When it comes to raising a baby, one of the most trying endeavors and struggles revolve around sleep. Infants come into this world sleeping the majority of their days away for the first few weeks. Then, as they grow and develop into definitive patterns of sleep and wakefulness, parents then become the most important influence in developing good sleeping habits. And this, unfortunately, is not always easy.
The importance of naps for a baby is something that should NOT be overlooked. Practically every piece of parenting advice in this world offers a different view on just how many naps your baby should take (according to age) and how much sleep they should be getting in a 24-hour period. This leaves parents to deal with the outside pressures of ensuring that they their baby is sleeping enough. Plus, one of the number one causes of a fussy baby is the lack of adequate sleep. When your baby is well rested, they function better when they are awake and are much easier to deal with. Truth is, the naps are also important for the parents taking care of the baby as well, because they offer some down time that parents can use to recharge their batteries and actually get some things done.
So, the big question IS – how much should your baby be sleeping?
The following sleep chart gives you an estimate of how much sleep is recommended for your baby, based on age. It comes courtesy of the Pediatric Sleep Counsel.
|Age||Night Sleep||Day Sleep||Total Sleep|
|1 mo||8.5 hrs||7hrs (3 naps)||15.5 hrs|
The “Day Sleep” times are the amount of time your baby should spend napping during the day. In early childhood development, much of the fast growth and cognitive development of your child occurs during sleep. Additionally, the body heals itself during sleep cycle – which is why your baby may sleep more when they are ill or not feeling well.
The most important thing to remember is that the above chart is simply a GUIDELINE! One of the major sources of frustration for parents is that they see a chart like this, yet they have a 3 year old that refuses to sleep during the day at all. Every child is hardwired a little differently, and you as a parent – have to come up with your own sleep chart that is based on your individual child’s needs. If your child needs more or less sleep to operate well during the day – then simply make allowances in the sleep schedule.
The worst thing you can do as a parent is force your child to sleep. If you want to put your baby down for a nap, and they do not want to sleep – then realize that the quiet time resting can be just as rejuvenating for your baby as a 1-hour nap. If you force your child to sleep – then you will find that you will spend more time with them fighting sleep (rebellious) and that you will begin to make a bad association with bedtime. Make taking a nap fun. If your baby is not the kind of baby that does well being left to their own devices to fall asleep (The Ferber Method) then simply rock them for a little bit, or lie down with them and read a book. At the end of the day, your child should be able to associate rest time, naptime, or quiet time with something comfortable, and for many babies this means that mom and dad need to participate in a small way. Many studies have shown that there is not ONE definitive method of developing sleep patterns in a baby that is better than any other is. As the parent or caregiver, you should feel at ease initiating a naptime routine that works best for you and your situation.
Additionally, the most important thing to remember is that young children need their down time. Infants, babies, and toddlers experience so much crucial development in the course of one day – that sleep is definitely a health requirement. Everything from your child’s dental health to their behavior hinges on adequate sleep. (Adequate meaning ‘adequate’ for YOUR child) And, sleep ensures that your child is not overly frustrated or edgy, and that they get some relief from the often-overwhelming world. Naptime can also help children to concentrate more clearly, when they are awake – and increases their energy and metabolism during the day when they are awake.
At the end of the day, parents need to rely on their own instincts. Don’t become so wrapped up in a stringent sleep schedule – that you forget your child’s sleep needs may change on a daily or weekly basis as they grow up. Additionally, learn to recognize the signs of your child being overly tired, which would indicate that they aren’t getting enough sleep. And, try to develop a flexible routine so that your child will be able to transition to naptime more easily during the day. Use your baby to get your cues which will help you decide whether or not they are getting ample sleep.
Remember as well, that 8 out of every 10 parents have sleep issues with their child in the first three years of life. The best way to handle any sleep issues that arise is to tailor a plan to YOUR baby. Then, when you find what works for him or her – go with it. In the end, realize that ‘this too shall pass’ and your baby WILL eventually evolve into a sleep schedule that works for them.