baby

3 mums share how they established their babies' sleep cycles in the first 6 months.

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The first six months with a new baby in the house are a testing time for any parent, as sleep deprivation takes its toll.

If you’re trying to settle your baby into a good sleep routine it can be so overwhelming as there is so much conflicting information.

So, let’s go through the fundamental things you need to know first, and then we’ll see how three different mums handled their babies’ sleep cycles in practise.

How much sleep do babies need?

According to Pregnancy Birth & Baby, “children grow and develop rapidly, so it’s important they get enough sleep to give them the energy they need for active play and good health”.

All babies are different, but on the whole you can expect your little bundle to sleep each day within these time frames (per 24-hour period):

  • Newborn to three months: Anywhere from eight to 18 hours
  • Three months to six months: Approximately 14-15 hours
  • Six months to 12 months: Approximately 13 hours, with 11 of those hours at night.

What should baby wear to bed?

For many babies, getting tucked into their wrap or safe sleeping bag is a sign that bedtime is imminent.

According to Red Nose Australia, research supports the use of a sleeping bag as they can:

• reduce the risk of bedclothes covering baby’s face
• delay baby rolling onto their tummy
• promote back sleeping when the zip is on the front, and
• keep the baby’s temperature more constant as they sleep.

The Bonds Wondercool range has baby suits and sleeping bags made with adaptive cooling fabric, and they’re the only baby clothing approved by Red Nose for safer sleep.

Getting baby into a sleep pattern: Three different families.

All babies are different, and you need to do what works best for your family.

No matter what your friend, neighbour, sister or celebrity is saying about their baby’s sleeping habits – you know your baby best. You need to find the sleeping routine that works best for you and that you’re comfortable with.

We spoke with three Aussie mums about how they got their baby into a sleep routine that suited their family.

“With two older children, there was absolutely no routine in the day time whatsoever” – Alice.

Baby sleep cycles Alice
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Alice is a mother of three boys aged eight and six years old, and 13 months. She shares her experience of settling her youngest boy Nash into a sleep routine.

"My first goal was just to make sure that night times were as calm as possible, because there was absolutely no routine in the day time whatsoever," she tells Mamamia.

"He started going to bed at 7pm with the older kids early on. His bedtime is like a reset, I know that if he is in bed at that time then the nights will be OK.

"Having the older kids means I have never got into the habit of rocking and patting him to sleep, he has always just settled himself off to sleep for the most part. I would wrap him in a light muslin wrap and settle him down on his back to sleep in his cot.

"If I needed to go out in the daytime I would just really gently lift him out of his cot and put him in the car and off we’d go. We did start using a dummy at around six weeks, which really helped on car trips. [Note: long periods of car sleeping are not recommended as the baby's neck is not flat, so be mindful].

"If he is looking tired before we need to leave for the school run, I’ll pack all three kids in the car and just drive around for half an hour before the school drop off. This way Nash can just go to sleep and we’re not late for school.

"I just try to keep my days as simple as possible. I let him sleep and feed whenever he wants to. We are a lot more relaxed third time around."

"A strict sleeping routine worked well for us" - Lee.

lee price
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Lee has two children aged eight and five. Here she looks back at how she got James and then Molly into a sleeping routine.

"I had spent a lot of time with a friend who had two little girls under two," Lee says. "They slept so well and went to bed happily, so when my baby James came along I approached that friend for advice. She shared a sleeping schedule that worked well for her babies, where you put them down to sleep at the same times each day, depending on their age.

"At six months old I would put him in a safe sleeping bag and place him in his cot on his back. He would settle himself down to sleep for roughly two two-hour naps per day, after babbling to himself for a while first.

"I would put him to bed at 7pm every night, and then most of the time he would sleep until 7am after having a feed around 10.30pm before I went to bed.

"Having the set times worked well for me as I could plan my day around his sleep times, he didn’t get overtired, and I knew he was getting enough sleep for his age. Plus I got a good night's sleep too, which made the days much more manageable.

"When my second baby came along, I wasn’t able to adhere to the sleep times quite as much, as we had more going on. Usually I’d just try and make sure at least one of her naps were at home in her cot, while the other nap was generally while we were out, in the pram or baby carrier. We just did our best to stick to the set times as I knew how much it helped to get her into a good routine."

"I’ve always had a flexible approach to sleep for my babies" - Naomi.

Baby sleep cycles Naomi
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Naomi is a mother of three children aged eight, five and two. She shares her story of getting her second child into a sleeping routine.

"When Evie-Rose came along I also had my two year old son, so I really just went with the flow," Naomi shares. "When it came to sleep I tried to follow her lead as much as possible and just relied on my instincts.

"I would keep one eye on her and one on the clock. I could work out when she was due for a sleep, and then I looked out for her cues for sleep, such as yawning, putting her hands in her mouth, getting grizzly.

"I would put her in her safe sleeping bag, give her a feed and she would breastfeed to sleep [note: this can lead to accidental co-sleeping, so be careful]. I would put her down on her back in her cot, or if she wouldn’t settle I’d just try feeding her again or just hold her for the duration of her nap.

"Sometimes I would just abandon the daytime nap if it just wasn’t happening, and just have some quiet time instead, have a cuddle, or try feeding her again.

"One thing that I did implement was a bedtime routine quite early on. We would give Evie-Rose a bath, read books, put her sleeping bag on, have a feed, and she would fall asleep in my arms.

"Then I would attempt to put her down to sleep in her cot. We did that from just a few months old, and I think it helped settle her down for bed each night."

To find out the best advice around safe sleeping, visit the Red Nose Safe Sleep Hub for more.

What's worked best for you and your baby's sleep patterns? Join the conversation below.

Feature images: Lee Price/Supplied.

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