skills are governed by her newborn sleep patterns
optimal development towards bigger is crucial for good health now and later on.
rapidly, especially in the first six months,
newborn and baby sleep patterns explain why baby's naps and nights can
be so unpredictable, in those
first months, and even past one year old.
helps us guide our child in the best
possible way: by accepting what is inherent to her maturity and by
steering towards good habits that fit our daily lives. An overview ...
first six months
are key in sleep development: at no
other stage in life do sleep patterns
develop this rapidly. After six months, the sleep
patterns continue to develop. Around the age of four close-to-adult
sleep patterns are reached.
much is enough
continues to depend on age, but also on
personality and environment.
Developing newborn sleep patterns
The main characteristic of a newborn's sleep pattern is
the lack of a circadian rhythm
So indeed, our baby has no choice when giving us a hard time with
broken nights, for her there is just no difference between day and
A clear daily
routine and light/dark cues can help
this day-night rhythm towards a
baby sleep schedule
Before birth, in the
womb, your baby was not on any sleep-wake schedule like us. She did
follow active-quiet cues from mommy's belly, constantly alternating
sleep-like and awake states.
However, there was no day-night difference, no longer naps, no sleeping
through ... in one go:
is not born with a circadian rhythm
govern our body's daily cycle of mainly
wakefulness during the day and sleep during the night - with also
the day and
points at night. Daily routines and (natural) light are key cues that
establish and reinforce this rhythm.
newborn sleep patterns
are naturally linked to
a newborn and growing baby needs food
regularly: ideally in not too big portions but frequently.
HerÂ natural infant sleep patterns reinforce these food needs:
because she needs food
, just long enough for feeding, a
burp and a diaper
filling, some socializing and then back to sleep again. Sleeping: to
develop brain and body, and to be ready for another feeding, burping,
A small baby spends a lot of time in so called
about half of the time. The other half is
is deeper. This results in rather
, especially shortly (first 30 minutes) after going
She also makes
: 50-minute slots of light and quiet sleep,
after which she wakes up (either completely or else goes straight on to
next cycle). This explains the frequent (night) awakenings.
(We adults do the same, but in 90-minute cycles.)
go by, little by little, there will be a bit more awake time: baby
becomes more aware of her surroundings, the socializing with
mom/dad/carer becomes more important.
1 - 6 months baby sleep patterns
, practicing motor
skills requires her to be awake more. And that's how the awake
become longer. As baby becomes ready to be without food for longer, she
sleep for longer stretches
Around 3 to 4 months old,
circadian rhythm has usually set in
. Sleep at night will
be different and - in spite of night awakenings - longer than during
Unfortunately, these abilities are no guarantee for perfect nights ...
At this age, there are other factors besides food and deep sleep:
there's awareness of needing mom/dad,
6 months and onwards
At about 6 months old, baby starts to reach
a deeper sleep
often. Then little by little, towards the age of 4, her sleep cycles
longer, going from 50 to 90 minutes. Sleep is starting to resemble
adult sleep more and more,
of the work is done
As is clear from the above overview,
need time to develop. They do so quite rapidly and with a gentle
towards lifelong healthy sleep habits
. See the
page for practical tips.
Heidi Holvoet, PhD, is the founder of the Baby Sleep Advice website and movement, an award-winning author, baby & toddler sleep consultant with 14+ years experience as well as a certified lactation counselor.
Over the years, Heidi has received several awards inluding a Mom's Choice Award (MCA) and National Parenting Awards (NAPPA) for her Baby Sleep Advice website, programs and books.
She is also a member of the Association of Professional Sleep Consultants of which she was one of the earliest contributors. She obtained her PhD degree in physics at the University of Ghent in Belgium.
Heidi is passionate about helping babies and their parents sleep more and better, with her trademark approach that has been proven and praised time and again by parents worldwide to be effective and truly no-tears. Respect for you as a parent and your baby, is at the heart of Heidi's warm and kind support. Her approach always keeps in mind a baby's needs and abilities at any given age, is based on pediatric science and the most up to date knowledge in infant care and sleep science.