Tag Archives: infant sleep

How to Help Your Baby Sleep Well

Once your baby starts to have more sleep at night (about 7 weeks old), you can start to teach them to sleep well. At this point, you can observe when your child is sleepy, and put them down to sleep at that time. The first signs of sleepiness are that your child will become quiet, will stop making eye contact, and will no longer be interested in toys. If your baby starts rubbing her eyes or is fussy, then she is getting overtired. Gradually the times that your child naps will become routine, consolidating into two naps after 6 months of age.

Sleep is interesting because it is shaped by both our physiology and our habits. Here are some habits that will help your baby sleep well.
– Have a bedtime routine that is consistent each night, for instance “Bath, bottle, book, bed.” Write this down and post it so everyone who puts the baby to bed can do it the same way. Research shows that after just 3 weeks of a consistent, relaxing bedtime routine, babies fell asleep more quickly, woke less in the night, and return to sleep more easily.
– Put the baby to bed sleepy but still awake, so that he learns to fall asleep by himself.
– Be thoughtful about the sleep environment your child falls asleep in, and make sure it will be the same during night wakenings so he can return to sleep easily. For example, if the room will be dark and quiet in the middle of the night, it should be dark and quiet when he is put to bed at the beginning of the night.
– Decide what strategy you will use in the middle of the night to help the baby return to sleep, and be consistent each time. Again, post this strategy so you can refer to it in the middle of the night when you are tired.

The most important thing to teach your infant is that when she is sleepy she goes to sleep, and the way to help her fall asleep easily is to be consistent with good sleep habits.

You can learn more about Naturopathic Sleep Medicine at www.naturalsleepmedicine.net.

Infant Sleep Needs

When infants are 6-8 weeks old they will start to have more sleep at night, and less during the day. Their circadian system is starting to become entrained by the environmental light / dark cues.

By 6 months of age, 70-80% of babies are capable of sleeping 5-6 hours at a stretch in the night. Remember though, just like adults, babies will wake 4 to 5 times a night, at the end of each sleep cycle. This is when they may have difficulty returning to sleep on their own and call out to you.

Here’s how an infant’s sleep needs change over the first years:
– Newborns sleep 16-20 hours total
– 3-6 mos olds sleep 12-15 hours total
– 6-9 mos olds sleep 11.5-15 hours total
– 9-12 mos olds sleep 11-14 hours total
– 12-36 mos olds sleep 12-13 hours total

Infant Sleep Diary

The Infant Sleep Diary below is for one day of data.  Keep this diary for 3-4 days, then take the time to analyze it.  The primary thing to look for is consistency:

  • Are the times the same each day?
  • Is the location of bedtime or naps the same each day?
  • Is the order of activities the same?

The answer to each of these questions should be yes.  Research into infant sleep has shown that many sleep routines work well, so long as they are consistent.  For sleep deprived parents, this consistency can be hard, but it will pay off in the end with a child who falls asleep more quickly, and has fewer night-time wakenings.

Naps During the Day

  Nap 1 Nap 2 Nap 3
Start time      
How long to fall asleep      
Total sleep      
Who put baby down      
Activities 10 minutes before sleep, in order      

 Evening Bedtime


How long to fall asleep:

Who put baby down:


Activities 20 minutes before:

Wake time:

Wakenings During the Night

  Wakening 1 Wakening 2 Wakening 3
Wake at time      
How long awake      
Who cared for baby      
Activities during waking      

Total sleep for last 24 hours:

The Infant and Family Sleep System

There’s no doubt about it, parenting can be hard.  For all those new parents, one of the biggest challenges is helping your infant get to sleep.  The other challenge is to get enough sleep yourself.

Whenever a family talks with me about their infant’s sleep, I also look at the parents sleep.  With all that data about sleep deprivation causing mood and performance impairments, it’s clear that when parents are sleep deprived, they are going to have more difficulty parenting. 

When working with these young families, I encourage them to write down a sleep plan for the family.  The first section is to establish a sleep routine for the child that is consistent, regardless of which caregiver they are with each day.  Parts of this plan should include:

1.  Pre-bed routine that happens before each nap and night-time sleep.  Components can include feeding, rocking, a song or book, a clean diaper.  Doing these activities in a predictable order before each sleep period will help your infant know when to sleep.

2.  An approximate time for each nap and bedtime.  These times will become more established as the infant gets older.

The second section of the sleep plan should be about the parents.  Start by thinking about how much sleep you need to feel good and function well each day.  Segments of this plan can include:

1.  A ‘rest’ or ‘stop’ time about an hour before bed that you will stop doing tasks and switch into relaxing activities. 

2. A bedtime and waketime for each adult which allows enough sleep time.  This should take into account any night-time care that disturbs sleep.  Frequently one of the parents will do most of the night-time care for the children.  If possible,  plan for that care-giver to be “off-duty” at least one or two nights a week so that they can have uninterrupted sleep.  In our household, when we had an infant my husband took care of the baby on Friday nights while I slept in the guest bed, and that solid sleep was so valuable!

Coming up on January 26th I’ll be speaking about infant sleep at the Good Sheperd Center for PEPS (program for early parenting support).  More information at www.naturalsleepmedicine.net under Events.