Last Reviewed: March 2017
Sleep and Crying
Infant Sleep Patterns
- Babies sleep patterns will vary as they grow.
- Newborns typically have one long sleep period, which often occurs during the day.
- Newborns may have their days and nights mixed up, which means they may sleep longer during the day and feed more at night.
- You can help your newborn begin a regular sleep time by giving her a day and night routine (e.g., keeping stimulating activities to a minimum during normal sleep hours).
- Babies will sleep less as they develop:
- One-month-olds will be alert for two to three hour stretches, sleeping an average of 15 hours in a 24-hour day.
- Six-month-olds sleep about 12 to 14 hours in a 24-hour day, this includes daytime napping.
- By one year, most children will sleep a total of 14 hours a day, including daytime napping.
Sleeping Through the Night
A question that many new parents hear is: Does your baby sleep through the night? The answer is usually a resounding “NO.” This is common. Newborns need to wake many times during the night because they have small tummies which cannot hold large amounts of milk. Breast milk is digested quickly so your baby will need to breastfeed anywhere from every hour to every two to three hours. See breastfeeding chart.
Infants that sleep through the night will generally sleep for a stretch of up to five hours.
There are times when your baby is growing quickly and will need to breastfeed more often. These growth spurts happen around:
- 3 weeks of age
- 6 weeks of age
- 3 months of age
- 6 months of age
- Growth spurts will often last for a few days.
It is important to pick up your baby when he is crying.
Waking Up at Night
- Many infants continue to wake at night. Some reasons for waking include:
- Being hot or cold
- Growth spurts (developmental stage)
- Loneliness (attachment)
- Babies aren’t born with a natural sleep pattern, they learn them. You can influence your child’s sleep patterns by developing regular bedtime routines and habits.
- You can start an evening routine to give a clear signal to your baby that sleep time is coming.
- You can try adding the following activities to help your child prepare for sleep:
- Bathing baby
- Reading or singing
- Dimming lights
A consistent, predictable daily routine helps children develop regular sleep habits, making them feel settled.
Responding to your crying baby
It is very important to respond to your baby when he is crying. Research has shown that babies who are picked up consistently when they cry in the first six months actually cry less in the second six months of life than those babies who are not picked up consistently when they cry.
Safe Sleep Position
Put your baby to sleep on his back on a firm, flat surface to reduce his risk of SIDS (Sudden Infant Death Syndrome also known as “Crib Death”).
Babies who always sleep with their head to the same side can develop flat spots (flat head). A simple way to prevent your baby from getting a flat head is to change the position of the baby’s head each day. Because babies like to have something interesting to look at, they tend to turn their head to look out into their room rather than toward the wall. This way they can see you as you come and go.
Here’s how you can change the position of your baby’s head while still giving her the same ‘view’.
- One day, place your baby with her head at the head of the crib.
- The next day, place your baby with her head at the foot of the crib.
- Each day, alternate your baby’s orientation in the crib.
- Check to make sure that your baby is always looking out into the room.
Babies should also have supervised “tummy time” when they are awake, several times a day. Not only will time on the tummy help prevent a flat spot on the head, but it is important for your baby’s development.
If your baby still develops flat spots, talk to your paediatrician or family physician.
You should not share a bed with your baby if you or another person in the bed:
- Has been drinking alcohol
- Has taken any drugs (legal or illegal)
- Is sick or has a condition which affects the person’s awareness of your baby (any condition that won’t allow you to move or be aware of your baby) e.g., decreased mobility, sensation or spacial awareness such as multiple sclerosis, sleep apnea, paralysis
Safe Bed-Sharing Tips for Parents
Peel Health recommends all parents and caregivers with a baby less than 3 months of age, put their baby to sleep in a crib or cradle that meets Health Canada’s Crib and Cradle Safety Guidelines. Recent studies have suggested that:
- There is a link between bed-sharing and SIDS (sudden infant death syndrome) for a baby less than 3 months.
- There is a link between bed-sharing and SIDS especially if a mother smokes or has smoked during pregnancy.
Peel Health doesn’t recommend bed-sharing if:
- You, your partner or caregiver is a smoker
- You smoked while you were pregnant
- Your baby is under 3 months of age
If you choose to bed-share here is some important safety information to think about:
- Make sure your baby doesn’t get too warm
- Never overdress your baby
- Your baby shouldn’t be hot to the touch or sweating.
- Cover the crib’s mattress with a fitted sheet
- Do not use duvets, quilts or comforters
- Do not put covers over your baby’s head
- Sleep with your baby on a firm, flat surface
- Do not put your baby to sleep on or next to a pillow
- Do not put your baby to sleep on sofas, waterbeds, air mattresses and soft or sagging mattresses
- Make sure your baby is on his back to sleep
- Never leave your baby alone on an adult bed
- Make sure there are no spaces between the mattress and headboard, walls and other surfaces, so your baby cannot get stuck
- Do not allow brothers, sisters or other kids to share a bed with your baby
- Make sure your baby cannot fall out of the bed
- Do not allow pets to sleep with you
- Make sure your partner knows when your baby is in bed with you
- Do not share a bed with your baby if your baby is premature or sick
- Make sure to tie long hair back at bed time
Sharing a room with your baby or “Room-Sharing” refers to placing your baby in a crib or cradle to sleep within arm’s reach of where you’re sleeping. Health Canada recommends room-sharing with your baby until at least 6 months of age. Research has shown this can help reduce the risk of SIDS for infants under 6 months.
For more information:
Region of Peel — Public Health
Monday to Friday 8:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m.
Caledon residents call free of charge at 905-584-2216
To speak with a Public Health Nurse