At night, your babe will wake up for feedings, but when he does, keep the lights low, don’t talk much, and put him back to sleep when he’s done eating. After a while, he’ll get acclimated to the daytime/ nighttime habits of the home, gradually sleeping less during the day and more at night. Do not attempt to deprive baby of daytime naps in hopes of getting a few more hours of sleep at night. It doesn’t work!
Getting into a routine
Over time, your newborn’s REM sleep will decrease as his NREM sleep, or deep sleep, increases. By three months of age, tots still need 13 to 15 hours of sleep per 24, but naps are longer and more predictable. Polly Moore, PhD, author of The Natural Baby Sleep Solution, recommends putting baby down for naps at regular intervals based on a biological rhythm called the basic rest and activity cycle (BRAC).
The BRAC is species-specific. For humans, it’s a 90-minute cycle. Moore found that infants consistently exhibit sleepy behavior in tune with the BRAC, growing tired 90 minutes after they last awakened. “After 90 minutes of wakeful- ness, the baby has completed the alert phase governed by his inner clock,” says Moore. “This is when the baby has the best chance of falling asleep quickly and easily.”
When your little one does fall asleep, he might stay down for a brief nap or several hours—either way, he’ll be ready to snooze again only 90 minutes later. Moore adds that as baby (and parents) become in tune with the 90-minute rhythm, naps are likely to assume a 90- minute pattern as well. “You’ll probably start to see naps that last either an hour and a half or three hours,” notes Moore. Sleep sessions will grow longer—especially at night—as baby gets older, but the 90- minute multiples will remain discernible throughout the first year.
Keeping at it long-term
“This is not a program of putting the baby ‘on a schedule,’” Moore emphasizes. “Rather, the approach is to learn to follow your baby’s inner schedule, your baby’s own internal sleep and wake rhythms.” While your newborn is likely to follow the 90-minute pattern of alertness at least until his first birthday, it’s beneficial to learn to recognize signs of sleepiness in your baby so that you can quickly soothe him to sleep before he regains alertness. Signs may be subtle, but as he gets older, you’ll notice him yawning, rubbing his eyes, losing eye contact or otherwise exhibiting sleepy signals. When you recognize these signs and promptly get him down to sleep, baby will get the rest he needs. Otherwise, he will become alert again and miss his nap window, even though he might be exhausted on the inside.
Vacations happen, schedules vary, and sometimes your kiddo falls asleep in the car when you wish he’d waited until you got home. However, if you make an effort to put baby down for predictable daily naps at home, he’s more likely to get the rest he desperately needs through the first year and into toddlerhood.