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31Jul 13

Bedtime for baby: developing a sleep schedule

One of the main complaints of parents with a newborn is the lack of a baby’s sleep schedule. A fussy or colicky baby will have mum and dad up all night! Although the first year or so is difficult, there are steps that you can take to get into sync with your baby’s routine preferences so that everyone can have a decent amount of sleep.

A newborn needs between 14 and 16 hours of sleep split between day and night. Unfortunately for mums and dads who want to sleep a full night, that probably won’t happen because an infant will sleep only 3 or 4 hours at a time. At three months old, some lucky parents might even sleep for 6 hours! However, that’s as long as they get because the babies will wake up at intervals to feed.

Developing a baby's sleep schedule

Developing a baby’s sleep schedule

The first two months

One sleep tactic for newborns from one to three months old is swaddling. Wrapping a baby in a warm blanket offers a feeling of security, warmth and well-being to an infant. However, this should only be an option for the first couple months while parents start to develop a sleep schedule.

Developing a consistent sleep schedule

Once the baby reaches two months old, you can start implementing various techniques to form a consistent schedule. One such strategy would be to make a firm distinction between day and night.

During the day, make sure the baby is in a well-lit space with natural sunlight, if possible. The light will help trigger the child’s circadian rhythm, teaching him to be awake and active during daylight hours and rest when it’s dark. It’s pure instinct!

You can help make this distinction by keeping the baby in light during the day and engage in energetic activities. Talk to your baby and keep him engaged with toys. By being active during the day, the baby not only will learn that day is for play, but will also burn off excess energy so as to be tired enough to sleep longer at night.

When bedtime rolls around, stick to calmer activities. Don’t talk much or try to stimulate the child. Keep the house dim so the newborn will make the connection between light and types of activities.

Of course, a consistent bedtime routine is paramount. This peaceful and winding down time develops a familiar structure for the infant and lets him know what is coming next: sleep!

There are plenty of suitable bedtime activities to choose from. You can pick what works best for you and makes you feel most comfortable. Some suggestions might be a warm bath, a soothing massage, a bedtime story, a few lullabies, a warm bottle, etc.

Have you developed a favourite bedtime ritual for your little one?

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