Advice For Parents

Baby sleep cycles: What to expect in the first 12 months

August 10, 2022   By Jennifer Cook

According to current metrics, almost a thousand babies are born each day in Australia. Meaning that each night, across the country, countless new mums and dads are trying to get their little ones to sleep. While it’s a magical time, we also commiserate because getting your precious gift to sleep in their first 12 months of life can be trying.

Yup. As even veteran parents can attest, identifying and adjusting to your baby’s sleep pattern is no easy feat. You can never read too much research about the topic, either, as each birth, and subsequent development is unique.

While we’re no pediatric or healthcare experts, we ARE obsessed with helping your family sleep better. So we did some investigating and came across lots of information about deep and quiet sleep and its effect on children’s health, especially infants. Here’s what we found out – we hope it helps you all sleep soundly.

Bedtimes Through the Months

The sleeping habits and bedtime routine of children 12 – months and below are typically tricky to pinpoint for new parents. As well as second, third or even fourth-timers. That first year or so of child care acts as a test for most mums and dads, and there is little to no room for error.

To help you ace the infant stage, here are some things you should expect to encounter when it comes to your little one’s sleep needs. From fluctuating hours of sleep to your newborn’s developing circadian rhythm – and everything in between!

Birth to 3 Months

Newborn babies are notoriously bed-dependent, but their bedtimes vary. At this age, a baby’s sleep needs differ dramatically, and your little one might clock anything between 8 and 18 hours daily. If yours sleeps for longer stretches, consider yourself lucky, s most conk out for short periods in between changes and feeds. This erratic sleep routine covers daytime naps as well as nightly snoozing, so it’s no wonder new parents are so exhausted.

Some believe babies begin to understand the concept of day and night after six weeks, so, before that, they have a hard time adjusting to their circadian rhythm. That’s a possible explanation for why they wake you up in the middle of the night – bless their little cotton socks.

You also need to prepare more milk during this period as babies usually wake up hungry. So better keep those bottle warmers at the ready!

3 to 6 Months

Here, the amount of sleep where babies make noise, groan, or move about – known as active sleep- lessens. Some babies might even sleep up to 8 of their 14-15 hours overnight. But it’s not all smooth sailing. Sorry parents!

What makes this a trying part of your baby’s sleep stages is the 4-month sleep regression that often sets in here. This is where babies’ sleep patterns change, – with less napping during the day and, unfortunately for everyone with an adult’s sleep cycle, more waking up through the night.

There’s no need to fret that much, though. Although it comes with the word regression, the 4th-month goalpost also means that your baby starts to gain a definite sleep pattern that will only improve as they develop further. And the regression is short-lived, usually lasting two to four weeks.

6 to 12 Months

Want some good news? After toughing it out through months of fussing and not getting enough deep sleep of your own, your little angel’s bedtime patterns will (touch wood) start to resemble yours. This is when your investment in sleep training will show results.

For some infants, this is also the stage in their development where they show signs of improving fine motor and communication skills like sitting up alone, pointing at things, and looking at picture books. There may be some sleep regression in this period but fear not. It’s typically as drastic as the 4th-month struggle.

Some Reminders

Now we’re acquainted with how a newborn sleeps in the first 12 months of life, it’s time for a refresher on things that can help bub enjoy a good nighttime sleep.

Be Mindful of SIDS

We understand that this acronym can be incredibly triggering, but we do feel it’s necessary to start with a talk about SIDS, or Sudden Infant Death Syndrome.

As can be gleaned from its name, SIDS is the unexplained and unexpected death of children, commonly less than one-year-old. SIDS is concerning because it can blindside parents even when they’re taking every precaution to ensure their baby’s safe sleep.

Hope springs eternal, however, and there are organisations and institutions comprised of experts dedicated to combating this terrible syndrome. Foremost of which is Red Nose.

Red Nose is an entity that works toward the understanding and eventual eradication of SIDS. Aside from undertaking research, Red Nose also shares useful tips for new parents to help prevent SIDS and other sleep problems.

One way that Red Nose actively help parents combat SIDS is through a certification initiative that labels products that are deemed safe and effective for infant sleep.

An example of an item that meets the Red Nose Safe Sleeping criteria is the Ecosa Cot Mattress. With an innovative Nestflow Core for excellent breathability and ideal infant firmness level, the Ecosa Cot Mattress is designed to help your baby sleep soundly and safely. While also allowing you to sleep easy.

Established a Sleep Schedule

While cuddling is a must for all young babies, you can’t be doing only that for whole 24-hour periods. No matter how cute they are with their pacifiers and swaddling clothes.

To ensure that children get all the support they need while still developing, it’s essential to help them set a regular sleep schedule.

This should start with limiting screen time, ensuring their sleeping area is reasonably dim and neither too cold nor warm. It’s also best to restrict playtime activities in their bedroom or sleeping area when it’s almost time for bed. This helps reinforce to your child from early on that that spot is for, well, sleeping.

Understand Your Baby’s Prompts

While older babies, like some two-year-olds, can speak a word or two, sadly, the same can’t be said for infants. Although maybe that’s for the best…

Kidding aside, it’s important to pay attention to the communication prompts your little bundle of joy can give. These may be in the form of a cry, yawns, little energy for play and heavy eyelids. Once you figured these out, their needs will be crystal clear. No words required.

Sleeping Like a Baby

Parents who manage to get their babies sleeping throughout the night will tell you how wonderful that feels, as they can get much-needed shut-eye themselves.

The first twelve months of your baby’s life outside the womb can be exhausting – for everyone involved! So we hope this info will help you settle your bub into a sleep routine that works for you all. Remember though, you’re not alone. And, like all difficult times, this too shall pass. Good luck!

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