Help, my baby won't sleep. About sleep behavior and sleep rhythms.

Sleep makes you grow. From infants to toddlers. But when sleep does not come naturally, you may worry as a parent. After all, how long can your baby cry in bed? How much sleep is healthy? And how do you get regularity in that sleep rhythm?

We know that sleeping badly has a major impact on our mood. Many parents worry when their baby sleeps less than the books say. Or when falling asleep almost takes longer than the nap itself. What can you do for a baby with sleep problems?

Should you let your baby just keep crying when he can't fall asleep? Don't. You can't spoil a crying baby with too much attention.


Letting your baby cry through the night?

Does your baby cry a lot and for a long time when he can't fall asleep? Is he resisting for more than 10 minutes when just getting into bed? This can sometimes make you despondent. Especially if you have already tried everything. Maybe someone gives you the tip to "just let your little one cry". So that he cries himself to sleep. About this method we can be brief, don't do it. Your baby has only one way to signal to you that he is uncomfortable, and that is by crying. He is looking for safety and security. It is perfectly fine to give that security.

Don't be afraid of spoiling your baby. In the early stages of his life, he is incapable of manipulating you. So you can't spoil babies with too much attention and love when they cry. The other way around, it does apply. A baby who is often left alone crying for long periods of time may suffer from this. The bonding to you as safe and secure parents may then deteriorate. So just respond to your baby's signals.


What is a good sleep rhythm for a baby?

It is not surprising that a baby's sleep rhythm is not immediately comfortable after birth. After all, during your pregnancy it was the opposite of yours. If you were active during the day, he was rocked to sleep in your belly. And as soon as you plopped down on the couch or in bed, your little one woke up. Recognizable? After birth, it takes a while for that to reverse.

That rhythm builds naturally in the early days. It may soon be a recognizable rhythm. But it can also vary from day to day. Your baby simply sleeps as needed during the first time. Tired is tired. So it can best indicate what a comfortable rhythm is. Therefore, listen or watch your baby carefully. Are there any sleep signals? Does he seem to be tired, but is it still a bit early for you? Then put your baby to bed anyway. Maybe it was a tiring morning, afternoon or day. For example, with lots of new stimuli. Of course, it is nice if the sleep schedule fits a bit into the routine of the other family members. But in the first period after the birth, it sometimes works better if your family goes along with the rhythm of the newcomer a bit.


Sleep rhythm and awake time

Every baby is unique. Also in the way they sleep. But averages do exist for sleep rhythms and wake times.

  • Up to 3 months
    So a newborn baby sleeps as needed for the first few months. And that need is great. With many short naps of about 2 to maximum 4 hours, even at night. The reason is: hunger! With that tiny stomach, not enough food will fit in it to sleep longer. All together, your baby will sleep somewhere between 14 and 17 hours during the first months. In between, he will be awake for fairly short periods.
  • From 3 to 6 months
    After the first few months, a rhythm is bound to emerge. Starting at 3 months, babies make their own melatonin. This hormone regulates the day and night rhythm. On average, babies still sleep several times during the day, up to 5 naps. By 6 months that will be about 3 naps. But again, every child has different sleep needs. Some baby's don't want to miss a thing from the world around them. As long as your son or daughter seems happy, healthy and rested, the sleeping rhythm is fine.
  • From 6 months
    Slowly you may notice that 3 naps during the day is just too much. Your child may have trouble falling asleep the third time or may not seem tired at night. Then you can try going from 3 to 2 naps.


Restless, overstimulated baby

Sometimes your baby is so tired that he has become overtired. Perhaps you recognize this in yourself, that after a very busy day you find it difficult to fall asleep. Babies have entered a whole new world and are busy discovering it. That is hard work. All those impressions have to be processed. Sometimes crying with you is enough to get rid of stress. But if they remain restless, you or your partner are the solution. Skin-to-skin contact is often the best first aid for restlessness.

Skin-to-skin contact with your baby is very important during maternity. It helps to strengthen the bond between you. Your maternity nurse should have paid attention to this as well. Skin-to-skin contact remains valuable after the birth. Put your baby, wearing only a diaper, on your bare skin. Your heartbeat and the warmth and smell of your skin are familiar and soothing. This helps to relax completely. Sleep may come a little easier after that. Even just walking around with your restless baby on your arm or in a baby carrier can help. Another good skin-to-skin moment is taking a shower together.


Sleep ritual, the R of Rest

The 3 R's that grandmother was already promoting still apply: rest, radiance and regularity work wonders! If you ensure peace around nap time or putting your child to bed, half the battle is already won. Also consider a pleasant, quiet environment, for example without stimulating toys. A dark bedroom with blackout curtains at night can also help. That way the difference between day and night is clear, which in turn helps to establish a day and night rhythm. Tip: Firmly close the curtains before putting your baby to bed. Provide soft light in the hallway and baby's room.

Sleep routine, the R of Routine
Rest also has to do with a set routine. If you make sure you keep the same order over and over, bedtime will become more and more predictable for your baby. Feeding, diaper, song, bed, for example. The same lullaby over and over can also help make bedtime recognizable. For babies older than 4 months, you can also try to keep a fixed bedtime. Before that age, babies are still developing a rhythm. Therefore, watch for sleep signals rather than the clock with newborns.

Sleep ritual, the R of Radiant
This one is actually not about a clean baby, but a relaxed baby. Do you bathe your little one in the morning? If so, try switching to an evening bath. After a warm bath and a feeding, most babies are completely relaxed. You can even add a short massage with baby oil after drying off. Impressive if there is a baby who still manages to keep his eyes open then.


Sleep regression

Of course, there will be periods when it seems like you are back to square one. There was a rhythm, but it is suddenly completely gone! Don't panic, it can have all kinds of causes. The more you watch your child and his behavior, the better you will recognize the signs for this. Could it be cramps? Is it busy the past weeks? Also, a regulation day which simply means more hunger can be a reason for restlessness around bedtime. And then, of course, there are the development spurts. When your child goes through such a period of growth, sleeping sometimes becomes a problem. This is also called sleep regression.

The signs of sleep regression may be:

  • short or much longer sleeps
  • waking up more often, but not sleeping in
  • awake earlier than usual in the morning
  • and of course droopy, weepy and less appetite. Behavior that also fits a developmental spurt.

With a developmental spurt, the main thing is to sit it out for a while. Be flexible, understanding and extra sweet around this new step in development. See any signs of fatigue? Just put them to bed. You will pick up that new rhythm later. Also pay attention to the feedings. With regulation days or a development spurt your baby often need more energy. So: hungry! Continue with your regular sleep routine. That familiar predictability is still wonderful for babies and important to continue. And above all: keep courage. It is temporary, and so is your sleep deprivation because of it. Lots of cuddling together!


BabyManager is here for you!

Do you have questions about your baby's sleep rhythm or sleep behavior? Contact BabyManager's maternity care professionals via chat or video call. They are here for you day and night. Sign up now! Want to try the app first? Download it now for free in the App Stores!


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