Newborn Sleep Schedules: Parent's Guide to Patterns and Cycles by Age

Newborn Sleep Schedules: Parent's Guide to Patterns and Cycles by Age

With a newborn at home, you’re probably asking yourself, “When will I get to sleep again?!” It can be a trying time as your baby’s sleeping schedule and sleep patterns are unpredictable, and you cannot see an end in sight. As your baby grows, their sleeping patterns will change, which will hopefully give you some relief in the ZZZ’s department. 

You know by this point that every baby is different, and no two babies' sleep schedules will be the same. As you get to know your baby, you’ll be able to recognize their sleepy signals and patterns of sleep. We will be discussing the general trends that occur at each age stage, so you can get an idea of how your baby’s sleep schedule will change as they get older. 

As you’ve probably read or heard from everyone you’ve encountered as a new parent, a sleep schedule is important for both your newborn baby and you! 

Although your baby’s sleep pattern in the early days may be inconsistent, starting to follow a plan for nighttime sleep, in the beginning, will be helpful as your child grows and begins to sleep for longer periods of time. 

As your baby adjusts, you can modify your schedule based on their routines

Zero to Three Months

The newborn stage can be a weird stage for parents. Newborns can sleep for up to 17 hours a day, but only for short increments at a time. You and the baby are stuck in a “sleep, eat, diaper change” cycle, also known as “survival mode” for many parents. 

Not only do you have a new life in the home, your own sleeping schedule is completely thrown off the tracks. The short increments of sleep can be the most difficult part for parents, as you’re not able to get a good night’s rest or practice healthy sleep habits

The reason that a baby’s sleep comes in short increments is because they get hungry more often, their tiny tummies can only hold a small amount of milk or formula

To help with this distinction, when your baby is awake during the day, make sure that they are near windows that allow natural light to come into the room or brighten the space with lamps. Taking your baby outside for walks also exposes them to natural light and some fresh air, and is good for you, too! 

Start Building a Sleep Routine 

When you are winding down in the evening, dimming the lights and making sure there are no overly loud noises can help your baby adjust to sleeping more at night than during the day. Making these distinctions can help your baby as they develop their circadian rhythm

During the day, expect your baby to be awake for only 30 minutes to one hour and then sleep for any amount up to three hours. You may have tricks for helping your baby fall asleep, like rocking or holding them gently as you walk around the house. These tricks may be the one thing helping you get some type of sleep now, but be careful that your baby doesn’t rely on these activities to get them to sleep every time. The sleep patterns of a newborn will change over time, and the average newborn can easily become too accustomed to having their parents around at bedtime.

In the newborn stage, it may be difficult to set or maintain a sleep schedule as your baby is calling the shots. One way to preserve the schedule is to determine when your baby’s daytime routine starts by exposing them to light and keeping household noises at their normal level. 

In the evening, about a half-hour before what you would consider as their “bedtime,” you can dim the lights and wind down the louder household noises. You can swaddle your baby to help keep them snug, warm, and hopefully comfy enough to fall asleep. 

As a newborn, your baby has a reflex called the Moro reflex, which responds to loud sounds. When your baby hears this sound, their arms and legs will extend rapidly. Babies can even wake themselves up when this reflex is triggered. Swaddling can help prevent your baby from waking themselves up. 

Three to Six Months

As your baby reaches three months, their time awake between naps will increase, usually two to three hours.  Your baby will sleep between 12 to 14 hours per day. You’ll also know your baby better and will recognize their signs of sleepiness. 

Having a set sleeping schedule may have become easier, and now you can focus on creating a bedtime routine to help your baby recognize when it is time for bed. Keeping a consistent routine and good sleep habits is the best way to ensure that your child will have a good night’s sleep. 

