A topic often discussed when having a newborn at home, especially for first-time parents, is about the baby’s sleep pattern, due to all the dependency the newborn has and the lack of a consistent sleep like ours, in addition to the anxiety of being able to return to the regular lifestyle, without being totally occupied with your little one and lost with so many new things around you on top of so much novelty and unpredictability. Many parents end up worrying about when this phase will end, and their child will have a more peaceful, long night’s sleep. 

Sleep is one of the essential needs for human development, especially when you are a baby. But it is necessary to be careful because the right amount of sleep varies from each child that goes from organism to organism, and there is no way to define the exact number of hours per day that will serve as a standard for all babies. It is necessary that parents are attuned and do a lot of observation to understand the needs of their unique child and have regular check-ins with the pediatrician. 

What does the research say?

This lack of concrete information, which is natural with regards to studies of human behavior and the body, can make parents even more confused. In order to make parents more relaxed and to avoid using unnecessary methods or medications, several studies have been done regarding the baby’s sleep patterns and variations.

Scientists were able to find a consensus on the sleep amounts that contribute to child development. In the case of children who cannot reach this minimum of hours of sleep, it is very likely that they will need interventions and help from specialized health professionals to grow and develop well. 

According to the survey, an eight-month-old baby falls asleep within 40 minutes, and a child, who is one year old, should not wake up more than three times during the night. Please note these are the higher limit. Ideally, your baby takes 15 to 30minutes to fall asleep, and your one-year-old isn’t waking up during the night.

When do you need to be extra cautious?

If your child spends a lot of time during the night awake, you should turn on the alert; the estimate is: 

If your child is one year old and takes more than 30 minutes to sleep, it is already an indication that you may need help from a specialized professional and perhaps go through some sleep coaching. If the baby falls asleep in less time, it is considered normal, just like waking up to twice during the night and staying awake for a while. 

Study findings

There was a recent Finnish study on the subject, with more than 5700 children, in which it sought to understand when sleep variation should be considered a cause for concern for parents. The information was collected on their little ones’ emotional development, such as the family environment and children’s sleep at various childhood development stages, from prenatal to the second year of life. They also assessed the quality of rest through physical examinations, such as pulse rate meters and polysomnography tests. 

The first result may calm the parents a little; the team concluded that sleep, in fact, has many variations in this period of development. But the good news is that it usually occurs until the age of two. Around the age of two, children wake up on average only once during the night. Sleep quality is also more stable and consistent. The results of the studies were published in the Sleep Medicine Journal. 

A consistent and healthy routine

We have also talked in other posts about the importance and role of routine in children’s development. We can pay attention to what the research says to provide peace of mind, but the main thing is to install and maintain a healthy sleep routine as early as possible. Around 4 to 6 months, any habits – good and bad – start to consolidate, so try to observe your baby and learn from the signs they will give you. 

An irritated baby late in the day is a sign of overstimulation and deficit of sleep. Quality naps during the day should be at least 90 minutes long, and when babies are still in the first months, they should not be awake for more than 60-90 minutes.

You will also learn, by watching your little one carefully, that sometimes, the feedings in the middle of the night are commonly more for comfort than hunger. Sometimes, the dream feed is unnecessary, as you notice how it is getting increasingly difficult for your baby to suck while asleep, and you find yourself forcing that meal. 

Are there other factors that influence the sleep pattern?

If the baby does not conform to the sleep pattern I described above based on the studies, be aware of other factors. It is necessary to consider the child’s overall well-being and their environment – if there has been any change in their routine, or if the parents are more tired and stressed, the amount of stimulation, interaction the baby is getting, etc. All of these factors influence a child’s development.