Until the baby’s sleep cycles are regularized, it is normal for him to have trouble falling asleep and waking up during the night, something that can affect the family routine.
A common question from new parents is, can I do something to help my baby sleep? The first recommendation is to be patient, because eventually your sleep will end up regularizing. But, in addition, there are some things that can be done.
In this article we explain more about your baby’s sleep and give you tips to help them fall asleep more easily and to help them create a good sleeping habit.
How is the baby’s sleep?
It is totally normal for your baby to have trouble sleeping. Keep in mind that it comes from the gestation period and is adapting to the world outside the womb. For starters, her circadian rhythms are immature and she still doesn’t distinguish between day and night, sleeping through 24 hours a day when she needs to and waking up when she’s hungry.
On the other hand, their sleep cycles are not like those of adults and only have two phases (and their REM phase is short). As they grow, more are added (up to 5, that is, 4 Non-REM phases and 1 REM phase) and their duration increases, so the time of each cycle also increases.
In summary, the baby’s sleep is an evolutionary process that progresses as he matures until he is 6 or 7 years old, when he has already acquired the characteristics of adult sleep. Meanwhile, it is advisable to accompany this development, helping him to acquire good rest habits.
How many hours should the baby sleep?
A baby’s sleep needs vary at each stage of development. In any case, the number of hours determined for each stage is indicative, since the sleep pattern can vary in each baby. So, if your little one does not comply with the amount of time that he has to according to his growth stage, do not worry because little by little he will get used to it and will regularize his rhythm.
From newborn to two months. He still does not know the difference between night and day and his internal clock has not developed. The usual thing is that he sleeps between 16 and 20 hours each day, but with interruptions every 2 or 3 hours, approximately, to eat. In total it would be from 7 to 9 hours during the day, and between 8 and 9 at night.
From 2 to 4 months. The pattern begins to vary more between day and night. The usual thing is that he sleeps from 3 to 5 hours during the day and from 9 to 10 at night. And, in addition, it is the stage in which some babies begin to wake up less during the night. They can get to sleep between 5 and 6 hours in a row.
From 4 to 6 months, naps are reduced to about 3 hours and nighttime sleep is increased to 10 to 12 hours. This more acute change can be difficult for the baby to cope with, so nighttime awakenings and crying are likely to increase at this time.
From the age of 6 months, a stage that coincides with the beginning of the introduction of complementary feeding, the baby’s sleep is distributed between about 3 hours a day (which decreases until the age of 3 when they are suppressed) and another 11 or 12 hours at night with fewer awakenings.
Tips to help baby sleep
Although, as we say, it is normal for the baby to have trouble sleeping, there are some things that can be done to help him fall asleep more easily, while at the same time instilling good sleeping habits in which, little by little, will get used to
Create a relaxing bedtime routine. Try not to do dynamic activities that can stimulate the baby one or two hours before bedtime and incorporate a relaxing routine into your care that can include a bath before going to bed, massages, play relaxing music or sing a song. Repeat this ritual daily and try to always end with the same thing, so that little by little you relate it to the beginning of the break time.
Maintain a pleasant environment in the room. The lighting should be dim and ideally the temperature should be between 22 and 24°C. When you talk to the baby, keep your voice soft and try to keep your movements slow.
Put your baby to bed while he is still awake, but already somewhat sleepy, so that he begins to associate his crib with sleep and, if possible, always at the same time.
When you have to attend to him during the night, whether to feed him or change his diaper, do it as calmly as possible, without stimulating him so that he understands that it is time to rest and not to be active.
Try using a pacifier. It has been proven that the pacifier has a relaxing effect (due to the sucking movement). There are also studies that suggest it as one of the prevention factors for Sudden Infant Death Syndrome.
If your baby is not having a good day due to colic or toothache, for example, and it is costing you even more than usual, you can use Apps to put your baby to sleep with white noise. It is an effective resource, but it is not advisable to abuse it so that it does not get used to sleeping in a specific environment and can do it anywhere.
Be patient, it’s just a stage and, with time, it will pass.
How should babies sleep?
One of the main recommendations when putting the baby to sleep is to always put him to bed on his back, never place him on his stomach and, preferably, not on his side either, since he could turn and end up on his stomach. Placing the baby in a supine position is one of the most important factors in preventing sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS).
SIDS is the sudden death of a child under one year of age that occurs during sleep with no explainable medical cause.
The risk of sleeping on his stomach is because the baby’s jaw is pressed, narrowing the airways and, therefore, making it difficult for him to breathe. On the other hand, it also increases the risk that the child will breathe their own air, reducing their oxygen levels and increasing the accumulation of carbon dioxide.
Other measures that it is advisable to take:
When you put the baby to bed in the crib, remove stuffed animals, cushions and pillows to prevent the baby’s face from being covered.
Make sure the sheets fit snug and don’t put thick or heavy blankets on the bed.
Avoid overheating of the baby. Do not cover it more than necessary and avoid the temperature of the room being very high.
The mattress must be firm and stable (avoid soft mattresses) and comply with current safety standards (later we will give you specific details about the characteristics it must have).
Why should babies sleep without a pillow?
In the previous recommendations we told you that babies should not sleep with a pillow. Why?
Since the baby is not yet anatomically formed like a child or an adult, its head is proportionally larger than the rest of the body. For this reason, the pillow does not give you the correct support or comfort, since it forces you to force the curvature of your neck.
The second reason you don’t have to sleep with a pillow is the risk of suffocation, since you could get your face trapped
What is the best type of mattress for a baby?
It is important to choose the baby’s mattress well, since it has to be safe and adapt to the needs of his body at this stage of his growth.
In terms of density, up to 6 months the baby has to sleep on a firm but adaptable mattress so that it distributes its body weight well and avoids malformations of the spinal column or plagiocephaly (keep in mind that its skull is still very soft and susceptible to warping). The mattress must also be breathable, both to prevent CO₂ pockets from forming and to prevent moisture from accumulating inside and bacteria from proliferating.
Regarding the size, the dimensions must correspond to those of the crib (never put a smaller mattress that leaves gaps in which the baby could get trapped). Keep in mind that there is a standard size of 117 X 57 cm, for 120 X 60 cm cots, but you can also find special sizes in case the cot is different.
The thickness, for its part, is recommended to be between 12 and 18 cm, thinner is not recommended and thicker is not necessary.
Regarding the materials, the most recommended are those with pocket springs (very breathable and durable), those with profiled foams (they adapt very well to the baby’s body and the profiles favor air circulation), those with latex (it is hypoallergenic, anti-mite , is flexible and very adaptable) and coconut fiber (natural, ecological, hypoallergenic and breathable).
It is normal for the baby’s sleep patterns to be erratic during the first months of life. And it is that she has to learn to differentiate the night from the day and her sleep cycles have to mature, a process that evolves along with her growth.
In the meantime, in addition to having a lot of patience, the way to help him sleep better and learn good sleep habits is basically to create routines and an environment that promotes relaxation, as well as finding the right time to wear it to the crib.