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How much sleep do babies need, how you can help your baby fall, or stay asleep.
Babies need a lot of sleep during the first few months of their lives, so it is vital to ensure that they are sleeping as much as possible.
Because babies have been “molded” since conception to prepare for life outside of the uterus, they have also been preparing for the all-important aspect of sleep. From the moment the fetus is fully formed, their body goes through a period of rapid transformation during the remainder of their time in the uterus in preparation for sleep.
Let’s take a look at the various stages of development within the little fetus’ body, (in utero) and how they set the stage for his/her sleeping patterns after birth, as well as the ways in which you can safely and productively assist your baby in getting the best sleep possible at every opportunity.
Week 1 – 5. For the first weeks of life, your infant will sleep and nurse for most of the day. Your baby will fall asleep almost instantly during or after nursing. At this time your baby will need approximately 16 – 18 hours of sleep a day, he/she may wake every 2-3 hours for feeds (including nights), but only be awake for 45 minutes at a time.
There are six stages of consciousness through which your infant will cycle every day.
Week 6 – Your baby wants to be fed more this week as he is going through his first growth spurt around this time. Your baby may start to spend more time awake now as his/her eyesight improves.
Week 7 – Babies will start to sleep a little bit better now. It is a perfect time to start initiating a good bedtime routine for your little one.
Week 8 – Your baby will start to anticipate events. He may also begin to associate bathroom time with a bath, nursing items with feeding, toys and certain sounds with wakefulness and quiet, less active times with bedtime. If you’ve already started a daily routine, and consistent bedtime routine with your baby, you will be rewarded with extended periods of sleep, and a more relaxed, calmer baby when it’s time to sleep again.
Week 9 – 11. At this time your baby is giving you his clues as to when playtime is over, and he would like some downtime. Some of these clues might be: Fussing, yawning or staring off into space.
Week 12 – At three months of age, your baby may begin to sleep for an extended period at night. Your baby can store milk to get through the night, requiring less feeds. These stretches can last for up to six hours. Because of all the learning and growing taking place, your baby needs more hours of sleep from 3 months of age. Your baby may be awake for up to 90 minutes during the day, waking every 4 hours to feed. This pattern may continue for the next six months.
At nine months until your baby reaches his first year, your baby may sleep through the night, waking only for a single extended feed during the night. If your baby is put to bed at 19 pm, you may find he/she will sleep until 12/01 am before waking for a feed, then falling asleep again and only awaken at 5/ the morning. (Not always the case and is only a general guideline)
From 6 weeks you will begin to notice your baby’s days and nights may follow a regular pattern. Consistency will help cue your baby’s brain and body as to when it is time to sleep and when it is time to be awake. Interact with her when she is alert during the day, and minimize all interaction at night to help her understand that night-time is for sleeping.
For the nine months, water has been your baby’s “home.” So, bathing him/her won’t be a strange or even unusual experience, but rather a soothing and comforting one as your baby is placed back into the water, giving him/her memories and sensations that they are familiar with; this may help baby settle down before their evening/afternoon nap.
For your baby, the outside world may be a strange, scary and wondrous place. Your baby will need to learn a few coping techniques or strategies to help them deal with this new world of theirs.
When a baby is stressed, they may find comfort in a soothing voice, rocking, rubbing or massaging; this can help your baby to settle down again, and help them feel safe and comforted.
If your baby is over-stimulated (especially closer to bed/nap times), you may find it harder for them to settle down. Quiet, soothing sounds may help them transition from being awake to being sleepy.
Research shows that putting a baby down for a nap works better if all his/her needs have been met. If you put your baby down before this time, it may result in a restless sleep, or shorter sleeping time.
What can help stimulate the release of Oxytocin?
Learn more about swaddling here.
Co-sleeping camp cot/snuggle nest
Learn more about safe co-sleeping here.
Life wedge and mattresses
When deciding on how sick your baby is, what might be causing them to have sleeping problems, as well as the risks to your baby, particularly in the middle of the night, there are a few things you need to consider. Here we will take a look at the three most common problems you are likely to have to deal with at night, how to recognize each one, and deal with them safely and efficiently so you and baby can continue to get a good night’s rest once again.
At the top of the list, the most common problem you may have to deal with during the night is a fever. A high temperature in itself is not detrimental, but rather a typical physiological response to an infection or illness. Any fever in a small infant below three months of age is significant and should be investigated.
Learn more about breastfeeding an ill baby here.
Symptoms and signs of fever
How to bring down a temperature
NB. The first time your baby has a fever may be after his/her first immunizations at six weeks. You do not need to be anxious about this, and it does not require treatment. You can give your baby the appropriate recommended dose of fever medication for their age/weight and allow for lots of rest. Your baby will have recovered within a few short hours.
Vomiting and diarrhea
Symptoms and signs of vomiting and diarrhea.
How to treat vomiting and diarrhea at home.
A runny nose and coughs
When a baby has a runny nose, it is advisable to take note of the color and the consistency of the discharge.
Types of runny noses and coughs:
NB: Take your baby to the doctor immediately should he/she show the following signs or symptoms:
The brain consolidates knowledge during times of sleep. And for your baby everything is new. Your baby needs to sleep well to process all this new information they’ve been exposed to.
Trust your maternal instinct and enjoy the journey with your new baby. Remember, if you are experiencing a difficult time with your baby’s sleeping habits it is important to look at their routine, health, milestones and nursing habits.
You can also ask your healthcare professional or a certified sleep consultant for help if you’re at a loss. What works for one newborn, may not necessarily work for another. You will soon learn what your baby likes/dislikes when it comes to soothing techniques.
Do what comes naturally, what feels right for you and your baby. The better the quality of sleep your baby receives, the more sleep mom and dad will get in return.