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Posted by Dr. Monica Wonnacott | January 26, 2016

Infant Sleep

Infants have a very unique sleep pattern and must get adequate sleep for proper brain development. Having a good understanding of healthy infant sleep can help everyone in the household sleep better.

Why is infant sleep important?

An infant’s brain is still developing. When born, an infant’s visual system and other systems are not fully developed. Sleep plays an important role in proper development and learning.

If my baby needs so much sleep, why is he/she having such trouble falling asleep?

Just as in adults, the need for sleep doesn’t drive your ability to fall asleep. Everyone has experienced at sometime or another being exhausted, but not being able to sleep. There is also a natural sleep-wake cycle (or circadian rhythm) in all of us. Infants have a 90-minute alertness rhythm as well. After 90 minutes of being awake and alert, an infant will have a small window of sleepiness. If the infant is not put to sleep during that window, then he/she will proceed to the next alert phase.

How do I know if my baby is sleepy?

  1. Mood: If your baby is crying, fussing, or whining without a obvious cause
  2. Attention: If your baby suddenly loses interest in an activity, won’t engage socially, or has a spacey facial expression
  3. Actions: If your baby is eye-rubbing, yawning, falling down, or repeatedly dropping held items

How do I know if my infant is getting enough sleep?

Signs that your baby may be sleep deprived include:

  1. Your baby always falls asleep in the car, stroller, or swing
  2. Your baby can only fall asleep in the car, stroller, or swing
  3. Your baby only catnaps (20-30 minutes at a time)
  4. Your baby sleeps less than 3 hours total during the day

How to help your infant sleep

In the first couple of weeks of life you may have noticed or even championed the fact that your baby could sleep through everything. It is common and normal for most infants in the following 2-4 months to require “help” getting to sleep. You may have to hold, rock, or sooth your infant to sleep. By about 4 months, most babies start to learn how to block things out in order to sleep.

When should my baby sleep through the night?

There is no magic age or weight when your baby will sleep through the night. Most babies sleep through the night somewhere between 5 and 7 months of age. Some do it on their own, while some require intervention. All babies wake at night, the difference is that not all cry out and require help getting back to sleep.