Newborns have yet to develop circadian rhythms – the normal sleep-wake pattern that revolves around 24 hours. Babies also need to wake up often for feeds, even in the middle of the night, as their stomachs cannot store large amounts of milk.

In the first 2-3 weeks, your baby may sleep for 4-hour stretches, then wake for a feed and stay up for about two hours before falling asleep again. All in all, newborns sleep about 12-16 hours each day, sometimes more.

The sleep pattern changes at 4-7 months. He/she may have a shorter daytime sleep (about 3-4 hours) and a longer night time sleep (about 7-8 hours), with about two naps in-between. Most babies sleep for about 14 hours a day, but the amount can vary from one baby to another.

It’s nap time!

To determine if your baby is sleepy, look out for eye-rubbing, drooping eyes and fussing. Some children have other signs, eg, scratching the ears, becoming quiet, etc, which you will soon learn. Don’t be alarmed if your baby starts crying when you try to rock him/her to sleep. He/she will calm down eventually.

Tips for parents

You can help your baby get accustomed to sleep time. Develop a sleeping habit, especially when your baby is four months old. Let the cot and bassinet be the only places for sleeping. Set a bedtime routine which includes a bath, a gentle massage and soft music. It may not work right away, but it lays the foundation for bedtime in the long- run. When your baby wakes up for a feed in the middle of the night, do not stimulate him/ her by playing. Maintain low lighting when feeding or changing your baby at night.

Safe sleeping position

Put your infant to sleep on the back instead of on the stomach, says the American Academy of Pediatrics. This sleeping position is safer and reduces the risk of sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS). Also, you should not let your baby sleep with you to prevent mishaps that could lead to SIDS. Always make sure that the cot is free of toys or other items that could block your baby’s breathing.

When to see a doctor

If you feel that your infant is not getting enough sleep, consult a doctor to rule out teething problems or other underlying conditions.

Source: MIMS HealthToday Malaysia