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Whether you’re a first-time or an experienced parent, one of the challenges in the first few months is getting quality sleep for daddy, mummy and baby.
Sleep is especially important for the little one for development. Sleeping well has tremendous benefits. When your baby gets enough sleep, he will be more alert and attentive; and be in better physical health and mood. His learning and memory also improves1.
Make the environment conducive for sleeping. Helping baby sleep often starts with creating a bedroom environment that is dim, peaceful, quiet, comfortable and free from any screens.
Establish healthy sleep habits. Sleep habits also make a big difference. A consistent bedtime routine and a sleep schedule reinforce the importance of bedtime. A soothing bedtime routine helps baby unwind before sleep and gradually learn it is bedtime.
Keep your baby active during the day. Give your little one lots of opportunities to use up his energy during the day. You’ll find your baby will fall asleep more quickly and stay asleep throughout the night.
One of the most important aspects of baby sleep is safety. Both daddies and mummies take safety very seriously and would go to great lengths to keep their little babies safe.
Here are the tips from the American Academy of Paediatrics (AAP)2 to reduce the risk of Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS) or “cot death”.
Place your baby in a supine position (wholly on the back) for every sleep, including naps, until your baby turns one. It’s not safe for babies to sleep on their side or tummy unless they are unable to keep themselves safe by rolling onto their backs and fronts.
2 American Academy of Pediatrics (retrieved: 3rd August 2021).
Safe Sleep, URL:
It is safer for your baby to sleep in his cot or bed for at least 6 months, preferably a year. Bring your baby onto your bed only for a feed or to comfort the little one. Always place him back in his cot, on his back when you’re ready to sleep. You can stay close by sleeping in the same room with his cot placed close to your bed.
Your baby should sleep on a firm mattress covered by a well-fitted sheet. Never place your baby to sleep on a sofa or armchair and do not let your baby fall asleep on nursing pillows or pillow-like lounging pads. They may roll over or turn their heads into the soft fabric which may block their airway.
For a safe night’s sleep, keep loose objects away including blankets, bumper pads, loose bedding, pillows and stuffed toys from your baby’s sleeping area. These objects increase the risk of entrapment, suffocation, and strangulation.
To reduce the risk of Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS), breastfeed your baby unless there are challenges. Studies show that breastfeeding is associated with a reduced risk of SIDS. Breastfeed exclusively or feed with expressed breastmilk for at least 6 months.
When babies are exposed to smoke, there is a major risk of Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS). Mummies should stay smoke-free during pregnancy and after delivery. Cigarette smoke or fumes increase the risk of SIDS.
Keep the environment, whether home, car or caregiver’s place, smoke free to eliminate your baby’s exposure to second-hand smoke.
As a guide, dress your baby in the same number of layers you are wearing plus an additional layer for warmth. The additional layer may be a lightweight muslin or cotton wrap. There’s also sleep clothing designed for babies like wearable blankets which can keep your baby warm.
Do not use loose blankets to keep your baby warm as they may cover your baby’s head and obstruct their breathing.
Always sleep your baby
clear cot or sleep space
Here is a checklist you can use to ensure your baby can sleep safely and comfortably!
How much is enough sleep for baby? Here are some guidelines from the National Sleep Foundation:
14-17 hours (0-3 months of age) or 12-15 hours (4-11 months of age) of good quality sleep, including naps
11-14 hours of good quality sleep, including naps, with regular sleep and wake-up times
Most newborns spend most of their time asleep. At this stage, they sleep about
14-17 hours a day. They sleep in short bursts of 2-3 hours between feeds. They feed every 2-4 hours or more often if they are going through a growth spurt.
Spend the first few months getting to know your baby and your baby’s cues for sleep, feeds, play and settling.
Be flexible and follow your baby’s lead. Your baby will let you know whether they want to sleep, feed or interact with you. Every baby is different and they do not follow a fixed regime. It is okay to go with whatever feels right at the time.
If you will like to start a simple routine, try the
Here’s what the
EASY method looks like:
The EASY routine might help you feel more in control, but what’s more important is to
watch your baby’s cues and respond. For example, when your baby shows signs of being hungry after playing, give him another feed. Burp him then prepare him for bed. Your baby will sleep better with a full tummy.
Newborns get tired very quickly and some start feeling sleepy 1 to 1.5 hours after waking. Here are some telltale signs:
When babies are young, their heads are still very soft. Sleeping on their backs can sometimes make the back of their heads a little bit flat. Their heads will round out naturally when they are 12 months old.
If it’s worrying you, you can gently alternate the tilt of your baby’s head each time you place him on his back to sleep. When he is awake, give him plenty of tummy time! That will keep him off the back of his head.
Most newborns will lose some weight in the first few days after birth. Feed your little one frequently until he regains the lost weight or starts to gain weight. You might have to wake him up after he has slept for a 4-hour stretch to feed him. Once he has regained his weight, you can stop waking him to feed him unless your doctor has advised you to continue to do so.
