Have you ever heard the phrase “sleeping like a baby”? It usually means that the person had a really good sleep. But ask any new parent and they will tell you that most babies don’t “sleep like a baby“. Many new parents struggle with helping their baby fall asleep or their baby waking often in the night.
Infant sleep is such a complicated topic and there are so many different ideas and opinions on how to help a baby sleep. A baby’s sleep routine will change many, many times over the first 3 years and every baby’s sleep routine is different.
Every baby is different. What works for one baby may not work for your baby. Nobody knows your baby better than you.
Evidence about infant sleep shows:
- Sleep is important for a baby’s growth, both physical and cognitive.
- Each baby has their own sleep-wake routine and newborns will not have a regular sleep pattern for at least 6 weeks.
- Babies have different sleep states: drowsy, quiet sleep (the beginning state of actual sleep) and active sleep (deep and REM sleep).
- Newborns will need to wake often in the night to feed.
- A baby’s sleep pattern changes with their age, they will need less sleep and will be able to sleep for longer periods of time as they grow.
- A baby’s temperament impacts their sleep patterns: infants with easier temperaments may have fewer sleep challenges.
- Breastfed babies will wake up more often as breast milk is digested quicker.
- Babies do not just fall asleep when they are tired. They need healthy sleep routines so they can learn how to settle down and fall asleep.
Tips to support healthy sleep routines for your baby:
- Create an environment that supports sleep: light in the day, dark and quiet at night, not too hot and not too cold.
- Ensure your baby’s sleep space is safe, calm and peaceful.
- Create routines for sleep time and use them consistently. Bed time routines help your baby wind down and know that it’s time to sleep.
- Watch for and learn your baby’s cues – when are they getting drowsy or ready for sleep, when are they hungry?
- Put your baby into their sleep space when they are drowsy but awake. Try to avoid feeding or rocking your baby to sleep and let your baby practice falling asleep on their own.
- Respond to your baby in a calm and gentle way when they wake at night but avoid too much stimulation. Keep things dark and quiet.
- Ensure that you are getting enough sleep, Parents who get enough sleep are better able to respond to their baby’s needs
- Ask for help. Caring for a baby can be very stressful and exhausting especially when you are sleep deprived.
If you have questions about taking care of baby, speak to a Public Health Nurse on eChat or call (416) 338-7600.
For more information:
- Welcome to Parenting – an online parenting program with lots of information on many different topics including sleep
- Healthy & Safe Sleep Tips for Infants: 0-12 months
- Comforting your crying baby