Newborn babies cannot tell the difference between day or night
During their first days of life are usually sleepy. This is due to the increased levels of melatonin (the sleep-inducing hormone) produced from the placenta. After a few days, you may notice your baby becoming more awake as the amount of melatonin is reduced.
During the first few weeks babies sleep on average 17 hours out of 24; waking frequently for feeds, due to the size of their stomachs. By around 3-4 months they should be able to recognise the difference between day and night; as melatonin is now produced to regulate their sleeping patterns.
Between three to six months they need an average of 14 hours sleep and from 6-12 months, they should be having a morning and afternoon nap; sleeping for longer periods at night.
From around 18 months to 3 years of age they may reduce their morning nap to the afternoon or have shorter naps. By 3-6 years they will have dropped their afternoon nap, provided they have had a good night’s sleep.
Here are some top sleep routine tips from Millpond Children’s Sleep Clinic which we recommend and implement to help your baby or child sleep well at night.
Sleep Routine Tips
- Babies under 6 months of age must be fed as often as needed with breast or formula milk. The quantity they consume may vary according to their appetite.
- By 8-9 months old your baby should be having 3 two course meals, snacks and two milk feeds per day. Frequent waking at night can sometimes be due to not having enough solids during the day.
- Regular naps during the day will encourage your baby/child to sleep better at night. From 0-3 months most babies will sleep for 2-3 hours after being awake, 3-6 months they may have 3-4 naps, 6-12 months 2 naps and 1-3 years may have a nap for 1-2 hours.
- Be aware of sleep cues i.e. yawning, stretching, crying, rubbing eyes.
- A bedtime routine which lasts 30-45 minutes maximum and includes: no electronic devices at least an hour before the routine starts, a feed, a warm 5-minute bath, returning to dimly lit bedroom to massage and or dress your baby, soft music, a story, a kiss and a cuddle; then placing your baby/child in their cot, moses basket or bed to self-settle and fall asleep. They may need another short feed and you can easily adapt the routine as needed, settling them quickly and with minimal interactions.
- Remember to prevent sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS), if your baby is under six months of age, they should be sleeping in your room, put your baby to sleep on his/her back in the feet to foot position (feet close to or touching the foot of the crib, cot or basket, a room temperature of 16-18°C and no smoking around your baby.
- “If you choose to share a bed with your baby: ensure there are no pillows, sheets, blankets or any other items in the bed with you that could obstruct your baby’s breathing or cause them to overheat. A high proportion of infants who die as a result of SIDS are found with their head covered by loose bedding” (please visit www.thelullabytrust.com for further details).
This article is sponsored by the Independent health visitors of London. They offer sleep consultancy advice, details can be found at www.ihvol.com