Look for Signs of Soothing

Keep a watch on things that are soothing to your baby, and incorporate them into their bedtime routine. This may be listening to soft music, rocking in their nursery, or a relaxing bath with bath toys

Scents 

One of the best smells in the world is the smell of a freshly bathed baby in their clean pajamas. We are instantly transported to that cozy moment when we catch a whiff of their soap or lotion. The smell is a powerful scent that is linked to the brain, and your baby can also be affected by scent. 

Using certain scents can be relaxing to your child, and helps to foster a restful environment. When bathing your baby, try using a Calendula Shampoo & Body Wash to cleanse from head to toe before placing them in their bassinet

The gentle fragrance can help create a snoozy environment for falling asleep and staying asleep. If you have been rocking your baby to sleep up to this point, it may help to start reducing the time you rock your baby and start placing them in their sleeping space while they are still drowsy.

This will help your baby to start falling asleep on their own. 

New Changes 

As your baby reaches four months, you may start to notice new changes in their sleeping routine. Maybe they are fussier in the evenings or wake up more frequently during the night. 

For many parents, this is the dreaded four-month sleep regression

According to research, when babies are younger, they can reach a level of deep sleep more quickly than adults, staying in that deep sleep cycle for longer. As they reach four months in age, their sleep starts to cycle like an adult, with periods of lighter sleep and deeper sleep. 

During these periods of lighter sleep, it is easier for your baby to wake up. Of course, your baby may have experienced this regression at three months, or they may experience it at five or six months. 

Remember, every baby is different, or you may be very lucky and your baby will not experience this rough patch at all!

Developmental Milestones

You may see your baby starting to roll over and becoming more active during the day. They are also growing like a weed! You may notice that clothes that fit just last week may be too short or small for your baby this week.

These physical developments can also be a factor in sleep regression as your baby needs more energy and may require more milk or formula during feeding times. Make sure your baby receives enough nutrition during the day to help prevent hunger from waking them up.

If you have been swaddling your baby up to this point, it may be time to wean them off the swaddle if they have started to roll over. You may also notice that your baby has been trying to escape their swaddle if they have one or both arms out of their blanket

If you see this happening, it’s time to transition your baby from the swaddle to a sleep sack. The sleep sack will help keep your baby warm without the need for a loose blanket in their sleeping space. 

Sleep Cycle

The four-month sleep regression can be attributed to your baby’s sleep cycle changes and physical growth. Just when you thought everything was going great sleep-wise, there is a speed bump! This is completely normal, and many babies experience this regression

Do not fear, this time doesn’t last forever your baby (and you!) will be sleeping again. 

As you go through this tricky time, keeping your child’s bedtime routine consistent is important. Your baby is used to this routine and knows what to expect. If your child needs a little boost to help relax, you can incorporate The Relaxing Pillow Spray as a new companion in the bedtime routine.

Just like the Soothing Shampoo & Body Wash with Calendula the Relaxing Pillow & Linen Spray contains proven scents, like organic lavender and cold-pressed bergamot to help foster a relaxing environment for sleep. 

You can also move bedtime to an earlier time if your baby is overtired at their usual time. You can do this in small increments, five to ten minutes until you arrive at the newly determined bedtime. You’re probably asking how long this period will last. 

The four-month sleep regression can last a few weeks. It may not seem like it, but it will come to an end! Hopefully, these few suggestions will help your baby through this period and on to more restful ZZZ’s. 

Six to Nine Months

There is good news as your baby reaches six months! More than half of babies are able to sleep through the night by this age. If your baby hasn’t quite reached this milestone, don’t worry, they will get there soon! 

At this age, your baby will be sleeping about 14-15 hours per day. Instead of taking up to three naps a day, it may be easier to start laying your baby down for about two long naps a day. 

Stay Consistent 

Keep being consistent with their bedtime routine, especially placing your baby in their sleep space while they are still awake as this will help with their self-soothing skills. If your baby is still waking up for nighttime feedings, they may need more to eat during the daytime

At this age, pediatricians start to recommend introducing solid foods in addition to milk or formula. If your baby is still waking up during the middle of the night but is not hungry or in need of a diaper change, sleep training may be the answer to help them learn how to fall asleep on their own. 

