Babies are born without a night and day rhythm and this means that they do not know that people sleep mostly at night.
A newborn baby sleeps around 16 hours in a 24 hour period, but this will be broken down into sleeps that can last between 20 minutes to 5 hours.
Babies begin to learn to sleep more at night by being exposed to different lighting such as daylight and darkness. It generally takes between 6 and 14 weeks for your baby to develop a pattern where they have a day and night rhythm. Eventually, your baby will start to gradually sleep longer during the night until they are sleeping about 10 to 12 hours.
Babies, toddlers and children require sleep so that they can grow.
To ensure a child’s healthy growth and development, it is important to encourage older children to have a day sleep or rest for as long as possible.
As a person sleeps they move through a series of sleep cycles. Each cycle consists of two types of sleep:
- Non-Rapid Eye Movement (non-REM) often referred to as deep sleep, and
- Rapid Eye Movement (REM) often known as light or dream sleep.
A sleep cycle is the time spent going through both deep and light stages of sleep. At birth, sleep cycles may only last a few minutes but usually, by the time your baby is around 16-weeks of age, a sleep cycle will last about 45 minutes. A young child’s sleep cycle lasts for approximately 60 minutes, while an adult’s sleep cycle lasts about 90 minutes.
One of the key differences between how adults and children sleep is that if something wakes an adult fully they can problem solve, decide what to do next and hopefully settle themselves back to sleep. This is the skill that your baby and child needs to learn. They need to know how to self soothe and settle themselves back to sleep. Whether during the day or night, your child has a series of cycles joined together. Useful Settling Tips for Parents.
Your child’s behaviour will often be a guide as to whether or not they are getting enough sleep. Keeping a diary of your child’s feeding, sleeping and wakeful behaviour will help you begin to understand your child’s patterns and track changes and improvements in sleep.
Ngala's View on Controlled Crying
You may have heard "controlled crying/comforting" used as a method to modify babies and toddlers' sleep. This can mean different things to different people.
At Ngala, we promote gentle settling and we do not agree with leaving babies distressed.
Controlled crying is often associated with babies and children left to cry for a period of time. Babies and toddlers are distressed when they are not responded to when they are crying. Babies and toddlers develop in the context of relationships and are highly sensitive to the nurturing they receive from caregivers.
As early as 6 weeks of age, newborns become distressed if their interpersonal relationships with caregivers are even slightly disrupted.
Responding to children when they cry promotes a sense of security as they transition to sleep when adapting to a different way of settling to sleep. It is important to provide reassurance and support for babies and toddlers when they learn to self-settle to sleep.
If you need more help, please contact the Ngala Parenting Line at (08) 9368 9368 or 1800 111 546 for country callers. You can also request a call from Ngala Parenting Line online.
When: 30 Mar, 9:30am
Birth to 4 months: A 5-week series of workshops for parents with a newborn baby. Each workshop covers a wide range of topics about you and your new baby and provides the opportunity to meet and connect with other new parents in your local area.