Whether you’re pregnant, adjusting to life with a newborn, or raising a toddler, it’s likely that sleep is something you can’t get enough of these days. When your kiddo is a busy bee by day and a nocturnal creature by night, it’s a wonder you haven’t turned into a zombie yet. We feel your pain.
Sleep is one of life’s necessities (and a hot commodity after your tiny human enters the scene). While crucial for adults, it’s especially important for babies and children because optimal sleep can support their physical and mental development, boosting their mood, behavior, and overall health.
But babies and their zzzs are baffling at best, From birth through adolescence, your child’s sleep habits shift and change as their biological clock works to sync with a 24-hour cycle. In other words, your baby’s internal circadian rhythm doesn’t yet equate daylight with being awake and night time with snoozing. All this intermittent sleeping and waking leaves many bleary-eyed parents to wonder whether their child is getting enough shut-eye.
The National Sleep Foundation suggests these guidelines:
Newborns (0-3 months old): 14-17 hours per day
- Many babies prefer falling asleep on their tummies, but according to the American Academy of Pediatrics, this is a big no-no. The back is where it’s at! If your tiny nugget just can’t get cozy sleeping in this position, test out a few different swaddle and sleep sack options to help them feel snug in the crib or bassinet.
- If your newborn is struggling to reach their sleep quota, create an environment that’s reminiscent of their old home (aka: the womb!). Along with a comfortable swaddle, try using blackout curtains, a white noise machine, and plenty of rocking/swaying/bouncing
- While nothing about your baby is predictable right now, their sleep routine should be! A solid nap schedule and evening routine (a bath, story and snuggle session) will teach them that certain activities = bedtime.
- When midnight diaper duty calls, keep stimuli to a minimum so your baby knows that it’s not time to rise and shine yet. Speak to them in a soft voice (if at all), avoid eye contact, and leave the light switch OFF.
Toddlers (1-2 years old): 11-14 hours per day
- It’s true: toddlers hate being told what to do. If bedtime is feeling more and more like a recurring nightmare, try giving your kiddo some ownership. Maybe they get to pick the nighttime story or lullaby. Maybe they’re tasked with putting that well-loved doll or stuffed animal “to bed.” Whatever "control" you give them, be sure to keep things simple. This or that options are much better for toddlers than open-ended questions.
- Boost baby’s melatonin (that incredible hormone that helps regulate the sleep-wake cycle in our bodies) by spending extra time outdoors in the sunshine. There’s never been a better reason for a trip to the park!
When your baby's schedule is anything but consistent, it can be tricky to know if they’re spending enough time in dreamland. We suggest keeping a log. Throughout the day, write down when your baby falls asleep, when they wake up, and the reasons they wake up (For a feeding? For a diaper change?). There are also plenty of apps available to help you track these details. You might be surprised to learn that your cutie is sleeping enough - it just doesn’t seem that way when you’ve been awake since 4 a.m.
Don’t forget about mom and dad! People ages 18-64 should hit the hay for about 7-9 hours per night. Real talk: We know it’s near impossible to get that kind of uninterrupted sleep with a child under the roof, so getting your zzzs takes some creativity. Nap whenever possible, alternate nightly feeding and diaper duty with your partner, accept any and all help throughout the day, and practice good sleep hygiene (like limited screen time and caffeine at night).
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