Sleep: Newborn to 3-years-old

The importance of sleep for babies and toddlers and helpful tips to establish and maintain a sleep routine.

Sleep is very important for not only parents, but also their children. Photo credit: Pixabay.
Sleep is very important for not only parents, but also their children. Photo credit: Pixabay.

We know sleep is very important for not only ourselves, but also our children. Going without sufficient sleep and most of us will not be at our best. This is the same for small children. Small children may display their tiredness by displaying behaviors such as moodiness, irritability, high frustration and high energy levels.

Depending on the child’s age, children do have recommended hours of sleep in a 24 hour period. According to the National Sleep Foundation, newborns one to two months spend a lot of their time sleeping, somewhere between 10.5 to 18 hours a day. Newborns sleep and wake cycle tends to revolve around their need to be fed, diapered and nurtured. During sleep newborns may appear restless and twitch their arms and legs, smile, and suck. Sleepy infants may rub their eyes, fuss, or cry. By being alert to their patterns while they are awake and asleep, parents can go about setting a sleep/nap routine.

Michigan State University Extension reminds of the importance that infants should always be put on their backs while sleeping to prevent Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS). Parents should use a crib and it should be totally bare, with just the mattress and sheet, free of toys and blankets for safety. Having toys in the crib will add to the child’s wakefulness. By three to 11 months infants typically have done away with their night feedings and are sleeping through the night. They still do well with a couple of day naps at this point. It is best to put the infant to bed when they show signs of sleepiness, so they learn to self-sooth and fall asleep on their own. Children that have learned to self-sooth can put themselves back to sleep when they wake at night.

At 1- to 3-years-old, toddlers need 12 to 13 hours of sleep in a 24 hour period. Their naps may decrease to once a day lasting from one to three hours. Naps should not take place close to their bedtime or it may contribute to wake-state at bedtime. It is encouraged for parents to continue with the same sleep routine and keeping the same pattern of events leading up to bed-time. Toddlers at this age are experiencing autonomy and independence and are able to communicate needs, which can contribute to some difficulties in getting settled for bed. It is encouraged to set limits on number of books read and number of times a toddler may ask for water, etc. It is important to keep events low-key and calming. Some things that may interfere with sleep are television, rough-play, bright lighting, constant interruptions and outings during their sleep time. Introducing a comfort object such as a bear may be helpful. Finally, to help the family maintain the routine, it is helpful to share routines and schedules with other caretakers.

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