The first four months of a baby’s life are also called the “fourth trimester”, since the baby is adapting to the world outside of his mothers womb in which he had everything he needed. Now he has to learn to satisfy his needs through adults. That’s why a baby’s sleep patterns are not getting stabilized and there is no “wrong” or “right” at this point yet.
Parents usually have a crib ready before the birth of their child (later in the article you’ll find out which one is the best). But parents cannot know ahead of time how their little one will sleep in it. Our first tip: if you ever hear an advice that you should get your baby used to a regular sleeping regime, forget about it for now (you can try that later). First, try to get tuned in to what the baby’s sleeping needs are. Basically, allow him to sleep and eat whenever he wants; let him lead you.
Even though you child’s sleeping regime may be unpredictable, you should go through this “unorganized” phase with him. Your baby will learn to communicate with the world by observing your reactions to his needs and behaviors. In the first four months of his life, go ahead and put your baby to sleep in your arms (while rocking or feeding) without fearing that he will learn bad habits. It’s not good to practice the let-him-cry-until-he-falls-asleep-method on small babies, since they don’t know how to soothe themselves down yet.
Around a baby’s fourth month, he is developed enough to get used to a regular sleeping regime; or perhaps his sleeping patterns will stabilize on their own.
What’s the Average Sleep Time?
A newborn usually sleeps when he is full and satisfied, being that anytime during the day and night. The need for sleep is different with each child, so consider the following lines approximate:
• A newborn can sleep up to 20 hours a day.
• Around his second month, a baby starts separating his night and day sleep. Also, his day sleep time is now slowly decreasing. A child now sleeps around 14-18 hours a day, individual differences are big.
• A one-year-old child sleeps around 12-17 hours a day.
• A three-year-old toddler sleeps around 10-16 hours a day.
What Are the Best Cribs and Mattresses?
The crib should be made of natural materials and painted with non-toxic paint color.
The slats on a crib rail should be 45-75 millimeters apart. You can find many types of matrasses to choose from. The important thing is for the matrasses to not be too soft, since then the baby may sleep in a dent that could be bending his spine. Another important thing to remember is that the crib should only be used for sleep, not for daytime activates such as playing.
What Sleeping Position is Safe For Your Baby?
It’s been said that the only safe position for a newborn is on his back. Sleeping on the side can lead to the baby rolling over on his stomach. Sleeping on the stomach can lead to an increased risk of suffocation and to sudden infant death. When the child is four months old, he is capable of turning into a position that suits him best. We should let him do that.
On the other hand, a several old week baby should spend some time on his stomach when he is awake – this helps develop his mental and motor skills and abilities.
Do not put a pillow or a large quilt into a crib of a nursing baby up to his twelfth month of age (or longer). For the sake of a proper spine development, a pillow is not recommended for a child under three years of age. The toys in a crib should not have a string longer than thirty centimeters and all things that could disrupt a baby’s sleep or create potential safety hazard should be removed from the crib.
In the first 6 months, a baby can sleep at home or in a stroller. Later though, this could be dangerous, since the child can fall of the edge of the stroller when he wakes up.
What Should the Room’s Temperature Be?
For day sleeping, the temperature should be around 22 °C, while for night sleep the temperature should be less – around 18 °C. A child should be properly dressed.
Putting a Child to Sleep at Night
Putting a child to sleep at night slowly becomes an important routine. If you repeat the same rituals before putting your child to bed, he will then get sleepy just from the pre sleep atmosphere alone. Such sleep rituals include:
• bathing (can be combined with a massage)
• dimming lights
• changing into pajamas
• nice quiet music or singing
A child should be fed, bathed and put to bed at the same time everyday, ideally between 6-8 pm. A half-hour before sleep should be dedicated relaxing. There should be no light in the child’s room (or wherever he sleeps). If he sleeps alone in a crib, he should be properly dressed or put in a sleeping bag that will keep him warm all night.
Can a Child Sleep With His Parents?
It’s been said that in terms of safety, it’s best if a baby sleeps in his own crib that is close to his mother’s bed. This also makes night feeding easier. Night feeding can also be made easier by letting the baby sleep in your bed, between you and your partner.
Opinions on whether a child can sleep in his parent’s bed vary; some pediatricians don’t recommend it while others do. A pediatrician Nils Bergman from the University of Cape Town encourages parents to let their children sleep with them. According to his latest study, children that sleep in their own bed from an early age are less rested and more stressed out at night. He recommends that children sleep in their parent’s bed until they are three years old. The director of education in the Children’s Mental Health Center in London and an author of parenting books Margot Sunderland says children should sleep with their parents even longer; until their fifth year of age. Until then, children can suffer from separation anxiety, which can affect their adult life as well. According to Sunderland, thanks to “co-sleeping”, children grow up as calm, healthy adults.
The Desire for Safety: Sleep Associations
Some children only require falling asleep in their parent’s bed, and can continue sleeping calmly in their own bed after their parents carry them over. Other children often wake up at night. In this context, we are talking about “sleep associations”, which are certain conditions and activities that affect a child’s sleep.
A sleep association can be anything that a child associates with falling a sleep: a parents arm, a mother’s breast, a pacifier, rocking, a closeness of a parent… During the night, a child assures himself that his safety has been maintained – that’s why he wakes up, cries and demands the same conditions he had while falling asleep.
Children older than four months can usually soothe themselves after waking up at night in different ways: by sucking their thumb, moving their head from side to side, by singing or humming, moving their arms, holding their stuffed animal, etc.
You should remember to differentiate infant’s night and day sleep. When you feed your baby at night, do so in a quiet, dark room.
Night feeding is a must until the child is six months old. Gradually, night feeding should be shortened so that the child drinks less and is put back to bed shortly after burping. It’s easy to say, but harder to do.
After the child is six months old, he can often sleep through the night without being fed. Individual differences, again, are big. Especially breast fed babies require one to two feedings per night even when they are older. To deny them this at all costs wouldn’t be right. All of this also depends on the upbringing of the child.
A child needs to sleep during the day, so he can gain energy. Children should sleep regularly after noon feeding around 1, 5 to 2 hours. Nursed babies under 9 months sometimes sleep before noon, between 10 am and 12 pm. This sleep is usually shorter than an afternoon nap. Because a child sleeps at a higher temperature during the day, dress him accordingly. Don’t overheat your baby.