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Forming a healthy sleep routine for your baby

Last Modified: February 10, 2023

Women & Children, Family Medicine

Baby sleep

A good night’s sleep is important for the growth and development of a little one, but it’s just as vital for parents in the home. Experts recommend that adults get at least 7 or more hours of sleep per day, however, a study conducted by researchers at the University of Warwick found that new parents are getting just 5.1 hours of sleep during the first year of their child’s life. This equates to 44 days of lost sleep! Optimizing your baby’s nighttime routine is one strategy for reclaiming those beneficial hours of rest.

Forming healthy habits

Your little one’s sleep habits will change a lot between birth and their first birthday. Newborns usually sleep for 2 to 4 hours at a time for about 18 hours a day. By 3 months, most babies sleep up to 7 to 8 hours a night.

Of course, sometimes infants have restless nights. And if the baby doesn't sleep, no one sleeps. It's normal for healthy babies to have a range of sleep time, but if your infant has trouble getting to sleep every night, or wakes up crying for you several times a night, you may want to try some new strategies. Here are some recommendations for tired parents:

Stick to a schedule – It can be tough, but setting a regular schedule of naps and bedtime for your baby is highly beneficial and will pay off over time. If your infant misses a nap, try to keep them awake until the next nap time.

Tune into his/her cues – Put your infant down in a safe sleeping space as soon as they act sleepy. Maybe they rub their eyes, or get fussy. Learn to recognize these signals and initiate sleep. If your baby gets too tired, it may be hard for them to relax and rest.

Set a soothing nighttime routine – Give your baby a bath, sing lullabies, read a book or tell a story. These activities can relax your baby. They also signal that it's time to sleep. Do not get your baby excited with active play right before bedtime or naptime.

Eliminate distractions – When your baby is getting tired or it’s time for sleep, put them in the crib in a quiet, darkened room without noises or distractions.

Skip the rocker – When it comes to naptime or bedtime, try to avoid rocking your baby to sleep. Doing this repeatedly teaches the infant that they need you and this motion to fall asleep. Instead, rock them for a bit while you sing, read or chat, and then put them to sleep while they are drowsy but still awake.

Getting baby back to sleep

Nothing rouses a resting parent quite like the sound of their child crying through a baby monitor or across the hall. When your little one becomes fussy in the middle of the night, try these methods to address the issue and get back to bed.

Survey the situation – Start with the basics. Does your little one need a diaper change? Are they hungry? If so, change or feed them as quietly as possible, keeping the light at a safe but soft level. Try to avoid stimulating the baby through play or excitement. Once their need has been addressed, place them back in their crib.

Give it a minute – Periods of murmuring and restlessness every 50 to 60 minutes are a normal part of a baby's sleep cycle. The restlessness usually lasts a few minutes. When babies are left alone, they will usually fall back to sleep. Over time, you will become more familiar with your baby’s noises and needs.

Learn to recognize a bigger issue – If your baby is sick or seems scared, don’t rush your time with them. Provide comfort and utilize soothing strategies. If possible, ask your partner to relieve you so that each parent can get some sleep. Watch this video for more on how to console your baby.

You can help your baby become a good sleeper. The goal is to help them learn to self-soothe so that you don't become your baby's only source of comfort at sleep time. Don't worry that waking during the night will harm your baby's health. Babies will sleep when they are tired. If your infant is eating well and seems active and happy during the day, they are fine. If your baby is fussy and not eating well, or not acting the way you think they should, consult your pediatrician.

Safe sleep

Until your baby's first birthday, remember to put your baby down to sleep on their back and practice the ABCs of safe sleep – Alone, on their Back, in a Crib. When you know your baby is sleeping safely, you can sleep soundly.

For more on safe sleep, check out these posts:

Making the Rounds: Safe Sleep

Safe sleep for you and your baby

A safe sleep refresher

Are you taking these steps to keep baby safe during sleep?

Beyond the ABCs of safe sleep






Copyrighted material adapted with permission from Healthwise, Incorporated. This information does not replace the advice of a doctor.




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