Sleep in babies: everything you need to know

It is important to remember that sleep in babies is different from that of adults. Therefore, understanding their needs will help us to cope with this initial stage of their lives in the best possible way.

When a child is born, rest is one of the issues that most concerns parents. It is common to see parents, new and experienced, wonder why their baby sleeps so much or so little, why he is waking up, and how they can help him regulate his cycles.

There is no doubt that with a baby at home the sleep of the whole family is affected. Adults will have to adapt to the rhythms of the child and teach him, with patience and love. However, if we know what to expect we will be better prepared to face this task without discouragement or despair.

What are the sleep requirements for babies?

From birth to two years of age, babies' sleep is transformed and stabilized. Thus, at each stage the rest needs will be different.

Initially, the baby will spend most of the time sleeping, dividing the hours more or less evenly between day and night. Gradually, your total hours of sleep will decrease, but your night's rest will increase, which will be a relief for exhausted parents.

In this way, newborns usually sleep between approximately 16 and 18 hours a day. By three months of age their need for rest will not have been reduced excessively (they will still need a minimum of 15 hours), however, daytime sleep will have dropped to about 4 hours.

This pattern will continue its progression until the child is 2 years old, at which time 13 hours of sleep will be sufficient. At this point, the night rest will be about 11 hours and during the day a nap will suffice.

Babies' schedules are different and that alters the dynamics within the home.

Keep reading: Sleep apnea in babies: symptoms and treatment

How is sleep in babies?

As we said at the beginning, sleep in babies is different from adults. Times change, but also neurological dynamics and the way of resting. Let's take a closer look at some features.

Frequent awakenings

As we have already mentioned, sleep in babies is very different from ours because we are used to sleeping for long periods at a time and doing it almost exclusively at night. In the smallest this is not possible, since need to wake up frequently to feed. Their stomach is very small, so they have to eat food every so often and in small amounts.

Thus, newborns usually do not sleep more than one or two hours continuously. They will then be able to sleep longer without feeding, so that by six months of age many babies are able to rest for six to eight hours at night.

Separation anxiety

However, we must bear in mind that at this stage, when the need to eat constantly ends, another issue arises to take into account: separation anxiety. Around seven months of age, the child begins to understand that he is an independent being from his mother (until that moment, for him, the two were one).

However, the concept of permanence has not yet been developed. That is to say, misunderstands that objects and people still exist even when he sees them, hears them or feels them.

All this leads to the child experiencing enormous anguish when his parents leave his field of perception. For him it is as if they have disappeared, as if they will never return and this is terrifying.

For the same reason, in these months the baby may have difficulty falling asleep or staying asleep if he is not with his parents. Also, you may wake up crying heartbreakingly if you don't feel them around.

Whether or not to co-sleep is a personal decision that many parents implement to promote rest.

Discover more: Sleep myoclonus in children

Keys to promote sleep in babies

The most important thing to keep in mind if you have a baby at home is that you're going to have to modify your sleep patterns to adapt to theirs. This is an inescapable fact. Therefore, arm yourself with patience and love to face this stage and try to sleep when your child does.

On the other hand, the decision to sleep next to the baby or place him in his own room is personal and depends on the preferences of each family. However, keep in mind that sleeping next to the child will make it easier for you to feed or comfort him when he wakes up more quickly. But above all, if you are going to move him to his own room, avoid this moment coinciding with separation anxiety.

By last, if the baby wakes up and cries, take care of him. You are not spoiling him, you are not preventing him from learning to sleep autonomously. You're just reassuring him that when he wakes up alone and in the dark, helpless and scared, he can count on you. Affection and security are a fundamental right of every infant and are the basis of the bond of attachment.