Baby Basics: Sleep

The Importance of Sleep in Babies

Everyone needs sleep to survive but babies need it more than anyone else. Babies need sleep and lots of it! But, how much sleep do they need? And why is sleep important for them?

How Long Should Your Baby Sleep?

0-3 months 

A full-term healthy newborn or a baby of up to 3 months old will spend most hours of a 24-hour day sleeping. To be more specific, they need to sleep for 14 to 16 hours every day. Obviously, these are not consecutive hours.

During a baby’s first few months of life, they will sleep for not more than 2 to 4 hours at a time because of basic needs like feeding. A baby typically sleeps for 8 to 12 hours at night, with intervals of waking up for feedings and other needs. The remaining hours of sleep are accumulated by having 2 to 5 naps throughout the day.

4-12 months

When babies reach 4 to 12 months, they need to sleep for 14 to 15 hours per day. During this particular age range, many babies begin establishing sleep patterns and might have longer sleep, with some sleeping for as long as 5 consecutive hours. It is called sleeping through the night that happens more often when the baby is developmentally mature enough to begin combining the sleep hours. This is also the age when babies sleep more at night and less during the daytime.

At about 6 months, many babies may experience separation anxiety, that means crying more often in the crib to seek soothing and attention from the parents. The good news is that this is also the same time when a baby learns how to self-soothe to go back to sleep on their own.

1-3 years

At this age, your child will need around 12-14 hours of sleep each day, slipt across naps, and their nightly sleep. As your baby moves toward 18-21 months of age they will likely start to reduce their morning and early evening naps and end up only napping once a day. While toddlers need up to 14 hours a day of sleep, they regularly only get about 10.

What is the Best Sleeping Position for Babies?

There are several important practices to observe to ensure that your baby sleeps in the best position:

  1. Always observe and follow the ABCs of safe sleep. Your baby should sleep alone, on their back, in their crib. Lay your baby on their back when napping and sleeping at night.
  2. Don’t put a baby to sleep on their tummy or side. This will increase the risk of sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS), so this is very important.
  3. When your baby learns to roll from their back to tummy and vice versa, you can let your little one stay in whatever sleeping position they assume. However, make sure you always put your baby to sleep on their back.
  4. A baby should sleep on a firm mattress inside a safety-approved crib that has slats of no more 2 3/8 inches apart.
  5. Check that the head and face of your baby is not covered and clear of blankets or other coverings when sleeping. There should be no unnecessary pillows inside the crib.
  6. Your baby should sleep in a smoke-free zone.
  7. Don’t let your baby overheat when sleeping. The bedroom of your baby should have a temperature comfortable enough for the average adult.
  8. Get rid of hanging crib toys when your baby turns 5 months old as this is the time when they can start getting up and grabbing these toys.
  9. Eliminate the crib bumpers when your little one turns 12 months as this is when they can start to climb the crib.

Why Sleep is Important for Babies

Sleep is a very important part of people’s daily routines and plays an integral role when it comes to having a healthy lifestyle. It has been proven that babies who get the recommended amount of sleep on a regular basis often have better behavior, attention, memory, learning ability, and overall physical and mental health. On the other hand, failure to get enough sleep could lead to many concerns such as obesity, high blood pressure, and even depression.

Top reasons why sleep is very important for babies:

  • Learning – It has been shown that sleep is critical for the maturation of the brain of an infant and the consolidation of all their memories. There are studies that revealed that babies that get to have more efficient sleep every night had higher and better cognitive scores. An efficient sleep means having a higher amount of time spent sleeping throughout the night.
  • Growth – Studies have already shown that a baby that gets less sleep gains more fat during infancy and is also at a much higher risk of becoming overweight once they reach the age of 3 years old.
  • Mood – Babies who get more sleep at night have also been observed to have an easier temperament. They are also more adaptable, less distractible, and more approachable compared to babies that don’t get quality sleep during nighttime.

Is Co-Sleeping Recommended?

The answer is no. Co-sleeping means sleeping within close proximity to your baby, which greatly increases the risk of Sudden Infant Death Syndrome, this is especially true for children under 6 months old. However, room-sharing, sleeping in the same room as your baby, is recommended. The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) recommends room-sharing for at least 6 months and up to 1 year. Here are the benefits of room-sharing: 

  • More peaceful sleep

  • One of the top benefits of room-sharing is that a baby virtually never startles during sleep and even rarely cries out at night as compared to those who sleep alone who spend more time crying and get constantly startled during nighttime. Crying and startling can release adrenaline that can increase blood pressure and heart rate, interfere with restful sleep, and lead to a long term sleep anxiety.

  • Lowers risk of SIDS or sudden infant death syndrome

  • Studies show that room-sharing can reduce the risk of SIDS by up to 50%. Babies who sleep near their parents have lower chances of SIDS and will usually spend more time sleeping on their backs which also reduces the risks of SIDS.

  • Stable physiology

  • Babies who sleep close to their parents have more regular heart rhythms, fewer long breathing pauses, and more stable temperatures unlike babies sleeping on their own. This helps the baby’s sleep physiology improve.

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