Pregnancy week by week



Baby Sleep



Newborn babies usually need about 16 hours of sleep a day on average. Two naps a day, each lasting for two to two-and-a half hours, are usual at six months. This is usually cut down to one nap a day at about 12 months.  Naps should be spaced apart in the day to fit in with when you want him to get to sleep for the night-not too near the bedtime so that he is not tired enough to get to sleep, or too early so that he is overtired later on.

Your sleep is likely to be disrupted frequently in the first year of your baby’s life, however well you manage the timing. You may find that in the early days your baby feeds then sleeps, feeds then sleeps. This will go on throughout the day and night because a newborn has a small stomach and can’t go through a whole night without a feed. Also, your newborn has no knowledge or understanding about the difference between day and night. It is important that you get enough sleep yourself to make sure you can cope. If your child will not sleep, try to get someone to take over while you catch up on naps.

However, your baby’s sleep pattern will gradually change as he grows. Your baby will be able to sleep for longer, and you will notice more time spent awake, as well. The pattern will look more like: feeds, stays awake a while, then sleeps.....take heart in the knowledge that by 4 months of age your baby will establish sleeping and feeding routines. They will sleep more at night and stay awake longer during the day.

However, remember that all babies are different. Some new babies sleep much more than others; some will regularly sleep for hours on end, while others hardly seem to sleep at all. There is no such thing as normal when it comes to sleeping babies.

It is also a great idea to pay attention to the signs your newborn is sending you. Some sleepy cues for newborns are rubbing their eyes, becoming irritable, yawning, and starting to look away from your face. Watch and learn your baby’s cues that he is sleepy. As soon as you see these signs, get your baby ready for a nap (feed, diaper change etc.)

If you are not sleeping at the same time as your baby, don’t worry about keeping the house silent while he sleeps. It’s good to get your baby used to sleeping through a certain amount of noise.

                                     Setting up a bed time routine

By the time babies are six months old; your baby can probably manage without a night feed and may sleep six to eight hours unbroken without waking. This is a good time to start a bed time routine. It won’t be long before your baby will understand what’s expected. A typical bedtime routine might look like:
  • Give your baby the last feed of the day

  • Change his nappy

  • Give him some quiet time with you in the bedroom (reading a book or telling a story)

  • Put him in bed while singing a lullaby

  • Turn the lights out or a night-light on

  • Say good night

                                      Getting your baby to sleep

By six months, your baby’s stomach is large enough to hold all the milk he needs to see him through the night. But being able to sleep through and actually doing it are two very different things. Here are some tips to get your baby to sleep through the night:

  • Try to keep a regular bed time routine as discussed above. This way your baby learns when it is time to sleep.

  • Check that your baby is comfortable, clean, warm, and fed. A larger feed at night may mean fewer awakenings from hunger later on. Make sure that she is well winded.

  • Put your baby in his cot, on his back and, if he is not tired, have a mobile above the cot or put music on for him to listen to until he gets sleepy. He needs to learn to be content on his own without you. It is important for him to have times when he is left alone to amuse himself for short periods. When he gets bored he may cry, but, if he is tired, he will eventually fall asleep by himself.

  • Some very young babies feel safer if swaddled snugly in a sheet or blanket. This can work wonders for a crying baby. Remember, never put a "swaddled" baby asleep in a cot or your bed.
If he is still waking, it is probably out of habit rather than hunger. However, there are other reasons too that can be disturbing his sleep such as teething pain, uncomfortable temperature or a dirty nappy.

But if none of these reasons seem a likely cause then this suggests that your baby may have learnt some poor sleep habits. You need to look at whether your baby is only nodding off when a specific condition is met. Perhaps he will only fall asleep while he is being fed or rocked. If this is the case then each time he wakes up he will need the same set of circumstances to help him drift off again. Ideally, your baby needs to unlearn the bad sleep habits and relearn healthy ones. Establishing a bed time routine discussed above can really help your baby to sleep through the night. Babies do thrive on knowing what to expect.

                                        Coping with disturbed nights

Disturbed nights can be very hard to cope with. If you are formula feeding, encourage your spouse to share the feeds. If you are breast feeding, ask him to take over the early morning changing and dressing so you can go back to sleep. Once you are into a good breast feeding routine, your spouse could occasionally give a bottle of expressed breast milk during the night.


