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Healthy Living

How much sleep do babies need?
Is it okay for a baby to wake up once in 3-4 hours, even through the night?
Why do some babies keep awake at night? Is there some way to make them sleep longer hours or through the night?

How much sleep do babies need?

An infant sleeps for about 16 hours a day. But there is no hard and fast rule about it. Some babies may sleep a couple of hours less or more. A baby sleeps in cycles of three to five hours, whether it is day or night. There is no need to worry about the number of hours an infant sleeps if otherwise the baby seems normal.

At night, the body produces more of the hormone that stimulates growth. So sleep is important for a baby’s growth.

With each month a gradual change in sleeping pattern and duration happens. The naps get longer as do the waking hours. Most babies start developing longer night time naps and shorter naps during the day.

The type of sleep a baby gets is different from adult sleep. Adults get about six hours of deep sleep and about two hours of REM sleep, mostly at night. Whereas a baby sleeps light more often and the sleep cycles are shorter.

Is it okay for a baby to wake up once in 3-4 hours, even through the night?

Babies wake up for various reasons, every few hours. Also, their sleep cycles are shorter. Babies need, nappy change, feed, water or just keep awake. Sometimes they are practising a newly learned skill, like turning over or moving forward.These are natural causes and there is no need to worry. The pattern may change when the child learns to sleep longer hours at night.

Sleep is also interrupted if the child is ill. A mother/carer will be able to observe the discomfort of the child in this case. Crying, restlessness, changes in feeding/stool patterns are some indicators. Consult a paediatrician if this is so.

Some infants are restless at night when teething.

Infants also need to learn to/ be helped to sleep. Swaddling, holding, rocking, or feeding might help the child to doze off.

Why do some babies keep awake at night? Is there some way to make them sleep longer hours or through the night?

Each infant has its own sleep schedule. Some infants are awake more often in the night. They may need a feed or a change. Infants also do not automatically associate nighttime and sleep. But they learn to do so. Most babies do so by six months of age. To help your child sleep longer hours at night you can try the following:

  • When the baby wakes up, do not switch on the light or start playing with the baby.

  • If the baby needs a feed or a change do it quickly and quietly, without much fuss.

  • Feed the baby in shorter gaps in the evening, if it is willing to take it, so that he or she does not get hungry too quickly in the night.

  • See if the baby is comfortable. Swaddling the infant will help it to feel warm and secure as it was in the womb. As the baby grows older, a loose coverlet is preferred.

  • Babies can be hypersensitive too. Less noise, less light might help them to go back to sleep. If you have to shift them from your lap to the bed, do so when they are in deep sleep. This is when the limbs become limp.

  • Holding them snugly, or rocking them quietly can help too.

Both extremes of reactions are better avoided. Do not fret or lose your temper because the child has woken up. Neither need you stretch yourself and keep awake entertaining the baby.

All the above are not sure fire solutions. But these might help increase the comfort level make the baby learn waking up at night is not very interesting.

However, sleep cannot be forced upon a baby.

It may take some babies months to learn to sleep longer hours or through the night.


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