Babies differ in their sleep patterns and the amount of sleep they need during the day and night.
Your baby’s stage of development may affect their sleep. Lack of sleep can be very stressful for parents.
If you are unhappy with your baby’s sleep pattern, ask your Plunket nurse or other well child health provider for suggestions that may help. There is not always an easy answer to a sleep problem and what works for one family may not necessarily work for others.
Your baby’s sleep patterns may be unsettled when they are unwell, teething or away from home; at these times they may need extra cuddles and care before settling back to sleep.
When your baby is well or at home again, try to settle back to their normal routine. If your baby has been having extra feeds when away or unwell, try to settle without these feeds.
By 6 to 10 months babies typically try to pull themselves up to stand and often do this in their cot. It can then take them a while to lie down and go to sleep. Separation anxiety (becoming upset when you leave the room) becomes more common from 6–12 months. This may make them more difficult to settle, as they want to be with you.
At around 8 months babies often become attached to an object such as blanket, toy or a piece of their mother’s clothing. Others may suck their fingers or thumb. This can help them calm down and relax.
It is important to check that the object is safe. Soft toys should not be too small or have pieces that can be pulled off that can cause choking. They should not have long cords that could cause strangulation, or be so large that they could cause suffocation.
Also avoid having too many toys in bed; use one soft toy at the most if they need one to settle. Check that blankets and clothing cannot strangle or suffocate them.
By 6–12 months some babies choose to roll onto their stomach to sleep. This is common but the risk of cot death is reduced by this age.
To help settle your baby to sleep at night, try to have a relaxed regular bed-time routine and try to settle them into bed awake or drowsy. By falling asleep in their own bed, they learn that bed is a familiar place. If they wake during sleep they may settle back to sleep on their own. Treat night waking in a quiet, gentle manner with no talking or playing.