While it’s helpful to establish a pattern, you can always tweak the routine a bit to suit your needs. For example, you could try waking your baby for a feed just before you go to bed, in the hope that you will get a good long stretch of sleep before he wakes up again.

Avoid prolonged cuddles if he wakes up at night or else it will become harder for him to be put down again. You may have to go in several times to settle him. If so, gradually extend the time between visits. He will eventually learn that it is easier to go to sleep than cry for long periods.

By the time your baby is six months old, he may well sleep for 10-12 hours at night, and 2-3 hours during the day in morning and afternoon naps. But if your baby’s going to do most of his sleeping at night, you have to help him to do this. First of all, you need to teach your baby that the night time is different from the daytime.

During night feeds:
  • Keep the lights off and use a night light for feeding and changing.

  • Keep the noise level as low as possible. Speak quietly, but don’t talk much.

  • Don’t change your baby unless he is soiled.

  • Put your baby straight down to sleep after the feed.

                                       Sleep safety

For your baby’s safety, you must follow these guidelines:
  • Babies can’t control their own temperature very well. It’s just as important to stop your baby getting too hot as too cold, because overheating is known to be a factor in cot death.
  • If you are comfortable in the room wearing light clothes, it’s warm enough for a sleeping baby.

  • Don’t cover your baby’s head when he is indoors and don’t put your baby to sleep in a cap.

  • It’s not safe to use a duvet, quilt or pillow for your baby until he is a year old; use sheets and blankets or a baby sleeping bag (during winters) instead, that way you can add and remove layers more easily.

  • If the room is hot, keep his clothes or bed covering light.

  • Don’t put your baby to sleep in front of a heater, by a very sunny window or in direct sunlight.

  • To check if your baby is too hot, look for sweating or touch the baby's tummy; don’t worry if his hands and feet feel a little colder, that’s normal.

  • Your baby must not be left alone in or on the bed as even very young babies can wriggle into dangerous positions.

  • Don’t allow toddlers, children or pets to sleep in the bed with baby.

  • Make sure your baby can’t fall out of bed or get trapped between the bed and the wall.

  • Don’t sleep with your baby on a sofa, armchair, or anywhere other than the bed.

If you decide to co-sleep with your baby, remember the following advice: never share your bed with your baby if he was premature, has low birth weight, or has a temperature. Three sided cots that clip onto the side of your bed may be a good compromise.

                                   Reducing the risk of cot death

SIDS is the sudden, unexplained death of an infant younger than one year old. Most SIDS deaths happen when babies are between 2 months and 4 months of age. The cause is not yet known. But we do know that placing a baby to sleep on their back reduces the risk, and that exposing a baby to cigarette smoke or overheating a baby increases the risk. Remember that cot death is rare, so do not let worrying about it stop you enjoying your baby’s first few months. But do follow the advice below to reduce the risk as much as possible.

To reduce the risk of cot death:


  • Always place your baby on his or her back to sleep. The back sleep position is the safest, and every sleep time counts.
  • Do not allow smoking around your baby.

  • Do not share a bed with your baby if you have been drinking alcohol, if you take drugs or if you are a smoker.

  • Never sleep with your baby on a sofa or armchair.

  • Do not let your baby get too hot-keep your baby’s head uncovered. Dress your baby in light sleep clothing, and keep the room at a temperature that is comfortable for an adult.

  • Place your baby on a firm sleep surface. Never place your baby to sleep on pillows, quilts, or other soft surfaces.

  • Keep soft objects, toys, and loose bedding out of your baby’s sleep area. Do not use pillows, blankets, bedding rolls, wedges and quilts for your baby.

  • Breast feeding your baby reduces the risk of cot death.

  • Don’t let your baby get too hot or too cold. Babies can overheat because of too much bedding or clothing, or because the room is too hot. If your baby is sweating or their tummy feels hot to touch, take off some of the bedding.

  • The safest place for your baby to sleep is in a cot in a room with you. There is also a risk that you might rollover in your sleep and suffocate your baby, or that your baby could get caught between the wall and the bed, or could roll out of an adult bed and be injured.


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