The sleep and wake times of newborns
and infants are often influenced by their
need to be fed or changed.
It is important that parents understand
how newborns and infants sleep, so that
they can set realistic expectations.
- Every baby is different; your baby may have different sleep patterns from other babies and still be normal and healthy.
- Your baby will begin to sleep for longer periods of time at night as he/ she grows and develops over time.
All babies wake up spontaneously at least a few times during the night. They may require soothing and intervention from caregivers to fall back to sleep in the first couple of months. At the age of three to six months onwards, most will have the ability to self-soothe themselves back to sleep.
Parents with newborns and infants may consider the following advice to help their babies develop the ability to selfsoothe (It is never too early to start!):
- Put your baby to the crib/bed drowsy but still awake, so that he/she can learn to fall asleep on his/her own.
- Avoid breastfeeding or bottle feeding your baby to sleep, so that he/she does not require this to fall asleep. Some parents find gentle rhythmic patting of their babies helpful in settling them to sleep, but it is best to stop the patting when the baby is quiet and about to fall asleep.
- Learn to identify signs of sleepiness in your baby. Babies may express their need to sleep in different ways. Some babies fuss or cry, some rub their eyes or pull their ears, others lose focus in ongoing play or activity.
- Avoid picking your baby up immediately each time he/she cries or fusses in the night. As long as safety is not a concern, allow your baby to try to fall back to sleep on his/ her own first. If you need to check on your baby in the night, keep it brief, and avoid turning on bright lights and engaging/stimulating activities. When feeding or changing your baby during the night, do so in a quiet and calm manner.
- Wrapping newborns snugly with a thin baby blanket may help them feel more secure and reduce ‘startles’ during sleep. Always check that the wrapping is not too tight, and that the baby’s breathing is not obstructed.
- Engage in play and stimulating activities during your baby’s wake period, but keep the environment dimmer and quieter with less activity as evening approaches, to help your baby sleep better and longer during the night.
- Avoid night feedings after the age of 6 months. Night feedings are not necessary for growth after the age of 6 months, but may potentially disrupt sleep.