adapt to depend largely on which habits you encourage right from the beginning. So, it is important to help your baby to inculcate good sleeping habits right from the start.
Your baby starts to form sleep habits from about six weeks old. At this point, he begins to develop natural circadian rhythms (the process that regulates the baby’s sleep-wake cycle). It will take anything between seven to eleven months before these habits are fully formed, so you need to be on the watch for signs of bad habits that you would want to discourage and also keep an eye out for good habits that you’d like to encourage. Before deciding what to make of a sleep pattern that you notice with your baby, here are a few things that you should know first:
- Habits start to form from six weeks and may take up to twelve weeks with some babies
- Bad habits should only be considered a problem when it lasts up till seven to eleven months old.
- Any procedures that you want to avoid having to deal with breaking should be avoided after the first five months
- Some babies show bad sleep habits after an illness. They will typically return to the old ways after a few days
- Anything that works for you with the baby should be acceptable. A habit should only be considered “bad” if you’re unhappy with it.
With that being said, here are a few ways by which you can help your baby to settle and encourage healthy sleep habits:
#1 Keep an eye out for signs of tiredness
Up until your baby is eight weeks old, he may not stay awake for up to three hours at a stretch. Keep track of the time, so you don’t wait longer than these time frames before you go to put him down. If you delay, he may become too tired to go to sleep when you eventually try to get him to. In the first three months, you can find out if your baby is sleepy by:
- Keeping an eye out to see if he’s rubbing his eyes
- Watching out for dark, faint circles under the eyes
- Checking to see if he’s using his hand to flick his ear
- Listening for crying and whining
- Watching for sudden quietness
If he’s staring into space, stretching and yawning often or suddenly showing a lack of interest in his toys, these could also be indicators that he is tried, and you should put him to sleep. Some babies will bury their face in your chest or turn their faces away from people or moving objects. After a while, you should know which signs your own baby shows when he’s sleepy, and it becomes easier to know when to put him to sleep.
#2 The difference between day and night
After the first two weeks, you need to help your baby to tell the difference between day and night so that he can associate night with sleep more easily. Here are a few tips:
In the daytime,
- Keep the house well lit and bright
- Put him somewhere he can hear every day noises such as the washing machine or the radio
- Talk to him as regularly as you can manage to. Even while he feeds.
- Whenever he wakes up in the morning, change his clothes so that he understands that a new day has begun
- If he starts to fall asleep while feeding, gently wake him up.
- Keep the lights low, and try to reduce noise to the barest minimum
- Avoid speaking to him while he feeds
- Wear his pajamas for him to show the beginning of a nighttime routine.
All of these will help your baby start to differentiate between night and day and help him understand that nighttime is for sleep.
#3 Let the baby fall asleep independently
If your baby can fall asleep on his own from four months old, there is a good chance that he’ll be a good sleeper. Encourage him to fall asleep by putting him in his cot and walking out of the room. If he moans or makes a fuss, it’s fine. You should only go back into the room if the baby is crying seriously, so you can soothe it back to sleep.
#4 Let the baby fall asleep in a consistent sleep zone
Putting your baby to sleep in different places all over the house is not encouraged, as it becomes hard for him to associate his actual room with sleeping. Choose a comfortable sleeping zone and put his cot in there. Anytime you want to put the baby to sleep; it should be in his cot in that room.
#5 Oral Comfort
Provide your baby with any oral comfort that is available. A pacifier or a water bottle is fine. If you do use a water bottle, it is advisable to fill it with water instead of milk, tea or some other meal.
#6 Provide a security blanket
Finally, a blanket should be considered as a necessity when your baby is three months old. But the blanket should be easily washable, small enough to store or transport easily and it should be made from materials that will be soothing to the skin of the baby, contributing to helping him fall asleep.
The comfort of your baby should be a priority, but you must also be tough enough to cut out any bad habits that the baby may begin to show as early as possible. This guide should be enough to give you a pretty good idea of how to go about all of this, so the rest is left to you and your baby. Best of luck!