A 101 Guide To Baby’s Sleep

Newborns need a minimum of 12 hours of sleep a day but establishing a good routine – not to mention encouraging your baby to sleep through the night – can be challenging to say the least. If you’re struggling to find the right rhythm, help is at hand. We asked some of the most well-informed experts to share their advice…

Lucy Shrimpton, sleep expert at The Baby Show and founder of The Sleep Nanny

“Your baby will need a certain amount of sleep at each age. On average, they should get:

Newborn: 8.5 to 10 hours of sleep, with four to five varying length of naps per day. 

3-6 Months: 8.5 to 10 hours of sleep, with three to four 45- to 75-minute naps a day. 

6-8 Months: 10 to 12 hours of sleep, with three to 1.5-hour naps per day. 

9-11 Months: 11 hours of sleep with two naps a day which are usually 1.5 hours long. 

“With newborn babies, you’re going to get a lot of irregular, disorganised sleep. You’re very lucky if your little one slips into a rhythm early on and you can help encourage that of course. But be prepared for it to be irregular. One of the key things with a newborn is that they can’t be awake for more than 45 minutes in one stretch, so after 45 minutes, it’s time for another sleep. They’re going to wake frequently in the night and they’re going to need feeds, though be aware that not every waking is a feed. Naps will be little and often and not very organised, but that’s absolutely fine. 

“Parents should know just how important sleep is and that by getting little ones into a good routine and rhythm early on, it will lead to a happier, better rested little one with improved development and immune system. Don’t panic about bad habits in the first three months because any habits that you get into can easily change – you can create new, more sustainable habits in the four- to six-month window. One of the best ways to do this is to create a good bedtime routine. Do the same simple steps in the same order every evening. That creates cues that sleep time is coming. It doesn’t matter if they wake up a little later for a feed, it’s still worth implementing a consistent bedtime routine. Dim the lights, move them away from daylight or harsh artificial lighting, and make sure there is nothing too stimulating around them, like screens, lights or mobiles. 

“A troubled night might come when they’re teething, overtired, or simply struggling to settle. The best thing you can do is to check the obvious: is the baby hungry? Does the nappy need changing? Are they well or are they in pain? If they’re in pain, you need to relieve that. Be soothing, reassuring and don’t assume that milk is the answer every time, though obviously feed them if they’re hungry. Pick them up, give them cuddles, calm them down, then put them back down again. One of the common mistakes to avoid is tiring your little one out during the day with the belief that they’ll sleep better at night. Another one is feeding your baby every time they wake or trying to tank them up with milk before bedtime in the hope that will make them sleep longer. Also, try not to pace around with them or rock them to sleep – this can actually prevent them from developing the skills they need to settle independently. 

“To get your baby used to day and night, there are three key things to consider – routine, atmosphere and parental mode. Get them used to night and day by blacking out all the natural daylight or using blackout blinds. Then, when it’s morning, bring them into the daylight or turn the lights on during winter. Also, think about your own behaviour. For daytime parental mode, be engaging and animated and make eye contact. If you’re in night-time mode, be subdued and boring, give minimal eye contact, if any, and don’t have animated conversations. Remember, babies should sleep in their own space that is age appropriate and make sure it’s the right height for their age – you can lower the cot down when they get bigger. 

“If you are sleep deprived or your little one isn’t getting the sleep they need or you don’t know how to fix it, you need to get help. It’s not something to let linger; you wouldn’t leave a decaying tooth or leave your car with breaks that don’t work – it’s important that you get this right as poor sleep affects not just the baby but the whole family’s mental health, physical health, safety and long-term wellbeing.”

Visit SleepNanny.co.uk

Jordan Davis, midwife and creator of Puriskins Curate Babies

“Figuring out the world of sleep can be a struggle, but all parents figure it out eventually. But it’s important to know that all babies are different. Little ones enter the world not knowing the difference between day and night, wanting a constant supply of food and expecting lots of human contact. Therefore, it can be overwhelming for babies and parents who are adjusting to a new schedule. In the first few weeks, midwives and other health professionals advise that your baby is fed approximately every two to three hours, or at least have eight to ten feeds in 24 hours. If we do the math, this means babies sleep for around 14 to 17 hours in a day. Remember, however, this is just guidance – your baby will be on their own body clock and cycle. It’s also important for parents to sleep whilst their baby is sleeping. This may seem difficult when you want to use these opportunities to do chores or run errands, but it’s essential that you rest, too. If you are a breastfeeding mother, this is particularly important as your body requires lots of energy to consistently produce milk. Lack of sleep and poor nutrition can all affect breastfeeding. 

“When it comes to newborns, there are some dos and don’ts to be aware of:

DO

  • Place your baby to sleep on their back – gone are the days of placing babies to sleep on their tummy. Lullaby Trust, an organisation that raises awareness of sleep safety and reducing Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS), recommend that babies must always be put to sleep on their back.

  • Wake your baby if they sleep longer than three hours – it’s important that babies are fed regularly especially in the early days, to help encourage milk production and also help your them develop their sucking and swallowing reflexes.

DON’T 

  • Don’t overheat your baby – the temperature of the room in which your baby is sleeping should ideally be between 18-20°C. 

  • Do not use heavy blankets or duvets as babies only need lightweight linen to cover them. Making your baby too hot can also contributes to the risk of SIDS.

