Good sleeping habits are important for your baby's physical and emotional well-being. An important part of establishing good sleeping habits is the sleep environment – where your child sleeps, the kind of crib or baby bed, the type of mattress, and so on.
Creating a safe sleep environment will also reduce the risk of sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS), which is when a baby younger than one year of age dies unexpectedly while sleeping. Putting your baby to sleep on his back reduces the risk of SIDS.
The Canadian Paediatric Society recommends that babies under one year of age sleep on their backs in cribs that meet Canadian Government safety standards. Babies should not sleep in their parents’ bed, which is called bedsharing. Adult beds are not safe for babies. Many large-scale studies have shown that bedsharing can put babies at greater risk for entrapment and suffocation.
If you want your baby to be near you during the night, you can put a crib in your room, next to your bed. This is called cosleeping. Many mothers find that this makes night-time breastfeeding easier. This type of sleeping arrangement may also further reduce the risk of SIDS.
Whatever you choose, here are some things you should know to help you and your baby get a good and safe night's sleep.
For the first year of your baby’s life, the safest place to sleep is in the child’s own baby crib, on her back.
When your baby can turn over on his own, there’s no need to force your baby into the back sleep position. Foam wedges or towel rolls to keep babies on their side should not be used.
Infants should never sleep on pillows, air mattresses, waterbeds, cushions, soft materials or loose bedding. Even when you are travelling, your baby must have a safe place to sleep. Car seats and infant carriers are not to be used to replace the crib for your baby’s sleep.
A baby should sleep in a room that is quiet, dark and at a slightly cool temperature.
Consider dressing your baby in sleepers so that you don’t need a blanket to cover her.
Keep your baby away from cigarette smoke. Babies whose mothers smoked during pregnancy, and babies who continue to be exposed to smoke after birth are at an increased risk of SIDS.
Never nap or sleep with your baby or let your baby sleep alone on a couch, sofa or armchair. This increases the risk of suffocation.
Babies under one year of age should sleep on their backs in their own cribs
Be sure your baby cot meets government safety standards.
Place your baby to sleep on his back on a firm, flat surface. Do not use eiderdowns (a comforter filled with a type of down), comforters, bulky blankets, bumper pads or pillow-like items in your baby’s bed.
Do not leave a bottle of milk or juice in your baby’s bed.
Establish a calming bedtime routine that is consistent and predictable.
Try to keep nap times and bedtime the same every day, even on weekends.
Set aside 10 min to 30 min to do something special with your baby before bed. Depending on your baby’s age, this could be a quiet talk, quiet play or reading.
Allow infants to fall asleep on their own so that they can learn to comfort themselves.
The practical benefits of bed sharing are obvious. Not only are parents close by to respond to the baby if something goes wrong, but co-sleeping makes it easier for the breastfeeding mom to nurse throughout the night. Then, of course, there's the irresistible sweet intimacy of it. "There is an instinctive need for the mother to be close to her baby," says Cynthia Epps, M.S., a certified lactation educator at the Pump Station in Santa Monica, Calif. Working women who don't get to see their babies all day may be especially attracted to co-sleeping to make up for the missed contact. "Keeping the baby close, with skin-to-skin contact, calms the baby," says Epps. "And it can cement the emotional bond between mother and child."
What about sharing a bed with older children, for whom co-sleeping poses no significant health risks? Samantha Gadsden, a birth doula in Caerphilly, Wales, shares a bed with her three children, even though the U.K.'s National Health Service shares the AAP's stance against co-sleeping. When other risk factors are not present, official discouraging of co-sleeping is "coercion and scare-mongering, and treating women like they are not intelligent," Gadsden told BBC News in November 2018. "It's biologically normal to co-sleep," she said, adding that parents should be informed of the pros, as wells as the cons, of bed-sharing, including the potential benefit of helping babies to regulate their breathing and temperature.
How Much Sleep Do Babies Need?
Sleep patterns will change over the first year of a baby’s life, including the number of hours of sleep needed and the duration of sleep periods throughout the day and night.
0 to 3 months: It’s normal for newborns to spend 14 to 17 hours1 asleep in a 24-hour day, broken into shorter periods to accommodate feeding, diaper changes, and interaction with their family. Breastfed infants usually need to eat more frequently than bottle-fed infants2, about every 2 hours versus every 3 hours. The American Academy of Sleep Medicine3 advises parents not to worry if their newborn’s sleep pattern doesn’t match the projections, as these amounts can vary before the first 4 months.
3 to 6 months: Starting at around 3 months of age, an infant’s daily sleep needs drop to 12 to 15 hours. Around this time, sleep also starts consolidating into longer periods4 as babies are able to go longer without feeding. Sometime during this period is when most babies start to sleep through the night, though there are exceptions to the rule.
6 to 12 months: From 6 months onward, babies do the bulk of their sleeping at night. However, other issues such as teething, growth spurts, illnesses, or sleep regressions may start leading to nighttime awakenings. Parents may opt to use more specific sleep-training strategies if babies aren’t sleeping through the night at this stage.