Babies : Sleep
Updated: Feb 5
Between 3 and 9 months of age your baby will be even more adjusted to their sleep schedule, though all babies are different and you may have a long sleeper or a night-long screamer. During this time you may both be working hard at your sleep routines and self settling, with a few cheat nights here and there of course when you may just be exhausted and need to soothe your baby in your arms to get them to sleep. Every rule can be broken at some point but always remember babies thrive on routine so try not to disrupt their schedule too often.
From approximately 9-12 months you will all be settling into sleep cycles which suit your family, but don’t be alarmed if at this stage there are some major sleep disturbances as your baby may be facing major milestones in cognitive and motor development and possibly the onset of separation anxiety, which are all natural stages in a babies life. Night weaning may be beginning to take place too so your baby may still be waking expecting feeds and may become upset when they realise a feed is not forthcoming!
Whether you are still feeding at night or not, if your babies sleep is still not settled or they have seemed to regress slightly with their sleep routine development, talk to your Healthcare professional about possible sleep training techniques, and remember to continue with your established routines and watch for any changes.
Where will your Baby Sleep?
Where you put your baby down to sleep depends entirely on where you decide is best for your whole family. Some newborns and babies need more closeness while sleeping, others may need it later as they deal with normal sleep issues such as nighttime separation anxiety. Aside from getting a good night’s sleep – which is vital for you too – implementing good sleeping patterns early on in a child’s life can help develop positive sleep attitude for their lives ahead.
It is widely recognised that sharing a sleep environment with your baby, when done safely, can be a healthy experience for both baby and parents alike. Co-sleeping is defined as sharing a sleeping environment with your baby so that the parent or carer is within close range and can comfort or feed their baby more conveniently. There is also evidence that co-sleeping may reduce problems your baby may be having with sleep as you are quickly and easily able to respond and settle them.
It is important to note that co-sleeping is not the same as ‘co-bedding’ or ‘sleep-sharing’, meaning the baby is within a crib, cot or bassinet in your bedroom, but not in the same bed. Many studies express concern for the safety of a baby which sleeps in the same bed as his or her parents/carers – due to the risk of suffocation.
You may find if your babies needs are met faster by having them close-by at nighttime, they may fuss or cry less often since your response time is naturally faster. It may also help you learn their cues better.
Wherever you decide to have your baby sleep, ultimately it comes down to what’s right for you and your baby. Whether your baby shares your room before moving into their own nursery, or has their own bedroom straight away, you will decide what’s best for you. Remember as with all aspects of parenting – the rules can always change, and your situations must always feel right and be unique to you and your baby.
Sleep Patterns - What to Expect
By around 3 months of age most babies sleep a total of 15 hours a day including naps. By 4 months your baby may have developed a more regular sleeping pattern and may have dropped some of their night feeds. This isn’t to say you need to impose a strict sleeping routine as soon your baby reaches this age, and you may already have techniques to settle your baby down for sleep – whether it’s a bath and changing into their pyjamas, or a lullaby or reading or rocking them.
Now may be the time when you might like to try some sleep training techniques so that your baby can sleep for longer and you can get into a more regular habit. Its important to remember that all babies develop at their own pace and if your baby doesn’t react well to sleep training or if she doesn’t seem ready, you can always come back to it in a few weeks or try something new.
After your baby is around 6 months of age you may find they are beginning to sleep through the night – defined as uninterrupted sleep between around midnight and 5am, with two or three naps during the day. This is an important milestone not just for your baby, but for you as well, allowing you both to get restful sleep and feel fresh and rested in the morning. If your baby is not sleeping through the night at this point, don’t despair. Many babies will still be waking for one or two feeds during the night, but generally a full term 6-month-old baby may be ready for night weaning at this stage. If you enjoy nursing at night and are not sleep deprived or feeling stressed, then you may feel there’s no reason to stop.
But if you are exhausted, then you may wish to begin the process of night weaning. Consider that your baby may still be needing night feeds for a variety of reasons. If you work during the day you may like to feed at night to connect and spend time with your baby. You may also notice your baby wake more often if they are teething, ill, or going through a developmental change.
It is important to approach the night weaning process gradually and gently. Your baby is still very young and has a tremendous need for comfort, closeness and reassurance. Even if your baby does not need to feed in the middle of the night, they may still wake up wanting to. Babies will wake out of habit and it will take some time to adjust this routine.
By around 9 months most babies will be sleeping through the night, while still having naps in the daytime, generally one in the morning and one in the afternoon. Your baby may have dropped one of these naps by 12 months and most babies by this age are sleeping straight through the night. If you aren’t sure when your baby is ready to sleep through the night - as always, talk to your healthcare provider.
raisingchildren.net.au. (2019). Sleep & sleep cycles: babies, kids, teens. Retrieved from https://raisingchildren.net.au/newborns/sleep/understanding-sleep/about-sleep
raisingchildren.net.au. (2020, May 22). Baby sleep: 2-12 months. Retrieved from https://raisingchildren.net.au/babies/sleep/understanding-sleep/sleep-2-12-months