Understanding your babies sleep: 4-7mths
By this age, your baby should be well on the way toward an established sleep pattern. Most likely the pattern includes at least two naps a day, plus at least 7 or 8 hours of night time sleep.
During these months, your baby will probably learn to roll over and position himself for sleep. Toward the end of this period, he may be able to stay awake or be kept awake by surroundings, so this is the time to instill good sleep habits by sticking to a bedtime routine.
How long will my baby sleep?
While the average number of hours slept per day at this age is 14, the range of normal is quite wide, with some babies sleeping only 9 hours and others sleeping as much as 18.
The average amount of daytime sleep at this age is 3 to 4 hours. If left up to your baby, daily naps will be as long as he needs them to be. Again, some babies will nap 20 minutes, others will sleep much longer. Keep in mind that your baby would rather be with you than anywhere else. So your baby may need more than a 20-minute nap, but wakes because he would just rather be playing with you than sleeping in the crib. Also, as he becomes a toddler and starts resisting naps, it still may be a good idea to have a period of quiet time, for both of you.
Naps usually help prevent a baby from becoming too cranky to sleep well at night, allowing him (and you) to enjoy the waking hours more. Most babies this age like to nap once in the morning, then again sometime after lunch. If you feel the napping is interfering with his bedtime, you can wake him from an afternoon nap a little earlier. Keep in mind your baby is still growing and sleep is very important for them and if your baby is overly tired, he will not sleep well at night.
How and where should my baby sleep?
Always keep sleep safety in mind. Make sure the crib you are using meets current safety standards. Don’t put anything in the crib that can interfere with his breathing - stuffed animals, blankets, or soft pillows can fall on a baby’s face and block breathing. Avoid items with ties or ribbons that can wrap around his neck, and objects with any kind of sharp edge or corner.
Once he is pulling himself up using the sides of the crib, it’s time to remove the mobiles hanging over it. Don’t forget to look around for the things that he can touch from a standing position in the crib. Wall hangings, pictures, draperies, and window blind cords are potentially harmful if left within his reach. If you have not already, consider placing him in a sleeping bag. This will ensure the covers never slip over his head, he stays warm all night and he can’t escape from the cot!
Experts recommend that healthy infants be placed on their backs to sleep, not on their stomachs. The incidence of sudden infant death syndrome (cot death) has decreased by more than 50% since this recommendation was first made in 1992. Until he is rolling over unaided and picking a position for sleep, continue to place him on his back to sleep.
How can I encourage my baby to sleep?
You have probably already established a bedtime routine and are staying with it. If you haven’t established one, start now! There are some suggestions on how to do this in earlier sections.
Soothing activities, such as a warm bath followed by stories or singing will signal transition to sleep, and these same activities can be used at bedtime for years. Put him into his cot while he is still awake. If he cries, stay away for a few minutes. He may settle down and go to sleep. If the crying continues, go back in and soothe him for a moment, without picking him. This may go on a few/many times until he figures out that the crying is not getting him anywhere. Expect that this may be a difficult exercise for you, simply because it&rsquos distressing to hear him cry. Try to remember that if you know he is safe, a little crying now, so that you can all sleep better later, is ultimately the healthier choice.
Using a sleep bag helps a baby understand it is bed time and becomes a familiar item that they associate with sleep.
Even a baby who has already been sleeping through the night (anywhere from 7 to 12 hours) will occasionally awaken in the wee hours. After ruling out teething pain, illness, or an extremely soiled diaper, it’s best to let him resettle back to sleep on his own. Give him a few minutes before you respond, then after seeing that everything is OK, leave him alone to fall back to sleep. Don’t forget that any cuddling, feeding, or talking you do may prompt him to wake each night for this attention.
If he is waking up many times each night, perhaps there is an external reason. Is he too big for his bassinet? Do you still have him in your bedroom? Is his room the right temperature? Is his room too light or dark? Is there a noise outside at a particular time of the night (e.g. trucks reversing) which could be waking him up? Once you know the problem the solution is often very easy.
Once you have stopped giving him night feeds never re-introduce them, unless your baby is extremely unwell. He will soon realize he can have milk at night and will start to take less during the day. Your sleep schedule will be over turned. If you think he is thirsty, or it is very hot, offer some cooled boiled water from a cup or bottle. This will provide less incentive for him to wake again for the same thing tomorrow night. Once you know the problem the solution is often very easy.
Another common sleep ‘problem’ at this age is the early riser - the baby who begins to babble or cry for you before the crack of dawn. There is probably nothing you can do to prevent your baby from getting up when he or she is ready, but a few safe toys in the crib may soothe your baby for a while longer, and a window shade to keep out the first light of day may let you get another few minutes of early-morning rest.
Always try to encourage a routine in the morning and getting baby out of bed from 7am onwards any earlier and you will be set with this morning wake up call.
Always try to be consistent and you will have no troubles with early risers.
When do I call the Doctor?
If you have ruled out external reasons for night waking and you still think he is not sleeping enough (or is sleeping too much), don’t hesitate to call your doctor. Teething pain is a common reason for sleep problems at this age, and the doctor may be able to suggest some ways to relieve your baby’s discomfort, or diagnose any other illness you may be concerned about.
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