Sleep is one of the main issues for new parents, and while some babies sleep very well from day one, others take their time to establish good sleeping habits. Here are some of the key factors that may be affecting your baby's sleep patterns:
1. Sleep cycle
Babies often wake as they move from one stage of sleep to another. Sometimes they call out or cry; sometimes they're hungry. It's useful to remember not to rush to your baby at the first murmur. If they're not hungry and you leave them for a minute or two, they may go back to sleep on their own. Evidence suggests some babies naturally find it easier to resettle themselves after they wake in the night.
Just like adults, babies can wake because they're too hot or too cold. The recommended room temperature for babies is 18 degrees - they don't need hot rooms, and it's important to keep them cool. Don't worry if your baby's hands or feet are cold; this is normal. Remove some of the bedding if your baby is sweating or their tummy feels warm.
Babies may start to get more infections after they reach six months and begin exploring the world; putting all sorts of objects in their mouths. Many babies who have colds wake in the night because they're congested or coughing. Fever, vomiting and diarrhoea will also disturb sleep. It may take several weeks for sleeping patterns to return to normal if your baby's been ill, so be patient. However, always remember if your baby has a serious illness it's important to get medical attention straight away.
Your baby may wake at night as they grow and enter different stages of development. Babies can wake because they have just learned to roll over and have got stuck or moved into a new position. They may wake more often as they learn to sit or even pull themselves up in their cot. During the second half of their first year, they may also develop separation anxiety; a growing sense of self-awareness which leads them to cry out because you're not there. All of these changes are normal and will pass with time.
5. What's normal?
Generally speaking, babies do not sleep all night-every night until they are close to a year old, and even then babies who have slept through may return to night waking. It's useful to remember it's very normal for healthy babies - especially breastfed babies - to wake and feed at night during at least the first year. 'Sleeping through' can be a misleading term - often medical professionals measure this as a five or six-hour stint. Try to ignore any pressure you may feel for your baby to sleep 'all night' as soon as possible.
Always speak to your GP or health visitor if you need more advice about how your baby is sleeping.