Sleep is important for all age groups (newborns, infants, toddlers, kids & adults). However, newborns and infants are a little different story as they can’t tell the difference between day and night, if not properly handled. As a result, they can wake up and wreck their sleep schedule.
This can become difficult for parents and can make them sleep-deprived. According to the Sleep Foundation, parents can lose sleep every night after a baby is born. On average, a mother can lose hours of sleep every night. Similarly, a father can also lose around 1 to 2 hours of sleep per night. But, the key point—regardless of the amount of sleep hours being lost—is cutting your sleep in half, and waking in the middle of the night. That is when all the sleep-deprivation consequences will start to wreck your mood throughout the day.
That’s why almost 75% of parents say ‘they would like to change their child’s sleep habits.’ Even if we keep the parent’s loss of sleep aside, a child’s quality of sleep can also be negatively affected, if they are not following good sleep habits & schedules.
So in a sense, it is a win-win situation for everyone if the infants start to follow good sleep habits from the beginning. That’s why today, we will look at how parents and caregivers can help their infants establish good sleep habits!
How much sleep does an infant need?
A child in the age group of 1 months – 1 year is known as an infant. When compared with newborns, an infant needs less sleep time but it is still a lot more than toddlers and adults. As your kid gets older month by month, and then year by year, they will need less amount of sleep per day. With that being said, it is imperative that they have a sleep schedule.
On average, an infant can sleep for anywhere between 10-15 hours in a 24-hours period (especially during the first 6 months of life). During the day, an infant sleeps between 2-4 hours, while the sleep duration during the night is—on average—10-12 hours. This also involves waking up 1-2 times during the night for feeding.
In addition, an infant can also wake up during the day and night if their sleep is disturbed or they don’t have a good sleep schedule. So, if you are the parent of an infant, then there’s a good chance that you need to wake up at least a few times each night.
5 Ways to Help Your Infant Establish Good Sleep Habits
Now, let’s look at 5 ways you can help your little one get a good night’s sleep (and also allow parents to get a good night’s sleep).
1. Look for Signs of Tiredness
If an infant shows signs of tiredness, it is an indication that they need to sleep. Here’s a quick list of some common signs of tiredness:
- Rubbing Eyes
- Being Irritated
- Looking away from you.
As soon as you notice these signs, it is time to put the child to the baby. Failure to notice these signs can make the baby overtired, which means they would have more trouble falling asleep. Similarly, an overtired baby will also have trouble staying asleep for a long time.
So the easiest way to prevent the baby from being cranky and throwing a fuss while trying to sleep is to make sure they are not overtired.
2. Establish a Day/Night Sleep Cycle
It is true that infants don’t know the difference between day and night. However, that doesn’t mean they can’t learn the difference between these!
As a parent, you can teach the infant that the daytime is for activities and having fun. Similarly, nighttime is strictly for sleeping only.
This will encourage the infants to establish a day/night sleep cycle where they take naps during the day and sleep through the night undisturbed.
To help the infants establish a day/night sleep cycle, you must keep all the stimulating activities and playtime during the day.
When it is nighttime, you should dim the lights and avoid any activities that can stimulate the baby. If you have to feed the infant, do so in a semi-darkened room. And if possible, also keep the noise to a minimum.
Over time, the child will learn that nighttime is only for sleeping while the daytime is for fun!
3. Avoid Waking the Baby for Night Feeding (After 2 months)
The most important thing for you to remember is that there is no “How To Be The Perfect Parent” handbook with all the ideal strategies. Each baby is different, and each family is different. And that is 100% ok.
From a developmental perspective, babies are able to sleep through the night without eating when they’re between 4 and 6 months old. In this age range, most babies reach the 12- to 13-pound mark, the weight where they no longer metabolically need nighttime feedings.
In fact, waking them up for night feeding could disturb their sleeping schedule and by daytime, they would be fussier. In addition, night feeding will also send a signal to the infant that nighttime is also for other things besides sleeping.
However, there are certain conditions that require you to wake your baby for night feeding, such as:
- They are missing daytime feeds.
- They are not gaining weight properly.
- Your baby has special needs or is premature.
- They are sleeping more during the day rather than at night.
4. Set up a Sleep-Friendly Atmosphere
According to experts, 50% of the infant’s sleep is rapid eye movement (REM). This is a light stage of sleeping which means even the slightest noise can wake up the infant and disturb their sleep. A loud sound from your phone, slamming a door shut, or talking loudly can and will wake the baby up.
So if you want your infant to establish a good sleep routine, you will need to make preparations. This involves removing any unneeded sound and dimming/turning off the lights when they are sleeping.
You can also use a white-noise machine and blackout shades to create a womb-like environment in the child’s room. This will create the optimal sleep environment for your little one.
Totally removing all sounds or not speaking when the infant is sleeping can be challenging. That’s why it is best to use white noise, as it muffles any background noise & thus lowers the chance of sleep disturbance.
5. Adjust the Temperature
According to the Sleep Foundation, the ideal temperature for a sleeping baby is 68°F -72°F (20°C – 22°C). Just like adults sleep best in a cool environment, infants also prefer it as well.
And if you are worried that the temperature is too cool for your little one, you can confirm by putting your hand on their chest. If their chest is warm, it means the baby is warm enough & there’s no need to worry.
Establish Good Sleep Habits For Your Baby
Sure, it can be difficult for everyone (parents & infants) to develop good sleep habits during the first few months. To make it easy, you can try some or all of the above-mentioned tips. However, you shouldn’t expect to see overnight results.
Gradually, the infant will learn that day is for activities while the nighttime is for sleep. And before you know it, you will also start to sleep comfortably at night along with your little one.