When my babies were born, they didn’t sleep more than two hours in a row, day or night - they were hungry babies and fed every two hours! By the time I had them fed and settled again, I was lucky to get just over an hour of sleep at any one time in those first couple of months. By three months old, they were sleeping 3 hours in a row which made such a difference - did you know that sleep deprivation was used as a form of torture in Japanese prisoner of war camps?! So next time you feel like you’re being short tempered or impatient, don’t be so hard on yourself because no one can function like a rational human when they have a young baby and are surviving on such little sleep!
Babies don’t have the same sleeping patterns as adults or older kids, and unfortunately, these can be much more sporadic. Quality sleep, however, is just as important for their early development. Sleep with minimal interruptions for most parents constitutes, “sleeping through the night”, and this could range from about 6 to 10 hours. On average from about 6 months old, babies start to achieve this. Every baby is different however and some might take up to a year. In the first few months, most babies sleeping patterns can even change from week to week. Our daughter was a terrible sleeper and was constantly coming into our bed up until she was almost a teenager! And after that she had lots of bad dreams and was just generally unsettled. In the end, I put a double mattress on our bedroom floor and Amy and Harry slept there whenever they wanted - this was a much easier solution all round!
The first 3 months of a baby’s life are often referred to as the fourth trimester because they are still used to living in the womb. They confuse day and night and have big appetites, so they aren’t likely to sleep for long periods, or with a regular routine. They only have little tummies, and breast milk especially is quickly digested, so a sleeping baby will wake up hungry at regular intervals, typically every 2-3 hours. They’ll let you know when they’re hungry, but in the case that they’re not getting back up to their birth weight, you might even need to wake them up for feeding. The first few months are crucial to their early development so be patient, and remember the good you’re doing them. Shorter bursts of quality sleep are also very beneficial.
At this stage, the average baby will have increased their total nightly sleep time to up to 9-10 hours a night. At 3 months most babies will need feeding roughly every 3 hours, but by 6 months this is more like every 4-5 hours. At 4 months they begin to learn self-soothing techniques and their moro reflex decreases, which means they don’t get startled as easily. At this age, you can begin to work towards more of a sleep routine. Put them to bed while they’re still drowsy and before they actually fall asleep to encourage them to get to sleep on their own. If possible, settle your baby in a dark room, to help them associate night time with sleep. Make sure you lie them on their back and remove any items from their crib.
6 Months Onwards
Consistency is very important. Make sure your bedtime routine includes stories and / or a bath. Your baby might start to display signs of separation anxiety at this age. Monitor the temperature of the room and for your peace of mind, check on baby every so often. Rather than picking them up, stroke their head, speak to them softly or sing a lullaby. This will help them drift back off, so hopefully, they’ll get used to shorter, and fewer visits from you. As they get older they will begin to sleep through the night, and less during the day. On average, two thirds of babies sleep an uninterrupted 6-9 hours from the age of 6 months, but don’t worry if this isn’t the case for your baby because they’re all different.