During the first few months of life, newborns may sleep during the day and stay awake at night, they may have difficulty going to sleep or they may wake often for diaper changes and feedings. As babies grow older, they may settle into a different sleep schedule. Parents struggling to get a baby to go to sleep at a particular time may wonder if a consistent bedtime is necessary for the baby's health.
Do Babies Need Consistent Bedtimes?
While parents may enjoy a flexible sleep schedule, inconsistent bedtimes for children can cause problems for everyone, says KidsHealth, a child development site. An inconsistent bedtime can cause babies to be awake and eager for attention while parents are trying to fall asleep. Inconsistency may also cause your baby to sleep during the day instead of at night. However, daily fluctuations in sleep schedules are normal. Putting baby to bed at a similar time of day, rather than a set time, may yield better results.
Setting a Bedtime
Most newborns will sleep an average of 16 hours per day, though these hours tend to be spread across several naps, according to the American Academy of Pediatrics. After naps, indulge your baby in plenty of play time. Keeping her awake times long during the day can help her get to bed at night. Parents can help set a bedtime by giving the baby a warm bath, dimming the lights and talking quietly before bedtime. Hold your baby until she seems drowsy before putting her to bed. If feeding or diaper changes are necessary before bedtime, work quickly and quietly to send your baby the signal that it is time for bed. While your baby may have difficulty falling asleep at first, she may settle into her new schedule after a few weeks.
Setting a consistent bedtime is more difficult during the first few months of life, though most babies will settle into a consistent sleep schedule after three months, says KidsHealth. Illness can also affect your baby's bedtime, as a sick baby may sleep more or less frequently than usual.
If you are having trouble getting your baby to fall asleep at a set time, ask your pediatrician for help. Breastfeeding mothers may be consuming too much caffeine, which may be causing sleep troubles for their babies. Medications the mother is taking and other substances could also make it difficult for a baby to have a consistent sleeping schedule.