Sleep. Howl. Feed. Sleep.
That's a day in the life of a baby. Except for a few minutes when they're hungry, babies sleep all the time. Indeed, babies can even be fed while sleeping. Problems arise for the parents when a baby doesn't sleep enough.
A normal newborn baby will sleep for two to four hours after feeding. At time of birth, babies have no concept of day and night, but gradually learn to sleep through the night with only two or three feeds. This usually takes a few weeks. By the time a baby is three months old, she should be able to sleep for 6-7 hours at a stretch at night.
Formula fed babies (using animal or tinned milk) sleep better than breast fed babies. This is perhaps because breast milk is more easily and quickly digested, making baby hungry earlier. When breast feeding, it is unwise to impose any schedule. Whenever a baby is hungry is feeding time.
If a baby is not sleeping after feeding, or gets up very soon, perhaps she is not getting enough milk. Other causes of poor sleep are environmental noise, disease, fear of dark, fear of separation from parents, child abuse, and change in the family or caretaker. Corrective action regarding the cause gives better results than drugs in the treatment of infant sleep problems.
What if your baby doesn't sleep at night, or continues to wake at night for feeding? There is no one solution for this. A generally accepted fact is that sedative drugs are the wrong path; behavioral interventions are more likely to be successful.
As children grow older, they sleep less and less. Most children give up their morning nap by the time they are 2 years old. Putting the baby to sleep as per habit often creates problems. Very often, the baby doesn't go to sleep because she was put to bed for a long nap in the afternoon.
Children also vary in their need for sleep. Some children seem to manage with very little sleep, making their parents anxious (and tired). Most children give up their afternoon naps by the time they are 5-6 years old. However, if your child is sleeping little, and appears tired in the day, or is not growing well, it is cause for concern.
Last Revision: February 15, 2016
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