Newborns’ sleep patterns change as baby grows

By: Sanford Health News .

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Newborn sleep changes rapidly and no two babies are alike. A newborn can generally sleep eight daytime hours followed by another eight or nine at night.

Nighttime sleep increases slightly approaching the 3-month-old mark, while daytime sleep falls by 50 percent, reducing the average amount of overall sleep to 14 hours. This general pattern of more nighttime sleep and less in the day continues until the age of about 2 years. Nighttime sleep peaks at 11 hours at 9 months, while daytime sleep decreases to three hours at 9 months, falling to about two hours at 24 months — a total of about 13 hours.

Individual sleep development varies by the individual and there is no typical age for a baby to begin sleeping through the night. Babies may start sleeping six to eight nighttime hours without waking at about the 3-month mark or when weighing 12-13 pounds. Most reach the milestone by the age of 6 months, but it isn’t always a permanent change. Babies who had been sleeping through the night may stop because of difficulty being away from mom and dad. This separation anxiety, and the sleeplessness it causes, is a normal part of development that babies generally grow out of.

Though separation anxiety is common, it remains important for parents to be mindful of how newborns are sleeping. Problems with sleep may indicate a child has an illness. Sudden changes in sleep patterns like difficulty falling or staying asleep may mean a child is not feeling well.

New parents can play a big role in helping their babies develop healthy sleep habits. A baby who feels secure — through a lot of daytime play and cuddling — is generally better able to handle separations at bedtime. Consistency in routine and response goes a long way to a baby sleeping well. This consistency can be achieved with regular daily naps and avoiding stimulation as bedtime approaches. Healthy nighttime routines can include a bath, reading time or gentle rocking before bed. Rubbing the eyes, yawning, fussing and gazing away are often indications of a sleepy baby. If possible, these drowsy babies should be tucked into bed before falling asleep.

And if baby cries after being put to bed, parents should resist the urge to rush in. Waiting a few minutes is recommended instead. If crying continues parents are advised to avoid taking baby out of bed and provide comfort through soothing and patting.