Also: Sleep Patterns in Infants
An infant’s pattern of sleep (or lack thereof) can make or break parents’ experience of their child’s first year of life. Let’s all face it, the phrase “sleep like a baby” is a gross misrepresentation of real life!Dr. Dunlap
That being said, there are things one can do to try to improve their infant’s sleep, including setting realistic expectations of how much a child should be sleeping and when.
For information, follow the provided links and, as always, ask Dr. Dunlap! And remember:
This is, perhaps, the most unpredictable time as far as sleep goes (and everything else for that matter!). Newborns’ neurologic systems are not fully developed when they are born. Therefore, it’s not realistic to expect a newborn infant to sleep like an older child or an adult. Their days and nights are mixed up because their brains haven’t developed a temporal sleep/wake pattern yet!
Newborns do best when allowed to follow their natural pattern. Let them sleep when they want to sleep and wake when they want to wake (excepting for the fact that they need to be fed every 3-4 hours on average until you have been cleared by Dr. Dunlap to go longer between feeds). Try to keep the house dim and quiet at night and bright and noisy during the day to allow their brains to start to understand the day/night pattern. However, never try to keep a newborn awake. This will most assuredly lead to worsening sleep.
Around 2-3 weeks of age, most newborns will be adapting to a day/night schedule. This does not mean they will sleep longer than a few hours at a time, but that they will stop having long stretches of awake time at night and (mostly) sleep between their feeds. They will still sleep most of the day as well.
Around 2 months, most infants will start sleeping longer stretches at night, sometimes through the entire night (8-10 hours) for formula-fed infants and usually closer to 5-6 hours for breastfed infants. They will also start to have more alert time during the day.
This is the “golden” age, when most babies start to sleep through the night and even start to develop a more regular nap pattern. This is also the age at which you can start letting them “cry it out” for both naps and bed time. See the link below for more information on this.
At this age, many infants are ready for a much earlier bed time than what you’ve probably been used to. It’s not unexpected for infants to go to bed as early as 7pm and sleep the entire night until 6 or 7 the next morning. If you are suddenly experiencing frequent awakening when a child has been sleeping long stretches prior, try watching their night time behavior. If they get fussy or seem very sleepy around 6:30 or 7pm, this is likely when they are ready for bed.
Babies at this age typically require 2-3 naps per day, lasting anywhere from 45 minutes to 2 hours per nap.
Infants continue to sleep through the night and take regular naps. Around 9 months, they often transition to 2 naps and continue this until close to 15 months or even beyond. They will typically lengthen one of their naps, sometimes to 2-3 hours.
Infants this age (and beyond) should continue an early bed time, around 7pm-8pm.
If you haven’t already, you should be letting your child self soothe at this age. If they are just learning this skill, it can take hours the first few nights before they quiet. That’s okay. You will never regret teaching your child the life-long skill of self-soothing and independent sleep!