As a parent of a little one, sleep (or lack thereof) is an apt topic. Whether it be those dreaded 40-minute catnaps or when your newborn goes from sleeping in long overnight stretches to waking every 2 hours at four months of age.
This World Sleep Day, CuboAi Sleep Expert Kristy Griffiths explains what exactly to expect of your baby when it comes to sleep by age.
When babies are first born, they are born with excess Melatonin (a sleep hormone) shared in utero. This is called maternal melatonin and is why your sweet little newborn is so sleepy and difficult to wake. Maternal melatonin is present until around 12 weeks.
Anyone with a Newborn will tell you that the saying “sleep like a baby” can be misleading – to say the least! Newborns spend much time in the “active” sleep phases. In active sleep, babies breathe shallowly and twitch their arms and legs. Their eyes flutter under their eyelids and they can be easily woken up from active sleep. Most parents will see their babies in active sleep and think they are smiling when making all these funny faces during active sleep.
As routine probably isn’t established, I recommend parents take the chance to have lots of contact naps or naps on the go to make life easier. Take each nap as it comes, and don’t get too wound up over interrupted sleep at this early stage.
3 - 4 Months:
From here, babies often start to fall into a loose routine, with babies often sleeping for two to three-hour naps at least three times each day (or more!). Meanwhile, those long stretches of night sleep are slowly becoming a thing of the past (at least for most babies).
This is due to your little ones’ sleep maturing (hello, four-month sleep regression). Your baby will produce sleep hormones after the maternal melatonin has worn off. Once they start making their sleep hormones, their sleep cycles mirror more adult-like sleep patterns. This is when sleeping in a dark room becomes important, as sleep hormones are produced far more readily in darkness.
Things you will notice with these mature sleep cycles are; naps of a day will suddenly appear to be bang on 40mins (maybe 45 if you’re lucky), and overnight sleep cycles will go from 4-6 hourly to 2-4 hourly. So whereas previously you may have seen 1-2 wake-ups overnight, now you may start to experience them every two hours. So as much as the four-month sleep regression is dreaded, it is a progression in your little one’s development.
Generally, babies at this age will have 3-5 naps spread across the day. However, when it comes to overnight sleep, a good goal is 12-13 hours – which, at this age, it will likely still be broken sleep due to night feeds.
From this age, it gets much easier to rid yourself of the 40-minute naps and help your little one learn to consolidate their sleep cycles. The key to this is teaching self-settling skills and attempting to resettle so they can connect between light and deep phases of sleep. Babies will now be on 3-4 naps daily (4 if catnapping).
If overnight sleep has started consolidating, you will likely find your day naps getting trickier. Night feeds may have either phased out entirely at this age, or your little one could still be waking for feeds 1-2 times a night at the end of their deep sleep phases. It’s also useful at this stage to help bub learn self settilng and resettling techniques. Having a baby monitor, such as the CuboAi, which allows you to monitor them without distiburing them, to ensure they are OK during this stage of learning can help to appease any angst about leaving your baby to grizzle – this is a natural part of bub learning to self-settle without you as an aid.
A consistent wind-down routine at this age will make settling for naps and bedtime much easier as it will naturally prepare your little one for sleep. Here again, it is wise to try and put bub to bed at least somewhat awake to ensure they are starting to learn the art of self-settling. A good goal for overnight sleep is 11-12 hours.
6 months onwards:
From here, we will see the transition from 3 to 2 daytime naps, then around 14 months, 2 to 1 naps. But unfortunately, all good things do come to an end, and that final nap will drop off around 2.5 years. Overnight sleep will lessen if they are still napping, but generally, we see anywhere from 10.5-12 hours, depending on nap lengths.
Babies start to show signs of sleeping through the night from around six months as solids increase and the need for overnight calories reduces.
However, all babies are different; some may still wake for feeds due to sleep associations, and as parents, it’s important not to hinge your ‘success’ on whether or not your baby is ‘sleeping through’. Nothing is wrong with your baby’s sleep schedule so long as it works for you and your family. It's common for mums to compare their babies to another; however, I advise mums to avoid the dreaded comparison. If you feel something is working, stick to it; if not, seek advice.