Information for Parents and Carers of children aged 0-12 months.
How can sleep support babies?
Sleep is a natural process that not only helps to support our immune system but also regulates our body’s hormones so we can grow and repair our organs, muscles, and other cells. Sleep supports babies through a stage of intense development.
How much sleep does my child need?
It’s recommended that babies aged 0-3 months have 14-17 hours of sleep throughout a 24-hour period. This includes nap time throughout the day. Sleep patterns for new-borns can vary a lot. New-borns usually sleep in short bursts of 2-3 hours each, but others can sleep for up to 4 hours a time. New-borns sleep throughout the day and night because the -parts of their brain that control the day-night sleep cycles have not matured yet.
Younger infants up to 6 months tend to sleep on and off around the clock, waking every 1–3 hours to eat. As they near 4 months of age, sleep rhythms become more set. Most babies sleep 9–12 hours at night, usually with an interruption for feeding, and have 2–3 daytime naps lasting about 30 minutes to 2 hours each.
For more information on recommended sleep times, visit The Sleep Charity
What are the different types of sleep?
New-borns have two different kinds of sleep – active sleep and quiet sleep.
During active sleep, new-borns can easily be woken up; they move around a lot and make noises during this time.
During quiet sleep, new-borns are less likely to wake. They are still and will have heavy, regular and deep breathing.
A new-born will go through various 40-minute sleep cycles including both active and quiet sleep. At the end of each cycle, new-borns wake up for a little while, and may perhaps moan or cry. You might need to help baby settle.
How do I dress my baby for bed?
Babies can be wrapped from birth, until around 4 months when they start showing signs that they can roll onto their tummies.
Wrapping babies promotes safer sleep by encouraging them to sleep on their backs. Wrapping baby also helps them to settle to sleep.
If you choose to wrap your baby, use lightweight cotton or muslin wraps.
Wraps that are too high can obstruct a babies’ breathing and can also cause a baby to overheat. It is important that the wrap does not go above your baby’s shoulders or cover baby’s head, ears or chin.
It is also important to check that the wrap is not too tight around the baby’s chest and hips and that there is enough room for your baby to stretch their legs.
Underneath the wrap, put your baby in a nappy and singlet in warmer weather. You can add a lightweight grow suit in cooler weather.
Baby sleeping bags
An infant sleeping bag can be a good option for dressing your baby for a safer sleep. A correctly sized sleeping bag is the best way to keep your baby’s head and face uncovered. It is recommended that you use a sleeping bag that has a fitted neck and armholes but no hood.
An infant sleeping bag also helps to:
Some sleeping bags have a TOG (thermal overall grade) rating. This can help you decide which sleeping bag to use in different temperatures. Please note that a TOG rating is just a guide. It isn’t a safety standard.
The rating or instructions that come with the bag can also help you work out what clothes to put on your baby underneath the bag. Always check the temperature of the room too, this will help you decide what your baby should sleep in.
Top Tips for dressing your baby at night-time:
What is a sudden unexpected death in infancy (SUDI)?
When babies under one year die unexpectedly in their sleep, it’s often described as sudden unexpected death in infancy (SUDI).
When these deaths are investigated, they’re often found to be one of the following:
The risk of SUDI including SIDS and fatal sleeping accidents is greatest at 2-4 months, although the risk is there for the first 12 months.
All babies are at general risk of sudden unexpected death in infancy, including sudden infant death syndrome and fatal sleeping accidents.
This general risk increases when babies:
You can’t usually control extra underlying risk factors like a heart condition and your baby’s age, but you can reduce the overall risk of SUDI including SIDS and fatal sleeping accidents by following these safe sleeping tips:
Safer sleep tips:
Should I co-sleep with my baby?
Co-sleeping is when parents sleep on the same surface as their babies – for example, when they bring their babies into bed with them to sleep.
The safest place for a baby to sleep is in their own clear, flat, separate sleep space, such as a cot or Moses basket.
Although co-sleeping is associated with an increased risk of sudden unexpected death in infancy (SUDI) some parents do choose to have their babies in bed with them. It is important if bed sharing to follow this advice:
Sleeping with a baby on a sofa or chair is always unsafe. Move your baby to a safer sleep environment if you think you might fall asleep in a chair or sofa while holding your baby.
You should never bedshare with your baby if any of the following apply:
What is a new-born baby’s’ tired signs?
Your child’s tired signs let you know it is time to reduce stimulation and settle your child to sleep.
New-borns can get tired very quickly. Some are tired as soon as 1-1½ hours after waking. Others can be happy and keep playing without tired signs for two hours or more.
If your new-born is tired, you might see some of the following tired signs:
Is it normal for my baby to wake up during the night?
