Your Baby’s Sleep: from Birth to Six Months

Cover of The Baby Book, by William and Martha SearsThe difference between a well-rested child and a sleep-deprived one is quite significant.  Well-rested babies are more quiet, behaved and pleasant to be with.  Ironically, sleep-deprived ones turn more boisterous and hyperactive than usual – unlike adults who have low energy levels with little sleep.  This article will provide you with facts about your baby, and his sleeping patterns and needs from birth to six months.

In newborns, the internal clock that regulates sleep has yet to develop. They sleep between 16 to 20 hours a day, with no distinction between day and night.  It is up to the parents to teach them the difference: daytime is for playing and other activities while night time is for sleep and rest.  You can do this by exposing him to the noise of daily household activities during the day and keeping lighting and other stimulation to a minimum when it is time to settle down for the night.

For the first few weeks, newborns should be awakened for feedings every three to four hours; at least until an adequate weight gain is established.  After the initial period, babies learn to wake up whenever hungry and can be allowed to sleep through the night.  It must be made clear though, that for newborns, sleeping through the night generally means sleeping straight for about four to five hours at a stretch.  This basically depends on length of time that they can go without feedings, which isn’t long because of their small tummies.  The less frequently they wake up during the night, the more often they would feed during the day.

By three to six months, your baby will be sleeping for about five hours during daytime and ten hours at night, although this will still be punctuated by feedings every so often.  Do not rush to pick him up as soon as he makes a sound – try to let him put himself back to sleep.  Unless he is cold, or hungry or wet give him a minute or two to settle back down.  Sometimes during light sleep, babies make some noises that make it seem as if they are awake although they are not. If you do need to comfort him, make it clear that you are only helping him go back to sleep.  Do not play, or talk or turn on the lights.  You can try making soothing sounds, or patting him lightly on the back.

Start establishing a sleep routine at this time to foster good sleeping patterns.  A sleeping routine is a consistent series of activities that lead towards going to bed for sleep.  Some parents start off with a warm bath and a change into sleep clothes, then a feeding and a half-hour of quiet play (which can also be a good chance for bonding time with  daddy who has been stuck in the office for the whole day), wrapping in a favourite baby blanket, then lights out.

This article was witten by Joana Chrystal Ventura-Moises.  She is a work-at-home mom, a registered nurse and a resident expert on plumbing and shower screen installations.

Elizabeth Pantley has more child and baby sleep tips for you.