Today I am thrilled to publish this fantastic blog by Rachael Wilson - Sleep Consultant which is a general overview of what is expected in the first year of sleep life!
It is absolutely part of parenthood, to be up in the night, changing nappies, feeding, pacing the floorboards, rocking back to sleep, “enjoying” those moments while the rest of the world out there sleeps!
Today in this blog I wanted to explain what to expect from your child’s sleep in the first year. How you can maybe determine what is “normal” when it comes to night waking and help you find some reasons and solutions as to why your little baby is waking in the night.
I remember when my daughter, Chloe was born my friend had her son at the same time, we would always send each other a few texts in the night during these waking hours to see if we were up at the same time and what feed they were on...1 or 10! The following morning I would tell my husband a few stories and he would always ask me where I got all this information from as it was only 6am in the morning and it was basically night time…he had no idea that while he sleeps there is a whole other world out there awake…usually mothers but I will also acknowledge the dads who get up and do their fair share also…and surviving…mostly it is however the breastfeeding mums who are awake…chatting away to other sleepless soles to help each other through the night…..!
Let me start off by saying, just like us adults all and every child wakes in the night. It is normal for a child to wake between 3 and 6 times a night. Even if it is just to turn over and re settle themselves, kick and flail about or to ask for a feed. But when and how do we know when to respond to these wakings….and what is “normal”?
The Newborn stage. The biggest change in your life has just happened and for many of us we are under prepared for what exactly has just happened and about to happen…we arrive home from the hospital, sit down (if we can still sit without being in so much pain we feel our lower body has just been ripped to shreds!) and we say.. Ok... now what..? Do we eat? Sleep? Go for a walk? Maybe the baby needs a feed..? A lot of us actually have no idea how to navigate our way through each day or really what to expect, every day is so different.
At this young newborn stage your baby will feed, poop, sleep and repeat. A lot. It’s a turntable of the same most days, like a carousel that just won’t stop! It’s wonderful but it is exhausting and that is “normal”.
Your baby will be feeding every 2-3 hours or so. Don’t forget breast milk is digested much faster than formula milk so you may find your baby feeds more often in the day and night than your friend's baby who is formula feeding. This is normal and whichever way you feed your baby they are being nourished and loved and you are meeting their needs. Fed is BEST!
At this young age it is also way too early to start any sort of formal sleep shaping with any methods as such, however, what you can do is introduce positive baby led sleep associations that will stand you in good stead for the future.
- DARK ROOM
- WHITE NOISE
- CONSISTENT BEDTIME ROUTINE EVERY NIGHT
Change and feed your baby during the night in a dark room, use a red light instead of the usual bedside lamp you have as the red light won’t interfere with the levels of melatonin in your baby’s body. Red light does not penetrate through the eyelids either. Stay in the same room as to avoid temperature changes which can wake a baby up and this also reduces stimulation to the brain. It’s not party time it is feed and sleep time! Keep your nights calm and consistent. Make sure your baby is winded properly before you lay them back down in their sleep space.
If you are experiencing multiple wakings say every 1-2 hours through the night there may be something else that is hindering longer periods of peaceful slumber between feeds, such as tummy pains from over feeding or over tiredness. It is worth exploring these other possibilities and if you feel you would like some help in solving this I am very happy to have a chat with you and put you at ease.
Once you are through the fourth trimester, this 3 -6 months is a very impressionable age. Your baby will be changing a lot during this time, catnaps may start to occur, solids will be introduced and playtime becomes more fun! And sleep changes.
Your baby’s sleep cycles at this age changes and during the night become longer, 2 hours long so you may experience wakings every 2 hours. It is very unlikely your baby needs feeding every 2 hours at this age so it is worth exploring why this is happening.
You may find the issue is a self-settling problem, or perhaps your baby is over tired from minimal sleep the previous day. It is impossible for me to say exactly what the problem is without having more in depth knowledge about your child’s world of sleep and play.
Around 4 months, the sleep “progression” will occur, your baby’s brain is progressing and developing and their sleep cycles become like an adults. This is a good sign when the sleep is disrupted and night and catnaps occur, as it is a sign they are developing, even if it is a little exhausting for you!
When this “progression” has passed it will be the perfect time to start any sort of sleep shaping, be it forming a schedule in the day or trying to teach your baby to sleep independently. You can really start to work on those naps and sleep associations.
You may even be getting 1-2 feeds a night with around 11-12 hours sleep!
Imagine that! Continue with the positive sleep associations you have been using and for every sleep. You may start to see a pattern in your days and find a routine that suits your family. This age is the perfect age to start with a gentle routine and this will help consolidate your baby’s night time sleep.
Your baby will be really establishing solids now, go slow and steady. It is advisable to introduce a new food every 2-3 days and at lunchtime then if there is any reaction you will have the day to notice and know exactly what food it was. I would also recommend to introduce meat proteins at lunch time only until the age or about 10 months, Meat proteins are hard to digest and can cause wakings in the night. After 10 months you can introduce meat proteins at dinnertime also.
Night wakings may become minimal at this age and if you are experiencing many wake ups and your little one is finding it hard to re-settle or they are awake long periods in the night something is not on the right track here. Perhaps daytime naps are off track, too much daytime sleep can also hinder night sleep. Perhaps your baby has a sleep association and needs you there to help them back to sleep… all the time…
Do a bit of trouble shooting, look at their awake windows during the day, are they getting enough sleep and at the right time of the day? How did they fall asleep? Are they feeding more in the night than in the day, this is called “reverse cycling”. You will need to adjust naps and feeds during the day to adjust the nights. It’s about teaching your Little One the difference between night and day.
Many babies still require a feed up to the age of 12 months. It is not uncommon and it is also not uncommon for many babies to sleep through the night in this age bracket. Babies are very capable of mastering this awesome skill. If you baby is still waking many times, again trouble shoot, think about the previous day…
- Too hot/cold
- Self-settle issue
- Sleep environment – is it too stimulating?
- Teething (symptoms should only last 2-3 nights at most)
- 8 month sleep progression
- Separation anxiety
There is a lot it could be. A lot happens at this age and stage of development. They are crawling, learning to pull up and maybe even starting to walk. Their diet is becoming more established.
If you would like some help in working out the cause of your baby’s wakings do get in touch. I would love to talk to you about it and help you through it.
Sometimes it just takes someone out the box to work out the issue and help you solve the puzzle!
Your FREE 15 minute discovery call to assess your sleep problems is waiting for you and we can see where to go from there and find a sleep solution for you!
To visit Rachael's site, click here
I can’t wait to chat with you!
Peaceful nights to you,
Your Paediatric Sleep Consultant