Sleep Training Methods

There are various sleep training methods, but all involve varying amounts of keeping a hands-off approach when putting your baby to bed or if your baby wakes up crying in the middle of the night. Babies who are sleep trained have an easier time sleeping at bedtime and have reduced night wakings. 

The only difference between the methods is the amount of interaction you have with your baby. The methods range from letting your baby cry it out on their own to staying by your baby’s side and gradually moving towards the door night after night until you are completely out of the room. 

Most methods are gentle and show your baby that you haven’t abandoned them, but you are not coming in at every whimper. When you check on your baby, it is encouraged to pat them on the back and share some soothing words but refrain from actually taking your baby out of their crib

Ferber Method

One of the more talked about sleep training methods is the Ferber method. This method involves a gradual release of checking on your baby while they are crying. Once you place your baby in their sleeping space, leave their room and wait. If they start to cry, wait a few minutes before checking on them — the waiting time intervals increase with each round. 

Around eight to nine months, your baby may experience another round of sleep regression. It seems like you’re taking two steps forward and one step back in the sleeping department! 

This may be attributed to teething, which is not fun for anyone in the household. If your child has been extra clingy lately, they may start to experience stress and tension as they know that you are the person taking care of them and are not happy whenever you leave. 

In addition to being more awake during the day, your baby is also becoming extra active, and some babies are fully rolling or showing crawl-like movements! 

You’ve also gone from three naps to two. All this extra movement may be zapping your baby of all their energy, and when bedtime comes, they are overtired. Just like the four-month sleep regression, consider moving your baby’s bedtime forward gradually to help them get the extra rest their growing body needs. 

Just like the last sleep regression, you and your baby will make it through to the other side.

Nine to 12 Months

As your baby gets closer to celebrating their first birthday, their sleep schedule is hopefully a little more stable. They are definitely more active during the day and will continue with two naps a day. These naps should be about an hour to an hour and a half each. 

Many babies will take a mid-morning and mid-afternoon nap. Overall, your baby should be sleeping around 14 hours per day, but this amount may vary slightly from baby to baby.  Nighttime wakeups for feedings may no longer be happening, and if they are, you may want to supplement daytime feedings with snacks for your busy baby.

Suppose your baby experiences any fussiness after their first birthday. In that case, you can give your baby Calming Probiotic & Organic Chamomile Sleep Drops to help promote relaxation and settle occasional digestive upset. These melatonin-free drops help encourage a restful sleep for your little one and can be a helpful solution on nights when your little buddy needs some help making it to dreamland. 

Some additional changes you can make to help your little one sleep is making sure their sleep environment is as relaxing as possible. A cooler temperature can help your baby sleep better, and use a white noise machine to drown out any outside noises. 

You can also use black-out curtains to help block out street lights or in the summer when the sun may still be up during your baby’s bedtime routine

Your baby will still have occasional nighttime wakings as they continue teething or if they are not feeling well. This is all very normal, and sometimes our babies just need a little extra care as they experience these growing pains.

Conclusion

As a parent, you know that less sleep is part of the deal you make to have your sweet, cute little one. At Little Yawn Collective, we know that bedtime can be hard! 

Our pediatrician-approved products are the perfect companion with a consistent bedtime routine to help your little one fall asleep easier and stay asleep through the night. We are here to help your little one, and you rest easier! 

 

Sources:

The Best Sleep Schedule for Babies: 0-3 months | Sleep.org

The relationship between daytime exposure to light and infants | National Library of Medicine

Moro Reflex | Medline Plus

The 4-Month Sleep Regression: What Parents Need to Know | Cleveland Clinic

Infant Sleep | Stanford Children's Health

Sleep Training Science: Myths And Facts About How To Get Baby To Sleep | NPR

When, What, and How to Introduce Solid Foods| CDC

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