Baby Sleep Secrets (0 to 6 months)
Let’s face it, caring for a new baby can be exhausting, with what seems like an endless stream of sleepless nights. No surprise then, that most of our mamas want to know the best way to get baby to sleep better. But it’s not only adults who struggle without enough ZZZZs – your little one does too, they just need a little help to regulate their sleep patterns. We asked Malaak’s Lead Parent Educator and ‘UAE Baby Whisperer’ Cecile de Scally for some tips.
What role does sleep play? Did you know that your baby needs twice as much sleep as you? The Central Nervous System (CNS) develops as a result of the sleep your baby gets and it affects their moods, immune system, brain development and ability to interact too. In fact, sleep is as crucial to babies and toddlers as good nutrition and it’s your job to ensure they’re getting enough quality sleep on a consistent basis.
Sleep sense 0-6 months old
There’s so much going physically and mentally for baby in these first few months that we need to break it down into different phases. From 0 to 6 weeks, their brain is developing on supercharge mode, plus they need frequent feeds, meaning they usually only manage short, one cycle sleeps. It’s typical for newborns to sleep for an hour and then feed for an hour. In the next 6-12 weeks, they start to stay awake for longer periods of around 90 minutes (including a feed) and then sleep for 90 minutes.
Aim for 16-18 hours of sleep in the first 12 weeks, split into a 12-hour night and 4-6 hours during the day. After 12 weeks, day sleep is around 4 hours and reduced to 2-4 hours after 6 months. As they develop, they will learn to recognize the change in times better, sleeping less during the day and more at night.
Remember, babies need to be fed at least 2-3 times a night up to 6 weeks and at least twice a night up to 12 weeks, they will only drop to 1 night feed after 12 weeks. And when we talk about “sleeping through the night”, in reality, that means around 5 straight hours of sleep. And not all babies fall into these patterns easily – wouldn’t that be great?! But don’t be hard on yourself, there’s plenty of help available.
Spotting the signs It might sound illogical, but one of the biggest hurdles to your baby getting a good sleep is when they’re overtired, so you need to get them down before that point. Start looking for signs of tiredness while they’re playing and in the minutes before they sleep. Common ones include hiccupping, sneezing, blinking, frowning, rubbing eyes, random and jerky movements, and crying. Young babies are mostly relaxed and sleepy after each feeding.
Getting baby to sleep
It usually helps to have a bedtime routine that includes feeding, bathing, feeding again after the bath and some form of singing or story-telling. You should put your baby on their back to sleep and when they’re tired, place them in the cot awake so they will learn to sleep on their own. Babies prefer different environments, some sleep well with lots of noise, whereas others prefer a quiet dark place and you’ll need to get to know their preferences.
- Have constant noise like humming, family conversations or even singing. You can also see if vibration/white noise works.
- Most babies enjoy the security of being swaddled and will start to prefer having their arms out only after 8-12 weeks.
- Settle baby in the cot on their back or side, use patting or rocking and as you slow down they will relax and drift off to sleep. Try to avoid rocking them in your arms.
- Babies under 6 months usually prefer someone close when they fall asleep.
- Check that the room temperature is cool before you leave. You can layer clothing and use sleeping bags/ light covers so they are comfortable. You should also ensure the baby is not wrapped too tight and can still move their arms.
- Some babies like sucking a dummy, while other like a massage before sleeping.
- Ensure you follow a similar sleeping pattern every day or night, this will help your baby get used to the regular routine more quickly.
- A soothing voice and calm talk works miracles in getting babies under 6 months to sleep.
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