3 tips to establish a good sleep schedule for your baby

Studies have found that new moms lose up to an hour of sleep a night, and new dads around 14 minutes a night. By Kim Bell


The euphoria of your newborn comes with the seemingly endless round of nappy changes and feeding, and very little sleep. The bad news is that this is a reality – and as parents – you will probably never sleep soundly again.

Studies conducted by the German Institute for Economic Research, the University of Warwick in the United Kingdom and West Virginia University in the United States, have found that new moms lose up to an hour of sleep a night, and new dads around 14 minutes a night. Neither parents’ sleep patterns go back to pre-pregnancy levels for up to six years.

ALSO SEE: 8 tips to help you cope with a newborn the first few days at home

Will my baby never sleep through?

What? Does that mean your baby will never sleep through the night? Not at all, experts reassure new parents. In fact, your own anxiety levels as a parent tend to keep you up at night more than your child herself. But, understanding your baby’s own natural rhythms can go a long way to helping nudge her into a flexible sleep routine. Making a note, either on your phone or in a notebook, of when your baby last slept, had a nappy change and was fed, will help you better track her daily routine. This way you can anticipate her needs and create your own schedule.

Routines help to soothe your baby to become secure in her environment. In turn, this makes it easier to settle her for naps or at night. This also helps you plan your time and get some much-needed rest yourself. 

How South Africans sleep

According to data provided by Sleep Cycle – a sleep-tracking app, the average South African wakes up just after 6am each morning, which has us just behind Guatemala as the earliest risers in the world. South Africans are also the earliest to to go to bed – the average South African going to bed just before 11am each night.

The research found that an estimated 30% of South Africans get a healthy seven hours of sleep a night, while 27% have the recommended eight hours.

A study conducted by lead researcher Dr Lydia DonCarols of the US National Sleep Foundation, found that sleep varies according to age. The research has led to the release of new recommended sleep guidelines:

  • Newborns (0-3 months): 14-17 hours a day
  • Infants (4-11 months): 12-15 hours a day
  • Toddlers (1-2 years): 11-14 hours a day
  • Pre-schoolers (3-5 years): 10-13 hours a day.

Local baby expert and  author of  Baby Sense, Sleep Sense, Feeding Sense and Your Sensory Baby, Meg Faure says, “Sleep deprivation is the ultimate form of torture and I am often asked for my top tips to get a baby to sleep through the night.” She adds that every baby and mom is different and there is no one thing that will work 100% of the time.

ALSO SEE: 8 baby sleep tips that will change your life

Meg shares these tips that can help you on your way:

A bedtime routine is important

This helps your baby fall asleep easier, and can also help with those babies who tend to wake after 45 minutes to an hour.  Meg suggests you do the following to create “the perfect” bedtime routine:

  • Set your baby’s bedtime for between 6pm and 7pm.
  • Make sure your baby has an awake time a bit longer than usual before this. She suggests the following:
  • 0-6 weeks: one hour from last nap to bedtime
  • 6-17 weeks: 1.5 hours from last nap to bedtime
  • 4-6 months: 2.25 hours from last nap to bedtime
  • 6-9 months: 2.45 hours from last nap to bedtime
  • 9-12 months: 3.5 hours from last nap to bedtime
  • 1-2 years: 5 hours from midday nap to bedtime.

If your baby is on solids, offer dinner at 5pm and include a good protein. Give half a feed if your baby is hungry before her bath, then bath her 45 minutes before bedtime.

Follow the bath with a soothing massage, using a baby-friendly lotion or massage oil, with gentle lullabies or white noise ambience. Feed and then bed.

Teach your baby the art of self-soothing

Meg shares that if your baby is able to self-soothe, by either sucking on her hands, reaching for her comfort blanket or finding her dummy independently, she will sleep well at night.

ALSO SEE: The secrets of self-soothing

Establish good sleep habits during the day

Follow the recommended awake time between naps for your baby’s age. Meg recommends:

  • 0-6 weeks: 45 minutes awake time
  • 6-16 weeks: 45-80 minutes awake time
  • 4-7 months: 90 -150 minutes awake time
  • 7-12 months: 2-3 hours awake time

“This is the amount of time your baby can be happily awake before needing to be settled to sleep during the day,” says Meg. “By working with your baby’s natural alert periods, you will find a day sleep schedule emerges naturally.

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