By offering the right environment we can guide our children towards optimal
Typical Baby Sleep Patterns by Age
The difference between adult and baby sleep patterns
As we know - and
experience ... - a baby is not born with
matured sleep patterns adapted to the day and night cycle of our adult
The key differences
between baby and adult sleep are:
A baby spends more time in light sleep
A baby's sleep cycles are shorter (basically
half-waking up every 45-60 minutes)
These difference are huge and explain so much of what we see
babies: waking up easily
(due to light sleep) and frequently
(light sleep and physically waking up every 50 minutes).
Not all babies wake up every 50 minutes of course, some can go on
sleeping easily without waking up completely - that is the
difference between good and poor sleepers.
Only around 6 months old does a baby start sleeping deeper and it takes
a couple of years for the 50-minute cycle to grow towards the adult
What kind of sleep can you expect, realistically, from your baby?
sleep patterns: a newborn has short sleep-wake cycles
throughout the day, with no difference between day and night. Her sleep
is mostly light (easily waking up). The newborn sleeping schedule is
governed by regular feeding needs.
Her sleep develops rapidly and you can help instill the day-and-night
with a clear difference between your day (active and light) and night
routine (quiet and dim).
1 - 6
month old: Sleep continues to mature
rapidly and your baby gradually moves into sleeping more at night than during
Feeding is still an important and often necessary trigger for
months - 2 year old: Your little one's sleep has
changed dramatically in the first six months and she can now finally
find a deeper sleep.
She will be awakened less easily and therefore is
able to do longer stretches little by little.
Notice the 'is able to': at this age, other factors besides food enter
your child's life:
there is the awareness of needing mom/dad, separation
developing important motor skills,
and so on/
Let the natural patterns help
Rather than trying to break or interfere with your baby's sleep
patterns, your best bet is to reinforce and guide the natural ones in the right
direction. Here's what we can learn:
Sleeping well is a skill that needs time to develop. Knowing that poor
baby sleep is most probably due to physical immaturity, gives
Expecting your newborn to sleep through the night from the first weeks
is not realistic. Please don't feel frustrated when you hear stories
from babies who do: they honestly
are exceptions (and even more likely untrue). Also, parents who realize they shouldn't
expect too much, often report the best sleep results.
sleeping through the night
term sleeping through the night is often overrated.
sleeping through the night starts from 5-6 hours. This could be from 9pm till
3am: still a mini-night in adult terms!
Most babies actually do
this around the age of six months, not consistently at first and it may
take another while before they make longer nights consisently.
Knowing what you can expect reasonably, can help you accept
your baby's sleeping. Yes, I know this may not be the help you're
looking for: but I don't mean it in a crude "you
just need to accept it" way.
It's just that allowing yourself to accept it to a certain point, can help you relax,
which will make you rest and feel better and make you stronger when
coping with your baby's nightly troubles.
times ahead! The best outcome when looking at sleep
patterns: her sleeping skills may not seem impressive to you at first
it's a fact that they develop very rapidly!
So you can
count on improvement, most likely within weeks if not days.
What to do: help reinforce the good parts of baby's sleep
a balanced and clear daily routine. Being active when
you are and quiet
when you are, will help your baby in developing sleep-wake patterns
similar to yours.
day, include baby in your day - for example take her shopping, go for a walk, she
plays or sits on your lap while you work, etc.
signs and arrange a recognizable but flexible
sleep schedule around that.
light-dark cues to reinforce day and night difference,
from the very first days and also as your baby grows. These cues are what's most effective in helping establish appropriate wake/sleep rhythms.
Encourage regular naps.
Even if your baby is not sleeping regularly (day or night) yet, set the
good habit of consistent naps early on. It will only improve her mood
during the day as well as her night time sleep. For a step-by-step
guide to a good nap routine (timed, pattern or free), see No Tears Naps (aka "Nap in a Snap").