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Importance of sleep for a newborn baby

Newborns spend around 70% of their time asleep, sleeping often, but in short periods. When they’re awake, they need feeding, changing and lots of TLC, which leaves parents exhausted. As this sleep routine is very different to parents’ sleep, many worry over whether their baby is sleeping well. There are then extra concerns when the baby goes through phases of change in their sleep pattern.

So, it’s understandable that your child’s sleep can add to your worries, but it’s also important that you’re getting enough sleep yourself. In this post we’ll be focusing on where it all starts: the first year of your baby’s life. We’ve looked at the science behind what affects babies’ sleep and the importance of good sleep for their development, along with some tips on how you can improve and encourage it.

How much should my baby sleep?

The chart above shows how much, on average, babies sleep during a 24-hour period. Of course, every baby is different, and each baby’s individual pattern will change and evolve. Some babies can get by on less, and some may need more, so don’t worry if they aren’t sleeping for the average amount of time, or if their daytime and nighttime sleep patterns aren’t balanced in this way – they will gradually get into a rhythm as they grow.

It is advised that at 0-3 months, they should sleep for more than 11 hours but less than 19, and at 4-11 months they should sleep for more than 10 hours but less than 18. If you think that your baby is sleeping too much or not enough, you should contact your healthcare professional.

A baby’s sleep cycle is different to that of an older child or adult. We looked at the sleep cycle of adults in the first post in this series: 4 stages of REM and non-REM sleep in 90 minute cycles, where only 20-25% of sleep is REM. Infants, on the other hand, have sleep cycles of around 50 minutes (for the first 9 months), and around half of it is REM sleep. REM sleep is used to consolidate memories and is critical to a baby’s development.

Shorter sleep cycles mean that they may wake more often, but they will normally just stir and fall back to sleep. They will wake up properly when they need to feed. In the first few weeks they may wake every 2-4 hours, but as their stomach gets bigger, they will take more in at each feed and only need to wake every 4-5 hours. It’s normal for your baby to have lots of night waking when they are young, but then they learn to self soothe and fall back to sleep on their own as they adjust to the world. Remember to follow safe sleep advice when it comes to your baby’s sleep environment.

From around 6 months, your baby could stop needing night feeds so may wake up less often and eventually sleep through the night. According to Thiedke, “Children who previously slept through the night can sometimes resume night awakening, usually because of social factors rather than maturational ones.” It may take a while and they may even regress, but don’t panic if your baby is taking their time to get settled into their routine. It may be difficult, but by not responding to your baby straight away, they can learn to self soothe and fall back to sleep by themselves (although you shouldn’t leave them to cry).

Excessive sleepiness or insomnia

Although your little one will sleep a lot, they generally should not sleep more than 19 hours at 0-3 months, or 18 hours at 4-11 months. If your baby is sleeping for an excessive amount of time, it may be due to a growth spurt, teething or illness, but it can also be a sign of an underlying condition (discussed below). It is possible that things can go in the other direction, and your baby may suffer from infant insomnia, which can also be a sign of teething or illness or other underlying problems such as colic.

Though there are many things to worry about when It comes to your little one's sleep. You can rest assured with Nateen that they will never experience any discomfort from their diaper or pull-ups.

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