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Baby sleeping patterns

Having a baby’s sleep has turned into a landmark for people talking about a good night’s rest. Ironically, babies are known to wake up several times during the night, and recent studies show that the sleeping patterns of newborns and infants affect the sleeping quality of their parents for a few years after conception (1).  Most first-timers feel perplexed and do not know what to expect about their baby’s sleep. Is it normal for them to wake up so repeatedly in the middle of the night? Are they sleeping too much during the daytime?

If you want to detect whether your baby is sleeping too much or too little, it is essential to understand their sleeping patterns. They are constantly changing in their early months and years of life, but they respond to a schedule that you will finally understand after reading this article.

Is your baby sleeping too much?

Even though it is normal for babies to wake up several times throughout the day and in the middle of the night, they need more sleep than adults do. Total sleeping hours are very high compared to children and adolescents, and newborns may even reach 19 hours of sleep a day. However, according to the National Sleep Foundation, this is the recommended total sleep time for every stage (2):

  • Newborns (first month): 14-17 hours
  •  Infants (one month to one year): 12-15 hours
  • Toddlers (1 year to 4 years): 11-14 hours

That is still quite a lot, and sometimes parents feel anxious and concerned about it. However, long sleeping hours should not be a concern unless your baby has the following signs and symptoms:

Hypotonia:

It is a decreased muscular tone. Their muscles should not be relaxed to the point of dropping their arms like a dummy. After 2 months, your baby should be able to control the muscles of his neck and maintain their head still (3).

Also Read  Baby Nutrition
Absence of certain reflexes:

There are many reflexes in neonates and infants that would point out that everything is alright in their nervous system. The sucking reflex when something approaches the mouth is one of the most important signs in the first 4 months (4).

Waking up in the middle of the night and throughout the day.

Sleeping schedules change a lot during the first year of life. It is normal to have a two-month baby waking up every 3 to 4 hours to eat. This will progressively change, and after 6 months. In this stage, babies usually start having more sleeping time at night, and they are typically able to sleep without interruptions in the night.

Thus, it is not necessary to feel concerned about your baby waking up unless he is older than 6 months, if you perceive he is lethargic and drowsy when awake, and if you find in your baby the signs and symptoms we mentioned above. Their waking up is instinctive because they are experiencing fast changes and rapid cell replication, and they need to be properly nourished for that purpose. However, it is important to recognize how often babies usually sleep and apply techniques such as self-soothing to increase the time they spend in their crib when they are a bit older (5).

Changes in sleep pattern throughout their first year of life
Newborn babies:

We mentioned 19 hours as the maximum sleeping time a newborn can reach, but the recommendation by the National Sleep Foundation is 14 to 17 hours (2). In this stage, babies usually wake up every two or three hours to eat and then go back to sleep.

Also Read  Baby Nutrition
One month to three months:

In this stage, infants would usually decrease sleeping time to 14 hours or a bit less, and instead of waking up every two or three hours, they typically have a more prolonged sleeping phase in the first hours of the night that usually lasts around 5 hours. After this longer phase, their sleeping pattern continues similar to that of newborn babies.

Four to seven months:

By this stage, babies sleep for 13 hours, and their night’s rest increases to eight hours. This is the stage most parents are waiting for because it allows for longer sleeping time. This stage is accompanied by more interaction and activity throughout the day, with three to four naps dispersed throughout the day.

Six months to nine months:

After six months, babies usually sleep a bit less than 13 hours and may increase sleeping time at night to 9 hours. This stage is also characterized by more activity throughout the day, and infants would usually take two or three shorter naps.

Eight to Twelve months:

Shortly before turning one year old, babies do not change much their sleeping habits and may have a total sleeping time of 12 hours. According to the recommendation of the National Sleep Foundation, 12 hours is the minimum recommended sleeping time for infants (2).

One year and beyond:

After one year, babies may reach up to 10 hours of night’s sleep and become more and more active throughout the day. One or two naps are usually enough to complete 12 hours of total sleep. According to the recommendations, it would not be alarming if they sleep for 11 to 14 hours a day. However, their total sleeping time usually decreases over time as they become more active throughout the day.

Also Read  Baby Nutrition

Of course, sleeping patterns and sleeping hygiene will depend on many different factors such as external noise, overstimulation, and others. In older infants and toddlers, we would sometimes encounter resistance to going to bed at night, and some infants may take longer than others in reaching a more extended sleeping phase at night. If you ever feel concerned about your baby sleeping too much or too little and consider that he is not meeting the recommendations for his age, talk to your pediatrician and follow his advice.

References:

Richter, D., Krämer, M. D., Tang, N. K., Montgomery-Downs, H. E., & Lemola, S. (2019). Long-term
effects of pregnancy and childbirth on sleep satisfaction and duration of first-time and
experienced mothers and fathers. Sleep.

Hirshkowitz, M., Whiton, K., Albert, S. M., Alessi, C., Bruni, O., DonCarlos, L., … & Kheirandish-Gozal,
L. (2015). National Sleep Foundation’s updated sleep duration recommendations. Sleep
Health, 1(4), 233-243.

Leyenaar, J., Camfield, P., & Camfield, C. (2005). A schematic approach to hypotonia in
infancy. Paediatrics & child health, 10(7), 397-400.

Berne, S. A. (2006). The Primitive Reflexes: Considerations in the Infant. Optometry & Vision
Development, 37(3).

Burnham, M. M., Goodlin-Jones, B. L., Gaylor, E. E., & Anders, T. F. (2002). Nighttime sleep-wake
patterns and self-soothing from birth to one year of age: A longitudinal intervention
study. Journal of Child Psychology and Psychiatry, 43(6), 713-725.

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