  • Don’t practice unsafe ‘co-sleeping’ – as health professionals, we understand that some parents choose to share their bed with their babies, even though we do not recommend it – so it’s important that you do so safely. Ensure there are no duvets, blankets or pillows surrounding your baby and under no circumstances should co-sleeping be practiced if one or both parents smoke or have recently had alcohol.

“All babies have their own body clock, so don’t worry if your baby is not playing by the ‘rules’. Encouraging your little one into a peaceful sleep can be helped by ensuring they are well-fed before being put to bed to help make sure they sleep uninterrupted. Another tip is to make sure your baby is comfortable, meaning their nappy is clean and dry before drifting off. Most importantly, do not allow yourselves as parents to become stressed with creating the perfect routine. Simply ensuring your baby’s needs are met will make way for a calmer infant, who will hopefully develop a restful night’s sleep when they are ready.”

Visit Puriskin.co.uk

Kelly Didden, maternity nurse

“If you chose to safely co-sleep and want to wean your baby out of bed, the best option is to go cold turkey and stop doing it altogether. You can’t wean a baby out of your bed or just co-sleep half the night or at weekends. This gives mixed messages and babies need consistency – they need to know if it’s okay, or not okay. You need to be consistent as babies won’t understand the reasons you have for choosing when you can or can’t sleep together which will be confusing for them. They will hold out for it, cry for it, and have a tantrum, because they won’t understand. Make sure that they only sleep in their own sleep space and then implement a fade out approach where you take yourself next to the baby, reassure them cot-side and gradually wean your contact and presence. 

“If you’re baby is teething and can’t sleep, you have a few options. Some parents reach for Calpol, others go for the teething granules, or a chew teether toy. A lot of parents don’t realise that suckling draws blood to the gums which increases pressure on them, meaning they might be in more pain. During the night, they’ll want to bite down and chew and because they can’t do this to everything in sight like they do in the day, in the night-time, that pressure can build up to a point and can wake them up. So, try to alleviate that pain and catch it before it starts. A little extra comfort or reassurance might be needed but don’t think that means throwing out the rule book because bringing your baby into bed with you is not going to make the teething stop. Many parents have said that Nelson's Teetha Gel has worked wonders at night.”

Sharon Salvage, midwife and founder of GlowMummy

“For babies up to 12 months old, creating a good bedtime routine will help your baby sleep through the night. You can do this by doing the same thing each day. A good routine could start with a bath, followed by a bedtime story, cuddles, a baby massage, then putting them into the cot. Ensure you have dark blinds to avoid them waking up too early in the morning ,and put them to bed when they are tired but not yet sleeping, as this helps them to learn how to settle themselves. Swaddling (wrapping your baby up gently in a light blanket) can be effective, but make sure the material is breathable, so they don’t overheat. I also recommend having some white noise on in the background and stroking them lightly if they seem unsettled.

“Your voice can help soothe a baby, but don’t do anything that will overstimulate them. In terms of dummies, it’s down to personal preference – they can be useful and can help prevent SIDS, but I wouldn’t rely on them too much. What your baby sleeps in is also important – light cotton pyjamas or a sleep suit it best. Only pop them into a vest during the summer months, or if your room is particularly hot. A light blanket or sleeping bag to cover them is ideal.”

Visit Glow-Mummy.com

Sarajane Ambrose, sleep expert and founder of Maternally Yours

“New parents are often surprised at just how much sleep their newborn baby will need and how much you have to pack into those waking hours before the next sleep. They sometimes also find that once the baby is awake, fed, had their nappy changed, and has been cuddled, it's time to go back to sleep again. This is perfectly normal and your baby's sleep time is when you can find time to eat, take a shower and sleep. I recommend learning to safely swaddle your baby which helps reduce the ‘moro reflex’ (when babies sporadically spread out their arms), maintains consistent body temperature, and mimics the security of the utero. 

“It’s equally important to also after yourself and ensure you get enough sleep, and eat sensibly for postpartum recovery and milk production (if breastfeeding). Pace yourself and try to relax. Some mothers become fraught with not knowing if they’re doing things right and this can dampen what is a magical time that passes quickly. A happy, relaxed mother equals a happy, settled baby. Buy a baby monitor and use it when you are in another part of your home so you can hear when your baby wakes up. If you wish to use a dummy, I recommend using only at bedtime to signal when it's time to sleep. Do try to extract it as the baby falls asleep so as to reduce dependency. If your baby is unsettled, try to have as little eye contact as possible, so as to not wake them up further. Also check their nappy to see if it needs changing and if so, change it. Check your baby's temperature and check the room temperature if necessary, to ensure they’re not too hot, then feed and burp baby. You could even put on some gentle music to help get them settled.

“If you have a newborn, don’t' feel under pressure to receive visitors who will be keen to meet your new arrival. Visitors will be keen to hear about the birth and hold the baby, but this can be very tiring for both mother and child. Be sure to limit visits to 45 minutes and ensure they fit in with your routine. Remember, with so much to learn and manage as first-time parents, or experienced parents with a new addition to the family, every baby is unique and has different needs. You should always seek help if you need reassurance or if you can’t resolve an issue on your own.”

Visit MaternallyYours.co.uk

 

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