How Much Sleep Do Infants Need?

As parents, we always feel like we need more sleep than allowed.  With our infants’ nighttime demands, it can be challenging to get enough rest to be an effective parent.  Many parents choose to “sleep train” their baby to encourage them to sleep for longer periods of time.  It's important to consider how much sleep does your infant need before making any changes to his or her routine.

Here is what you need to know.

How Much Sleep Do Infants Need?

When babies are born, they naturally sleep for short periods. Their stomachs are so small, they can hold only a few tablespoons of milk at a time which causes them to wake up more frequently to eat.  Baby sleep cycles are also shorter at this period in their lives and contain less REM sleep.

Infants age 0-3 months need an average of 14 to 17 hours of sleep.  Less than 11 hours or more than 19 hours of sleep are not recommended.

Babies age 4-11 months need an average of 12 to 15 hours of sleep.  At this age, a baby should always get at least 10 hours of sleep but no more than 18 hours.

By the time a baby is 6 to 8 weeks old, he or she should be able to sleep 6 to 8 hours at a stretch.  Most parents call this “sleeping through the night.” 

If your baby is not sleeping 6 to 8 hours at night by the age of four months, sleep training may be the best way to help him/her get enough sleep.  Keep in mind, not all babies are able to sleep such long hours at this early an age.  Every baby’s sleep needs are different. 

What Is The Best Sleeping Position For Your Baby?

The best sleeping position for your baby is always on his or her back.  Make sure your baby sleeps on a firm surface with no blankets, pillows, or anything else that could strangle or smother him or her.

Do not add a mattress to a crib, bassinet, or playpen.  Use only the mattress that came with it.  Crib bumpers and toys should also be avoided.  If your baby is cold, we suggest putting him or her in a footed sleeper or in a “sleep sack”, a wearable blanket that zips down the front.

Babies should sleep in the same room with their parents until they are 6 months old, but not in the same bed.  Avoid co-sleeping with your baby, as this practice increases the rate of Sudden Infant Death Syndrome/SIDS.  If your baby falls asleep in your bed while you are feeding her, transfer her to her own sleep space.

Making A Baby Sleep Routine

Babies are not born knowing when to sleep and when to be awake.  Some babies are born “night owls”.  We need to help them learn that nighttime is for sleeping.

When babies are awake during the day, play with them and keep them engaged.  Don’t worry about the noise level in your house or about the lighting. 

At night, keep your interactions with him/her quiet and slow.  Don’t play or talk too much.

The transition from awake time to sleeping time can be marked with a baby sleep routine.  The last feeding, a warm bath, a diaper change, and a bedtime story or lullaby creates a simple routine to follow with your baby. 

The more you reinforce the routine with your baby, the easier it will be for him/her to fall asleep at night. 

How Do I Sleep Train My Baby?

Sleep training your baby can be intimidating at first. Sleep training can be a difficult process both physically and emotionally, but it is a learning process that is valuable foundation for the future.  Remember the reason is to try to encourage them learn to sleep longer and better.

Start by creating daily routine with your child :

  • Waking him/her up at the same time
  • Putting him/her down for scheduled naps
  • Putting him/her to bed at the same time each day

When you have established your daily routine first, choosing the sleep training method that works best can begin. Ask yourself- What method do I think would best suit my baby?

Today, there are a variety of sleep training methods out there.  Two of the most popular sleep training methods are the “cry it out” and “no tears” method.

”Cry It Out” Method

The “Cry It Out” method was popularized by Dr. Richard Ferber in his book Solve Your Child’s Sleep Problems.  This sleep training involves giving your child time to cry before going in to soothe them.  But it should not be used before 4 to 6 months of age, when babies can not get through the night without feeding.

  • When a baby cries at night, parents at first wait to soothe the baby after a few minutes.
  • As the nights go by, the period between the parents’ check-ins gets longer.
  • The baby should be able to calm herself down by the end of the first week. 
Still, the parents who choose this method are generally satisfied with the child’s quality of sleep after the baby establishes self-soothing.

”No Tears” Methods

“No Tears” Method chooses a different path in leading children to better sleep.  Its known as a gradual and subtle sleep training that sometimes can be a longer process than other sleep methods.

  • First make sure your baby has a consistent bedtime routine and nap schedule.
  • Put your baby to bed when he or she is drowsy.
  • If you need to soothe your baby during the night, do so quickly, rocking and patting her and then putting her back in her own bed. 
  • Avoid feeding the baby during the night unless she is showing signs of being truly hungry.  Pick your baby up as many times as she needs, putting her back in her own bed each time. 
  • Use “keywords” like shushing your baby gently or repeating things like “it’s time for sleep”.  This will give your baby positive associations for bedtime.

Many parents prefer this sleep method because they find it more nurturing for their baby. Avoiding seeing their baby cry.

Conclusion

Sleep training is an emotionally and physically challenging process.  It creates a bedtime sleep routine that works best for you and your baby.  Each child will have a different reaction to sleep training methods.  It will be a trial and error learning process but will enhance healthy sleep habits in the future.  Happy ZZZ’s.

Have you sleep trained your baby?

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