Babies tend to sleep differently than the average adult human being. They require special care and assistance to ensure they, and everyone else in the household can get quality sleep.
The creation of a baby sleep program and schedule requires careful preparation. Parents and guardians need to adhere to a routine to ensure their little one’s sleep program remains uninterrupted.
This article will explain the preparations needed to establish a healthy sleep schedule. Here, we will also explain the different baby sleeping schedules from birth to 36 months old, along wit the recommended sleep training procedures.
Creating a sleep program for the baby starts with careful planning and preparation. This planning stage consists of the careful handling of the newborn and preparing the baby’s crib.
First, it’s important to remove objects, such as blankets, pillows, and toys, from the crib prior to putting him or her down. Research indicates that these objects may increase the risks of Sudden Death Infant Syndrome (SIDS), or the unexpected and unexplained death of a baby younger than one-year-old.
After ensuring a safe and cozy sleep spot, putting your baby carefully on his or her back is recommended by experts. Placing an infant down on the crib in any other position might increase the risks of SIDS.
It’s also important to note that parents and guardians shouldn’t fall asleep with their newborns beside them. This will also increase the likelihood of sleep-related deaths. An alternate option is to put cribs near beds to significantly reduce the risks of SIDS.
Baby Sleep Schedule
A baby’s sleep requirements differ with age. Newborns tend to require more sleep as opposed to toddlers. However, sleeping patterns for infants tend to be in short bursts.
As the baby continues to grow, their total hours of sleep decreases gradually. However, the length of time they sleep at night increases.
From Birth to 6 Weeks Old
Infants from birth up to 6 weeks old tend to have convoluted sleep patterns. In other words, their sleep schedule is relatively non-existent. Part of the reason for this erratic sleep cycle is because they need to be fed every two or three hours, on average.
As such, a newborn baby tends to have 15-minute to 2-hour naps that take place four or five times throughout the day. At night time, the longest stretch a newborn sleeps is two to four hours. This amounts to about 15 to 18 hours total of sleep on a 24-hour period.
The newborn stage may feel like you are in a constant sleep-eat-poop cycle, which can be exhausting for parents. At this stage, your focus is to ensure your little bundle gets all the love, care, and sleep he or she needs, which is what matters the most.
6 to 12 Weeks Old
Babies between the ages of six to 12 weeks need about 14 to 16 hours of sleep per day. This sleep cycle includes a full eight to 10 hours of sleep at night and four to five naps during the day.
Once the child hits six weeks old, parents and guardians may have already established a sleeping routine. At this point, the baby might also be becoming more social than before, so evening fussiness may already be developing.
As the weeks go by, the infant’s nap times become shorter. Hence, it might become tougher to stick to a regular eat-play-sleep routine. However, the child still needs to sleep about 14 hours per day.
3 to 6 Months Old
The body of a 3- to 6-month-old should start to become accustomed to the sleep schedule imposed by their parents and guardians. Daily routines might begin with an early morning feed, followed by some playtime before the child falls asleep once more.
Parents and guardians need to be reminded, however, that their infant’s sleeping patterns might perform erratically. For example, if your baby sleeps well in the morning, the infant might not have the same sleep quality in the afternoon or at night.
Also, encourage the child to sleep in their own crib or cot. Look for the signs of being tired after feeding routines. Feeding, playing, and sleeping routines work hand-in-hand for the baby to achieve a good quality of life.
6 to 9 Months Old
Babies in the 6- to 9-month-old range tend to sleep around 10 to 11 hours at night. Also, some infants may get accustomed to the idea of sleeping without the need for a nighttime feeding.
However, the naps remain throughout the day but are less frequent than before. Expect a 6- to 9-month-old infant to nap around two to three times during the day, and these daytime rests tend to last anywhere from 15 minutes to two hours.
9 to 12 Months Old
At nine to 12 months, a baby may probably still be keeping their sleeping routine from the past quarter. Hence, parents and guardians should still expect their infants to sleep for about 10 to 11 hours per night and two to three naps during the day.
But, daytime naps might last up to four hours, depending on the child’s energy levels. If so, the baby might have less sleep during the night if they have more hours of rest during the day.
12 to 18 Months Old
Once the baby reaches 12 months, they may still need about two naps during the day. However, this daytime sleeping schedule may condense into one long nap instead of two short rests.
Parents and guardians need to look for the signs that their child is ready to make the transition from two short naps to one long sleep. The baby might take longer than before to show signs of being tired during the day as they resist the urge to take the nap. Otherwise, the child might start having shorter naps.
As for the baby’s nighttime sleep, it may remain the same from the two previous quarters. However, the frequency of waking up in the middle of the night for feeding sessions also decreases.
18 to 24 Months Old
At 18 months, the child may still be sleeping at around 10 to 12 hours per night. But, the frequency of sleep interruptions due to hunger lessen further than the last quarter.
As the baby continues to grow, they may still prefer to take one or two naps during the day, if they prefer. Still, parents and guardians need to take note of their child’s sleeping schedules as daytime naps may affect the baby’s nighttime rest.
Sleep Training Methods
A common misconception about sleep training for children is that there’s only one way to do it. However, several techniques exist to help parents and guardians ensure their little ones develop healthy sleep habits. Below are three of the most common sleep training methods and how they work.
The “Fade it Out” Method (FIO)
This popular sleep coaching method aims to sleep train babies with no tears or very little crying involved. With this gentle method, the idea is to gradually fade out whatever method (rocking, nursing, singing) you use to put your baby to sleep until it is no longer necessary.
For example, if your routine involves rocking the baby to sleep, you may slowly shorten the amount of time you spend rocking for a few minutes each time until the baby is weaned off from rocking.
Using this sleep training technique may require a bit of patience as the results may take longer to surface. But, with this method you allow your baby to figure out how to soothe herself and sleep on her own, minus the trauma.
It’s a good idea to start the FIO technique from six weeks old. However, a mobile and fussy baby might be more difficult to put to sleep than others with this technique.
The “Cry it Out” Method (CIO)
As its name implies, the CIO is a sleep training technique, which involves putting the baby to bed and if she cries, you’re not supposed to help her and let her cry or fuss until she falls asleep on her own.
The idea behind the CIO technique is to help your baby discover how to sleep without relying on your assistance. Also known as “the extinction method,” it might be tough for some parents to go through with this technique as it will involve crying (which can be harder on the parent’s part).
The Pick-Up and Put Down Method (PUPD)
PUPD is another gentle method of sleep training. With this technique, when it’s sleep time, and the baby cries, you pick her up and comfort her until she stops crying and is drowsy again. At this point, you then place the baby back to her crib, repeating the cycle until she finally falls asleep.
This method may work for younger babies, but, as the baby gets heavier it becomes more difficult. PUPD may also tend to stimulate other babies and make them more upset. You may need to repeat this method many times before it is successful. PUPD requires patience and consistency, and it’s important to remain calm as you soothe your baby each time. But soon you will enjoy the fact that your baby can sleep on her own without relying on you or some sort of prop, and the baby does not feel abandoned during the process.
Getting your baby to follow a sleep program is not an easy task. But developing healthy sleep habits is an essential life skill, and one cannot argue about the benefits of a good night’s sleep – both for babies and exhausted parents.
If you are on the fence about sleep programs, it’s worth noting that there is no right or wrong method and that each child may respond differently with each approach. It’s also important to note that sleep patterns tend to change as the baby grows. Pick the program and method that you think is best for your baby and one you are comfortable with. Be patient. Before long, your baby will grow and embrace her independence, and you will be glad you took the time to appreciate the little things along the way.