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Sleeping Babies = Happy Families

Your Baby

Helping your baby learn healthy sleep habits is one of the greatest gifts you can give him/her.  Sleep habits don't come naturally, they are learned and the habits that are developed early in life tend to stay throughout the entire lifespan.

Babies don't always know when they need sleep and how much sleep they need.  Depending upon their temperament and personality, sleep habits may be easy to establish or not so easy.  It is our job as parents to teach our kids what we know is right for them.  This is the beginning of laying a foundation of healthy limit setting and helping our kids to feel safe and secure because they know that we will give them the guidance they need.

These are some guidelines for the number of hours of sleep children need, but like any type of development there is always a range.

Average Sleep Patterns in Babies

Age  Total Hours
Newborn: 16 - 18 hours per day
1 month: 15 - 16 hours per day
3 months: 15 hours per day
6 months: 14 - 15 hours per day
9 months: 14 hours per day
1 year: 13 - 14 hours per day
2 years: 13 hours per day
3 years: 12 hours per day
4 years: 11 1/2 hours per day
5 years: 11 hours per day

The understanding of your child's temperament plays a very important role in teaching healthy sleep habits.  It is important to know who your child is and how he/she experiences the world before deciding on a sleep technique for getting your child to sleep through the night.

If you are unhappy or uncomfortable with how things are going, that is the warning sign that something needs to be changed.  There are many books and many schools of thought on the issue of sleep. Experts believe in anything from "crying it out" to falling asleep with your child and many other options.  I believe it is essential to choose a philosophy that works for you and your family and to stick with it.  Consistency is the key to success.

There are many reasons why babies' sleep patterns get disturbed.  It may be illness, teething, and even developmental milestones causing your child to awaken during the night after sleeping through the night regularly.  Be sure to address the underlying cause for as many days as necessary, but be sure to help your child get back into the old pattern as quickly as possible.

Over-tiredness is another reason children do not sleep.  It seems paradoxical, but if a child is allowed to become overtired, his/she may become over stimulated and then sleep becomes very difficult.  Be sure to learn your child's cues for sleep and allow him/her to rest at that time whenever possible.  Do not do stimulating movements in an attempt to soothe or comfort your child to sleep, such as active rocking, bouncing, etc...  Make movements as gentle as possible.

When attempting to create a new habit, be patient.  It takes time to teach new behaviors, new routines and to train the baby's body to respond.

An essential element to healthy sleep habits is a calm, comforting bedtime routine.  This may include a warm, quiet bath; a bottle or breastfeeding; even a book and a couple of songs.  Make the ritual short and simple and repeat it in the same order each night.  The child will soon learn the order and know that when the last part of the routine is done, sleep comes next.

One of my favorite tools available to parents is the "transitional object".  This is a silky, lovey, teddy bear, blanket, whatever you like.  An association is made with the mother's comfort and the object then creates comfort for the child even when mother isn't around.  I believe that the independence and self-soothing that this allows the child makes them feel strong and less fearful in the long-term.  It can also help a child comfort him/herself to sleep during the night without having to awaken Mom and Dad.


One very important reason to teach your child(ren) healthy sleep habits is because you need your rest, too.  Parents need rest in order to feel ready to tackle the next day with active children.

When your children sleep well, you sleep well.  It is especially hard for some parents to fall back to sleep once they are awakened in the night.  If necessary to get through the day, take a nap when your child naps.  This will help you get through the rough spots of sleep deprivation.

Helpful Tips

Put your child to sleep at the same time each night.

Have a consistent and comforting bedtime routine.

Put him/her to sleep in the same place every night.

If your child awakens in the night, do not turn on lights or television.  Do not stimulate your baby.  Let him/her know it is time for sleep through your actions.

Put your baby to sleep awake so when he/she awakens in the night, he/she will know how to put him/herself back to sleep easily.

Don't rush to your baby's side if he/she awakens in the night.  Sometimes a baby will wake up briefly and will get back to sleep him/herself.

Don't be quiet and tiptoe around your sleeping child.  Train him/her to sleep anywhere with lots of noise around. (This may not work with a child who is highly-sensitive to sounds)

Handle fears with compassion and comfort.  Help your child to feel confident that he/she is ok on his/her own.

When attempting to change a sleep pattern, get support from friends or family, if needed, to get through it.

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