Healthy Sleep for Babies
As new parents often find, no one in the house sleeps if the baby doesn’t sleep. It’s very common to have sleep troubles with a baby, especially as new habits and routines are being developed.
Newborns and babies should get the recommended amount of sleep based on their age. These recommendations are only guidelines and not every baby will follow them:
Birth to 6 months:
9-12 hours at night (waking through the night to feed)
2-8 hours during the day
6 months to 12 months:
10-12 hours at night (usually sleeping through the night)
2-5 hours during the day
What if my baby has trouble sleeping?
The following are some helpful tips for establishing good sleep habits for your baby:
• Newborns do not have a set night or day schedule for the first several weeks of life. It is best for a newborn not to sleep longer than 5 hours at a time in the first 5 to 6 weeks as their small bodies need frequent feedings.
• Older babies should have a nap time and bedtime schedule. Put your baby to bed at the same time each night.
• Babies should not be put to bed with a bottle. It causes problems with tooth decay and ear infections.
• At bedtime, include quiet activities your baby likes, such as a bath, a story and a last breastfeeding or bottle. Avoid playing with and stimulating the baby.
• Answer your baby’s cries on a schedule. Wait a few minutes longer before each response on a single night, or before every response on succeeding nights. Your baby soon will learn to fall back asleep on his or her own.
• Swaddle your baby. Swaddled babies often sleep more deeply, are startled less often and fall back to sleep more easily. Learn how to swaddle your baby.
Sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS) is a very real sleep-related risk for babies under age 1. Here are recommendations from the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) on how to reduce the risk for SIDS:
• Make sure your baby is immunized. An infant who is fully immunized reduces his or her risk for SIDS.
• Breastfeed your infant. The AAP recommends breastfeeding for at least 6 months.
• Place your infant on his or her back for sleep or naps. This can decrease the risk for SIDS, aspiration and choking. Never place your baby on his or her side or stomach for sleep or naps. If your baby is awake, allow your child time on his or her tummy as long as you are supervising, to strengthen the neck and head muscles.
• Always talk with your baby’s doctor before raising the head of their crib if he or she has been diagnosed with gastroesophageal reflux.
• Offer your baby a pacifier for sleeping or naps, if he or she isn’t breastfed. If breastfeeding, delay introducing a pacifier until breastfeeding has been firmly established.
• Use a firm mattress (covered by a tightly fitted sheet) to prevent gaps between the mattress and the sides of a crib, a play yard or a bassinet. This can decrease the risk for entrapment, suffocation and SIDS.
• Share your room instead of your bed with your baby. Putting your baby in bed with you raises the risk for strangulation, suffocation, entrapment and SIDS. Co-sleeping is a culturally variable practice. It can be safe under some very strict conditions, such as eliminating blankets and pillows from the bed. Parents are at higher risk for rolling over a baby if they are overweight, smoke, do illicit drugs or drink alcohol. If you are considering co-sleeping, please be sure to discuss the guidelines with your doctor.
• Avoid using infant seats, car seats, strollers, infant carriers and infant swings for routine sleep and daily naps. These may lead to obstruction of an infant’s airway or suffocation.
• Avoid using illicit drugs and alcohol. Don’t smoke during pregnancy or after birth.
• Avoid overbundling, overdressing or covering an infant’s face or head. This will prevent him or her from getting overheated, reducing the risks for SIDS.
• Avoid using loose bedding or soft objects. Bumper pads, pillows, comforters and blankets should not be used in an infant’s crib or bassinet to help prevent suffocation, strangulation, entrapment or SIDS.
• Avoid using cardiorespiratory monitors and commercial devices. Wedges, positioners and special mattresses should not be used.
• Always place cribs, bassinets and play yards in hazard-free areas. Avoid dangling cords or wires to reduce the risk for strangulation.