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How Babies Sleep

How Babies Sleep

Does everyone ask how your baby sleeps?
Does everyone else’s baby seem to sleep more than yours?
Do you feel like you or your baby are being judged by how ‘well’ he/she sleeps?
Has someone told you your baby ‘should’ be sleeping differently to how they are?
If so, you are not alone!

When we have a new baby, many of us often find that talking about sleep causes others to offer (often unwanted) suggestions for how we can (or ‘should’) encourage our baby to sleep more. Although we all know that the first few months with a baby will involve disrupted nights, our expectations for how long this lasts, and our understanding of how normal infant sleep develops, can be unclear or unrealistic, and comments from others can be worrying:

Am I doing it right? Is there something wrong with my baby?

As sleep deprivation continues, we may search for bright ideas for getting a ‘good night’s sleep’, or we may be tempted to try out the suggestions of family, friends, or well-wishers. But how do we know these ideas or suggestions are safe, that they won’t affect our infant’s health, or have long-term consequences?

It is important to remember that babies operate according to their own internal biological rhythms and they are unaware of what their parents are reading or being told.

Babies do not have a body clock when they are born. It often takes several months for a baby’s day-night pattern of wake and sleep to become established, and for night-time sleep consolidation to happen.

During this time many parents just need reassurance that their baby is normal, and that their baby’s sleep patterns are developing as expected.

In cases where we are unhappy with our infant’s sleep development it may not be the baby that is problematic, but our expectations regarding sleep and babies’ needs.

If you are a parent who is reading this site, we assume this means you are looking for information and want to make informed decisions. This is what we aim to provide, at least for those topics where there is good research evidence about normal infant sleep.

Where little or no research exists, we’ll tell you — but if you are looking for information we don’t seem to provide let us know, and we’ll try to address that.

In the following sections we summarise what is currently known about normal infant sleep development, why babies sleep the way they do, and what research has so far discovered about ‘managing’ how babies sleep.