One of the biggest challenges with infant sleep comes from the fact that our expectations of what is “normal” have been heavily skewed by tv, movies, social media, doctors, experts, and even well-meaning friends and family. If you’re expecting your newborn baby to happily nap all day long while you cook elaborate meals, exercise, start a hobby or learn something new, then of course you’re going to feel frustrated when your newborn won’t nap without you or takes short cat naps all day. Whereas if you’re expecting your baby to need a lot of support for naps and during their awake time, you might cherish the 30 minutes you get while they nap on their own!
Similarly, if you are expecting your baby to be sleeping through the night by 6 months of age (because that is EVERYWHERE), you may feel like you’re somehow failing when your baby is “still” waking up at night for their entire first year of life and beyond. If however, you knew that 86% of babies at 6 months were still waking, you’d realise that sleeping through the night was the exception, not the norm and you might give yourself a little bit more grace.
Today we’re going to walk you through exactly what you should expect in the first year of life, so there aren’t any surprises along the way!
In the newborn stage (0-3 months), it is normal for your baby to want a lot of closeness and connection. Attachment is their primary driver at this stage and in the first year of life babies attach through the senses. It’s normal for them to want to eat a lot throughout the day, and even more in the evenings. It’s normal for them to need a lot of support to fall asleep and to stay asleep. It’s normal for them to have a nice long sleep in the middle of the day and then be up all night long. It’s normal for their sleep patterns to be very inconsistent day to day. It’s normal for them to go through a growth spurt at 3 months and just want to eat and eat and eat. It’s also normal for some babies to start sleeping longer stretches at night as they approach 3-4 months of age, which is a great time to catch up on a little sleep because this often changes soon!
As your baby graduates from the newborn stage and moves into the 4-6 month range, it’s normal to feel like everything is falling apart. Many babies who were previously sleeping well are now waking every 2 hours all night long (grab our progressions guide to learn why). Babies are starting to get mobile and rolling in this stage so your baby may need to transition out of the swaddle if they were swaddled or start getting stuck in their sleep when they roll to their tummies and cry out for support. It’s normal for babies to need to eat at night and it’s normal for babies to start seeming a little fussier at this stage as the brain development can cause them to be a little fussier during the day.
When your baby grows into the 7-10 month range, there can be a LOT of things going on for them in their little world. They may start crawling, pulling to stand, sitting up on their own, and some even start to walk. They also tend to start foods at this age, may be teething, and separation anxiety starts to become a factor. All of this makes it SO normal for your baby to start waking up more at night than they had been before. It is also normal for your baby to wake up to practice all these emerging skills in the middle of the night. It’s normal at this age for your usual sleep associations to stop working as well as they did before, and it’s normal for a 2 nap pattern to begin to emerge with some regularity day-to-day.
Then as we approach baby’s first birthday, it’s normal for sleep to start to get a bit better for a bit. It’s often disrupted again when baby is gearing up to take those first steps because walking is a big sleep disruptor. It’s also normal for baby to start taking a long morning nap and start resisting that afternoon nap. It’s normal for babies to still need support to fall asleep. It’s normal for them to still wake up at night at this age.
So there you have it, a very quick summary on what to expect at each stage in your baby’s first year of life.
The highlights are:
- 1. Sleep is not linear
- 2. It’s normal for babies to wake at night for the first year and beyond
3. You’re not doing anything wrong if your baby’s sleep is getting disrupted
If you need support with your baby's sleep, feel free to reach out to us or schedule a call today!