Although it can be exhausting for new parents, it is normal for babies to wake up in the night. This can be for a variety of reasons such as being uncomfortable, hot or cold or wanting comfort. Another reason is that babies often wake up to feed, generally every 3-4 hours.
There are lots of advantages of night feeding. Firstly, it maintains a good milk supply for the mother. Most breastfeeding mothers need to feed or express roughly every 2-3 hours during the early new-born days. In addition to this, a mother’s prolactin levels (the hormone designed to support milk production) is at it’s highest during the night time.
Breastmilk also is high in the amino acid tryptophan; this not only helps your baby to sleep better but also helps their internal systems to recognise the difference between day and night.
Between one and three months, your baby might start waking less often and have a longer period of sleep at night because overtime babies will not need milk to fall asleep or to support them to feel safe and calm as they will learn to self-regulate.
By the time your baby is around three months old, they might regularly be having a longer sleep at night – for example, around 4-5 hours. But you can expect that your baby will still wake at least once each night.
Can I have a sleep routine for my new-born?
All children need to be supported to develop a good sleep routine; they do not automatically have good sleeping habits. All babies are different and will start sleeping through at different times.
For new-borns, sleep during the early months occurs around the clock and the sleep-wake cycle is driven by the need to be fed, changed and given attention. The key is being flexible and following your baby’s lead.
Your baby’s tiredness cues will support you to understand when your baby wants to sleep or if they are hungry or need stimulation.
If it feels right for you, and your baby, it is okay to try to do things in a similar order. For example, you could try a simple routine of feed, play, sleep.
New-borns can be encouraged to sleep less during the day by exposing them to light and noise, and by playing more with them in the daytime. Putting a baby in a cot or moses basket during the day when they are sleepy can encourage self-settling. As evening approaches, the environment can be quieter and lighting dimmer with less activity.
Are there any rules for daytime napping?
Why can a baby struggle to sleep?
Many factors can lead to sleep problems. Sometimes babies can take a while to settle and get to sleep.
How should I respond if my baby will not stop crying?
It is important that if your baby is constantly crying at bedtime, parents should ensure their children are safe, but then walk away so they do not get frustrated and overwhelmed.
Infant crying is normal. Although babies can cry more frequently at 2 weeks old, after approximately 8 weeks babies will start to cry less as time goes on.
The ICON programme provides a simple message that supports parents/carers givers to cope with infant crying. ICON stands for the following:
I – Infant crying is normal
C – Comforting methods can help
O – It’s OK to walk away
N – Never shake a baby
The ICON programme has more information including comforting techniques and safety advise.
How can I reduce stimulation to settle my new-born?
If your child is showing signs of tiredness, reducing stimulation in their environment can help them settle to sleep.
You can do this through:
What might support my baby to have better sleep?
Fortunately, there are many practical ways to develop and improve your baby’s sleeping routine and habits. Here are a few suggestions that may help your family:
How do I know if my baby needs further support?
Although it is common for people to experience sleep problems, if your child experiences sleep problems regularly, you may need some support or advice.
Persistent sleep problems can affect your child and your whole family, so it’s important to seek help.
The first step is talking with your GP. You may then be referred to a paediatrician or other health professional who is trained in identifying and treating sleep problems in children.
How can the Cost-of-Living Crisis affect a child’s sleep?
You may be worried about how to keep your children warm this winter with the cost-of-living crisis. You may be concerned about paying your bills, trying to keep your home warm, keeping draughts out and keeping your baby warm.
The recommended room temperature is 16-20 degrees. Keeping your children at the right temperature during the night can be challenging. As our body temperature drops overnight, children may wake up if they are too cold. It can be tempting to wrap your baby up to keep them warm, however it is important that they do not get too hot either.
These helpful tips from the sleep charity advise you how to help keep your children warm at night this winter, but in a safe and cost-effective way:
If you are worried about or struggling to pay your bills do seek help, the
following may be able to help:
Are there any useful resources to support child sleep?
The Sleep Charity- Relaxation at Bedtime Advice Sheets
The Sleep Charity Sleep Advice For Infants
The Gentle Sleep Book: Gentle, No-Tears, Sleep Solutions for Parents of Newborns to Five-Year-Olds (2015) by Sarah Ockwell- Smith
Babies cry, you can cope resource- ICON
What are the sources used for information on this page?
The Sleep Charity- https://thesleepcharity.org.uk
The Royal College of Paediatrics and Child Health- https://www.rcpch.ac.uk/resources/health-impacts-screen-time-guide-clinicians-parents
The Lullaby Trust- https://www.lullabytrust.org.uk/safer-sleep-advice/safer-sleep-winter/ and https://www.lullabytrust.org.uk/safer-sleep-advice/#
La Leche League GB- https://www.laleche.org.uk/breastfeeding-at-night/