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Babies & Sleeping: When Will My Baby Sleep?

Written by Meghan Connelly, MD.

Babies tend to like to feel “secure”. How can you achieve this without holding the baby at all times (which would be a strain on the parents who need rest, too!)?

You can “swaddle” the infant, which involves wrapping a tight blanket around the arms and legs of the baby. Be sure to ask your nurse or doctor to teach you this skill before you leave the hospital, as it’s easier than it sounds!

Where should the baby sleep?

As a general rule, babies should sleep in their own crib or bedside co-sleeper. They should NEVER sleep in bed with Mom and Dad. Why not? Parents can be pretty exhausted during the first few months of having a new baby and there is the risk of them rolling over onto the baby and not even realizing it.

Babies should NOT sleep in bed with Mom and Dad!

However, it may be convenient to keep the baby in the parents’ room for the first few weeks or even month, at the time when the baby is feeding the most. However, the infant should just be in their own sleeper.

All babies should be put to sleep on their backs as this has been shown to reduce Sudden Infant Death Syndrome.1,2

Most infants cannot roll over until 4 months of age. And, some "tummy time" can be good for a baby, but only when supervised by parents or caregivers. “Tummy time” helps the infant to learn to lift and steady their head by exercising their neck muscles. Additionally, babies’ head bones are not completely molded and so this helps the baby’s head to develop in a more round shape.3

So how much sleep should your child be getting each day?

Infants do vary a bit in their sleep patterns, but most babies require 16-20 hours each day during the first 6 months of life according to the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP). You will get to know your child’s sleep patterns; some babies sleep after nearly every feed, some babies show a preference for daytime sleeping and for the “lucky parents” some babies prefer to sleep during the night.

Most babies require 16-20 hours of sleep each day during first 6 months of life.

At 3-4 months your baby should be able to sleep through the night. What we call "sleep training" is how the infant learns to sleep through the night. Often, babies awaken and require "soothing" to fall back asleep, this may involve a routine of being held or cuddled by a parent. But, at about 3-4 months age, they should be able to "self soothe" back to sleep. "Sleep training" can be just as tough for Mom and Dad as the infant, as all are in the routine of holding/rocking/cuddling the child back to sleep. So, this takes some self-discipline on everyone's part! If the baby is crying, Mom or Dad should go check on the infant to ensure the child is okay, then wait to let the child pacify themselves. This being said, if anything seems abnormal, the child's cry is high pitched or unusual for your baby, the child doesn't calm quickly, check to be sure the child is okay and that you don't need to take additional action(s).

New parents are often concerned about their baby’s sleeping habits and where to put the infant to sleep. The above information is meant to help you decide what will be best for you as parents, and, of course, what is best also for your new infant. While this can be a “restless time” in your family’s lives, we want everyone in your household to get as much, restful sleep as possible! You should certainly talk with friends and family who have experience in this area and speak with your Pediatrician who can answer any questions you may have.

References

1Safe Sleep for All Babies, Eunice Kennedy Shriver National Institute of Child Health and Human Development. Last updated online October 18, 2011. Cited April 8, 2012.
2SIDS and Other Sleep-Related Infant Deaths: Expansion of Recommendations for a Safe Infant Sleeping Environment. Task Force on Sudden Infant Death Syndrome. Policy statement from the American Academy of Pediatrics. Published online October 29, 2011.
3
Altmann, T. R., Mommy Calls: Dr. Tanya Answers Parents' Top 101 Questions About Babies and Toddlers. American Academy of Pediatrics. 1st edition, 2008.

Meghan Connelly, MD
Meghan Connelly, MD

Meghan Connelly grew up in Ohio.  She attended Vanderbilt University for her undergraduate studies majoring in Molecular and Cellular Biology and minoring in both Chemistry and American Political Science. Afterwards, she attended medical school at the University of Southern California. She currently lives in Washington DC and is completing dua.. Read more

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