If you’re reading this, you’re probably losing sleep wondering why your kid’s sleeping hours aren’t exactly spent sleeping. “Why can’t they just sleep and let me sleep?” you ask yourself.
Maybe they’re getting too much or too little shut-eye. But you’re just not sure. So what do you do?
Babycentre UK’s Medical Advisory Board, composed of experts in women’s and children’s health and development, says it’s highly “likely that your baby won’t stay asleep for more than one hour to three hours at a time in her first few months.”
Infants need to wake up frequently in order to fill their tummies. After three months, set your kids’ sleeping hours every night. This can help your child settle down faster, and sleep longer. But keep in mind that every baby is different and what works for another baby may not work for yours.
Setting your kids’ sleeping hours
Image source: File photo
At around nine months to 12 months, your child is more likely to sleep through the night. (YEEEESSSS!!!)
Don’t be surprised though when they wake up several times at night (followed by an almighty screaming for unlucky parents). That’s common for babies nine months and older. Your baby may be feeling separation anxiety. She may also be teething, or busy practising new skills like crawling. There are many reasons why babies disrupt their sleep.
You might think, “Oh lord why do you have to learn this now?” Oftentimes, it’s just a natural part of their development. Don’t worry, there are things you can do to nudge your baby towards more regular sleep hours.
Help your baby (and yourself!) by having a consistent and predictable bedtime routine. You can start the “let’s go to bed” ritual with a bath, a change of clothes, reading a bedtime story, then a song and a cuddle. Establishing this routine helps to signal that it’s time to sleep. Bedtime rituals help them sleep better and quicker – and will help you regain your dwindling sanity.
Sleeping patterns explained
Experts give the following advice on the real deal about kids’ sleeping hours:
Infants up to three months should have a total of 14-17 hours of quality sleep over a 24-hour period. For babies four to 11 months, the recommended duration is 12 to 16 hours.
You can refer to the table below to get a better idea of how much sleep your baby needs. Keep in mind that every baby is different. Your child might need more or less sleep than indicated.
||8hrs (3 naps)
||16 hrs 30 mins
||6hrs to 7hrs (3 naps)
||8hrs to 9 hrs
||14hrs to 16 hrs
||4 hrs to 5hrs (3 naps)
||10hrs to 11 hrs
||14hrs to 16hrs
||3 hrs (3 naps)
||2hrs 30mins (2 naps)
||13hrs 30 mins
||2hrs 30mins (2 naps)
Toddlers should start building routines before they’re two years old, and must sleep 11-14 hours a day, including naps.
Pre-schoolers should be getting 10-13 hours of sleep, including daytime naps. They should also have consistent sleeping and waking schedules at this time.
Guidelines on daily activities
Apart from sleeping schedules, you should watch out for the type of activities your children do during the day. Some may have a negative impact on their sleeping time, like TV and iPad use.
The Australian government’s Department of Health advises parents to let their kids “have fun, move and play every day.” The recommendation was part of the evidence-based Movement Guidelines which the Australian government developed with health experts.
The Movement Guidelines specify the amount of physical activity, sedentary behaviour, and sleep children should have in a day. You can look at a summary of the guidelines here.
No more screen time
One notable part of the guidelines is a firm stance on “screen time,” or exposure to TVs, mobile phones, tablets, and the like. Infants should have absolutely no screen time whatsoever.
“When [the child is] sedentary, the caregiver is encouraged to engage with [children] through activities such as reading, singing, puzzles and storytelling,” the guideline reads. The same applies to toddlers under two years old.
Professor Tony Okely of the University of Wollongong, one of the experts who co-developed the guidelines, reinforces this advice:
“We can be physically active,” he said. “But if we’re compromising our sleep or spending too much time with screen-based entertainment, then that’s going to compromise our health.”
He further explained the consequences of children spending too much time in front of a screen:
“The fast and quick transitions that we see on screens, the bright flashing lights and the impact that that has on the developing brain is something that we need to be mindful of,” he said.
“Also, how it might limit or minimise communication or language development among young children as well, because it’s taking the place of conversations that might happen,” he added.
While the guidelines maybe a lot to take in, parents shouldn’t be intimidated by the amount of information. Change cannot be achieved in a single day, so a slowly-but-surely approach is healthy for all parties involved.