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You know you're in a good groove when your day goes like this: The baby takes a long morning nap and you have time to shower and read the paper. You get to have coffee with a friend while the baby gurgles happily in her stroller beside you. Later in the day you play with the baby while she gets “tummy time.” By 7 p.m., she’s down for the night.
“Why isn’t my baby sleeping?” is the No. 1 question new parents ask, says Jill Spivack, M.S.W., of Childsleep, a pediatric sleep practice in Los Angeles.
One reason your child might be having difficulty staying settled at night is that she is approaching a developmental milestone, Spivack says. Those exciting “firsts,” from rolling over to sitting up, can shake up a sleep routine. Here’s help:
You know how good it feels to get a full night’s sleep: You awake refreshed and ready to face the world. But while adults usually prefer a seven- or eight-hour stretch, newborns typically sleep in two- to three-hour spurts. As a new parent, how do you reconcile that difference?
“Colicky” is a label given to babies who cry and fuss for at least three hours a day. But most experts believe it is an overused, ambiguous term at best. “‘Colic’ is an old-fashioned term that actually means ‘upset stomach,’ which it usually isn’t,” says pediatrician Harvey N. Karp, M.D., author of the book and DVD The Happiest Baby on the Block. “It’s starting to be replaced by ‘fussy’ or ‘irritable.’
Related: The New Mom's Survival Guide
World-renowned sleep researcher James McKenna, Ph.D., is among those challenging the recent conclusion by the American Academy of Pediatrics’ (AAP) task force on sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS) that sharing a bed with your infant is more dangerous than putting her in a crib. (However, the AAP does recommend placing babies to sleep close to their parents but on a different surface, such as in a bedside co-sleeper.)
Q: How much sleep does a newborn need?
Human babies are the most dependent of all mammals. In fact, some researchers refer to the gestation period as 18 months—nine in the womb and nine outside of it. Since your baby is used to being rocked and fed continually in the womb, he probably will feel most comfortable being held and nursed on demand once he’s out.
I think some people can be amazingly pushy when it comes to other people's babies and that you should stick to your guns. Brain growth at this age is too rapid for virtually any baby to sleep through the night (some aren't even able to do it until the end of the first year). Even adults wake up several times each night (we just may not remember doing it). But we have commitments in the morning, so we push ourselves to go back to sleep. Your baby, on the other hand, has no appointments.
Many babies, especially newborns, sleep only a few hours at a stretch because they need to waken to be cuddled or fed. Some may start sleeping longer at 4 or 5 months; others may not until after the first year. To help fix this problem, many books tell you to let your baby cry it out beginning in his first few weeks. But by enforcing these sleep-changing programs, you encourage less contact with, and feeding by, your baby.
There is no right answer to the questions surrounding bed-sharing. From your baby's point of view, there's no doubt shell be happy if you invite her into your bed. If you don't, however, she wont take it too personally, and she will get used to sleeping in her bassinet. So, the choice is yours.
The average newborn sleeps a total of 14 to 18 hours a day, older infants from 13 to 14 hours, says Jodi Mindell, Ph.D., associate director of the Sleep Disorders Center, Children's Hospital in Philadelphia and author of Sleeping Through the Night: How Infants, Toddlers and Their Parents Can Get a Good Night's Sleep, revised edition (HarperCollins). "The best way to judge whether or not your baby is getting enough sleep is to look at his behavior throughout the day," Mindell says. "If he sleeps 11 hours and is perky and happy, that's enough."