The sleep patterns a baby are not the same as those of an adult. Indeed, while an adult goes through five phases of sleep, babies only go through two, which makes their sleep lighter and have multiple awakenings.
These awakening often disturb the parents’ sleep and cause a lot of stress. In this article, we will explain how the baby’s sleep goes on in its first months, and what you can do to facilitate your relaxation and help you sleep at night.
Understanding the baby’s sleep
During the first few months of life, the baby does not distinguish between day and night. He or she sleeps and wakes up every few hours, following a wake-sleep rhythm called the ultradian, where two phases of sleep alternate: deep sleep and the REM (less deep) phase.
These continuous awakenings occur in response to a biological need and are absolutely normal. That is, the baby wakes up to “warn” that he or she needs to eat or be carried. another basic need of the newborn.
While the baby sleeps an average of 16 hours distributed throughout the day, adults concentrate sleep hours at night, following a circadian wakefulness-sleep rhythm, which is repeated approximately every 24 hours.
This difference in sleep patterns between adults and babies can cause parents to feel exhausted in the first few months in the face of their multiple nighttime awakenings. But as the baby grows, his or her sleep pattern will change to become more and more like ours.
When will baby start sleeping all night?
Each child is unique and has different needs, so it is hard to know when they will sleep all night off the bat. Usually, from six months on, many babies begin to concentrate more hours of sleep at night, reaching little by little the pace of the adults. However, this is not an exact rule, and nearly 40 percent of babies at that age continue with several nighttime awakenings, which can sometimes last up to three or four years.
What can you do as a parent?
Understanding the baby’s needs during his or her first months of life is key to serving him/her properly, respecting his or her natural sleep pattern.
Therefore, there is nothing we can do to “teach the baby to sleep”, since sleep is an evolutionary process that will mature over time.
But as the baby adapts naturally and progressively to the cycles of light and darkness, we can help him or her relax and calm down, thus contributing to a better rest.
- Place the crib near your bed
The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends that the baby sleep in his or her own crib placed in the parents’ room during the first year of life, in order to avoid the risk of sudden death.
But in addition, this practice favors the sleep of the baby (and therefore of the parents) since he or she can be taken care of immediately if he or she wakes up.
- Breastfeeding before bed
Breastfeeding should be on demand, and of course also at night. In addition, some studies have confirmed that breast milk has variations in the concentration of certain nutrients such as Tryptophan, an essential amino acid necessary for the brain to break down Serotonin, a sleep-promoting brain neurotransmitter.
That is why breastfeeding during the night, in addition to nourishing your baby, promotes his or her rest, because the suction of the chest relaxes the baby and gives him or her the Tryptophan necessary to help achieve the circadian rhythm.
If the baby is bottle-fed, also give it on demand and leave them ready at night before bedtime.
- Create sleep routines
To contribute to a better rest for your baby it is also recommended that every day you repeat the same sleep routines, to create a habit that will make him or her associate that process with bedtime:
Always try to put him or her to bed at the same time.
Most babies are relaxed by a night bath and a gentle massage afterwards. Test whether your baby also accepts it to a good degree, and if he or she stays calmer afterwards.
Reduce the pace of pre-sleep activities to prevent your baby from becoming too active before bed and making it harder for you to relax.
Create a cozy and quiet environment: dim light, relaxing music. Also avoid the use of screens before going to bed. Furthermore, there are babies who need to have their parents around before they go to sleep. They need to be caressed, carried, or swung in their crib. Other babies only get to fall asleep in their parents’ arms.
The baby’s sleep is an evolutionary process, and each child will follow their own rhythms. But parents can promote their rest, and therefore their correct development, with these simple tips.
Born in London, England and raised in Orlando, FL, Elena graduated from the University of Central Florida with a bachelors’ degree in English. She later received her masters’ in Creative Writing from Drexel University. She writes part-time for the Scientific Origin and focuses mostly on health related issues.