In the first few months after welcoming your new baby into the world, good sleep might feel like a fantasy. The normal occasional sleeping problems, caused by factors such as development, teething and illness is mostly nothing to be concerned about. However, when persistent sleepless nights lead to your baby (and you) not getting the quality sleep you need this can point to being a bigger issue.
There are many factors that may cause your baby to struggle to fall, and stay, asleep. We’ve listed some of the most common ones, grouped into age categories, to help you identify these challenges and help improve your baby’s sleep during each stage of the first 12 months.
We hope these tips will help your baby (and you) love to dream again:
0-3 Months sleeping challenges:
There is no single, ideal newborn baby sleep schedule. How much a newborn baby sleeps is more important than when they sleep. An average newborn baby sleeps between 16 and 17 hours over each 24-hour period. This sleep generally occurs in 2 to 4 hour increments throughout the day and night, with the baby waking when they are hungry.
Research suggests that during the first three months, babies begin developing a circadian rhythm that affects sleep. As a result, they start sleeping for longer periods of time at night and shorter periods during the day. On average, one-month old infants sleep 5.7 hours each night and three-month olds sleep 7.4 hours, though this is normally non-continuous sleep.
* Tip: How to encourage better night-time sleep
Parents can help their babies sleep longer at night by exposing them to more light during the day time during the first three months of life. Similarly, dimming the lights at night and maintaining quiet hours may also help babies begin to sleep more at night than during the day.
This said, however there are some challenges that can make sleeping harder for newborns. Three of these most common issues are:
Trouble falling asleep
Your baby might not like sleeping in a cot compared to moms comfy embrace. A way to overcome this is to put baby to bed when drowsy and allow bub to sleep with a pacifier to allow self-soothing. Another factor may be that your baby is not comfortable. A solution here is to make the room as womb-like as possible with blackout shades, a white noise machine to encourage dozing off and regulated room temperature (which should be between 18 to 22 degrees).
The first rule of safe baby sleep is that you should always, always place your baby to sleep on his back, from the moment he’s born, to prevent sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS).
Still, it’s no secret that babies sometimes fuss when they’re on their backs.
A very good way to overcome this is to swaddle your baby. Our Cocoon Swaddle Bag makes this process easy and safe by avoiding blankets coming loose. This zip-up Swaddle is also TOG rated to offer parents the knowledge on how warm their baby should be dressed in the current temperature. This eliminates the risk for overheating, which is another risk factor for SIDS.
Swopping day and night around
If your newborn sleeps like a vampire all day and is up all night, is waking frequently, sleeping restlessly, or waking early, it’s all completely normal. Your bub’s sleep patterns will most likely evolve and correct itself as he/she grows.
4-5 Months sleeping challenges:
By month four, baby should be sleeping around 12 to 16 hours. (2 or 3 daytime naps & another 9 - 11 hours at night)
By month five, you can expect your baby to sleep a bit longer at night and daytime naps to be a bit shorter.
Here are some factors that may affect sleep during these months:
Yup, sleep regression at 4 months is real. However, it’s important to know it is completely normal temporary. This is when your baby’s sleep patterns change, cause them to wake up more often during the night, and have a hard time going back to sleep. Usually caused by a growth spurt or brain development (from learning all the exiting new things like rolling, tummy time and kicking and pushing with their feet) your baby’s sleep regression is nothing to worry about.
Tips to help your baby get back into routine are:
Give your baby enough time during the day to practice rolling over, sitting up etc
Make sure your baby is fully fed during the day and before bed to avoid baby getting hungry during the night
Help your baby to self-soothe by sitting by their side, as they close their eyes and drift off to sleep. If this is not helping and your baby is still crying, don’t force him or her, you should accept that it takes time for your baby to learn how to put him/herself to sleep. If your coaching is not helping, and they’re still crying, you may decide to pick them up and hold them or rock them to sleep. It’s OK if your baby isn’t ready to learn how to put themselves to sleep yet, as it takes time.
Keep the room dark. When you put baby down for a nap, keep the room as dark as possible to encourage better sleep. If your baby wakes up too soon, the darkness will help encourage them to fall back asleep.
Establish a bedtime routine. This can follow a pattern such as feeding, bathing, dressing for bed, bedtime story – you can follow whichever routine you like, as long as you are consistent and ensure you stick to the same schedule every day.
6 Months + sleeping challenges:
Babies 6 months old and up are perfectly capable of sleeping through the night, however there are still a number of factors that can affect your bubs’ zzz.
Your baby struggles to fall asleep independently
If your 6-month old still needs to be fed or rocked to sleep, it might be good to start considering sleep training. There are many sleep training strategies, so decide what you think might work best for you and give it a chance to work.
Restless due to late night feedings. By 6-months old your baby don’t need late night feedings anymore.
Your baby wakes too early. There are a couple of things you can try to get your baby to sleep later, like an adjusted nap schedule, playing around with different bedtimes and making the room as light- and sound-proof as possible.
Lastly, be kind to yourself and your baby. They are only little for so long. We recommend enjoying your bub and bonding as much as possible, and at the end of the day, a happy mum and bub means a happy, thriving family unit. And always remember that there is help - don't be afraid to ask. If you don't know if a good baby sleep specialist, reach out to us - we would be happy to refer you to an expert.
“I wish I found the Cocoon Swaddle sooner! I decided to try it after endless sleepless nights with my almost 2 months old son. The first night I put this on for him there was an immediate improvement. And soon he associated his swaddle with a familiar and safe bedtime and started sleeping through the night! Definitely my new go-to gift for baby showers!
Thank you ergoPouch"
Melanie - Pretoria