Here are some common ways to help your baby fall asleep:
At this stage, babies still sleep and wake up both in the day and at night. Most babies sleep for
14-17 hours every 24 hours. Young babies sleep in cycles that last 50-60 minutes. Each cycle is made up of active sleep and quiet sleep. Babies move around and grunt during active sleep and sleep deeply during quiet sleep.
As your baby approaches 3 months of age, his sleep cycle gets longer and comprises:
At the end of each cycle, babies wake up for a little while. They might grizzle or cry. They might also need help to settling into the next sleep cycle.
This stage is when babies start developing day and night sleep patterns. It is a good time to introduce a bedtime routine to help your baby sleep more during the night.
At this stage, babies need
12-15 hours of sleep every 24 hours. They might start having more predictable nap patterns. Typically, they have 2-3 naps lasting up to two hours each. At night, they tend to stay asleep for longer periods. Most will still wake up at least once a night.
At around four months, many babies go through sleep regression as their sleep patterns are changing. Sleep regression is when a baby suddenly has trouble settling down for sleep or wakes up fussing in the middle of the night.
Before trying the tips below, it is a good idea to make sure your baby isn’t sick as illnesses can disrupt their sleep. See your doctor if your baby has a fever or is much fussier than normal.
Your baby is working hard to master newfound skills and may be so eager to learn that he is trying to practise them at night instead of sleeping. Give your child plenty of time during the day to practise tummy time, rolling over or sitting up.
Full feedings during the day and just before bed can prevent your baby from getting hungry in the middle of the night. When your baby goes through growth spurts, he may be hungrier during the day and also at night.
When your baby is napping, keep the room as dim as possible to encourage better sleep. If your baby stirs, the darkness will lull them back to sleep. When it’s time to get up, let natural sunlight light up the room. The darkness and light signal to the brain the stages of the sleep-wake cycle.
If you haven’t done so already, establish a bedtime routine and stick to it. This can include a bath, changing clothes, wiping their gums or brushing their teeth, reading a bedtime story, or singing a lullaby. Consistency is the key.
If you hear your baby wake up at night, wait a few minutes before you get up to check on your baby. Respond to him only when he continues to cry.
At night, change or feed your little one as quickly and quietly as possible. Avoid talking or playing with your baby. Keep the lights dim throughout and screens off as light from mobile devices or computers can stimulate your baby.
When you are quiet and calm at night, your behaviour reinforces and communicates to your baby that night time is for sleeping.
Yawning, rubbing of eyes, or fussing are signs of a sleepy baby. When you see any of these signs, get your baby to a quiet place to rest.
The faster you respond to your baby’s sleep cues, the more likely he will fall asleep quickly. When you take too long to respond, you might find yourself having to console a cranky, overtired baby refusing to sleep!
At this stage, your baby can start learning how to sleep on his own. To help him soothe himself back to sleep, sit by his side and gently stroke him. You can also lull him to sleep with soft, reassuring words.
Your baby will take time to learn how to soothe himself back to sleep. Before he can do so, pick him up and hold him when he is crying and gently pat him back to sleep.
At this stage, babies still need
12-15 hours of sleep every 24 hours. Their sleep cycles are closer to those of grown-ups — which means less frequent waking at night.
Most babies will still have 2-3 daytime naps that last 30 minutes to 2 hours. The number of naps might reduce as babies grow closer to 1-year-old.
Your baby should also, by now, have an established sleep routine. As your little one no longer needs night feeds, you may want to phase them out if your baby is developing well. But if you are comfortable feeding your baby at night, there’s no hurry to phase out night feeds. Choose what works best for you and your baby.
Babies grow rapidly to reach various developmental milestones, such as sitting, crawling, standing or teething. Reaching significant milestones can cause temporary sleep problems. Up to the age of 2 years, your baby will continue to experience sleep regressions as he goes through growth spurts and achieves big milestones.
Sleep regressions are a normal part of baby and toddlerhood. There is no way to prevent them. The most daddies, mummies and caregivers can do is to continue with and reinforce bedtime routines and sleep schedules. Remember to reach out for help when you feel exhausted or overwhelmed.
Some parents find it useful to maintain a sleep log, to track baby sleep duration and progress. Try it out to get a clearer picture of how much baby is sleeping. The log might also help you understand your baby’s schedule, and create regular wake and sleep routines for your baby.
In the early weeks and months of your baby’s life, you might find it challenging to get enough sleep. Adults need 7-9 hours of sleep daily but the amount of sleep you get after the baby arrives depends on what’s happening with your baby.
You might need more sleep if you:
When you have enough sleep, you are better able to fulfil your new responsibilities of caring for your baby. You will also be more patient and more likely to feel good about parenting.
Make time for yourself, even if it is just five minutes. When your baby naps, take a good shower, read some articles or take a nap, too, to catch up on sleep.
Daily chores can feel overwhelming when you are exhausted. It is okay to spend your energy on things that are most important to you, for example, playing with your baby or catching up with your spouse, friends or other children. Get help with chores if you can.
Eat nutritious food, especially if you are breastfeeding. Healthy food can give you more energy.
Share baby care with your spouse or a trusted family member. Taking turns or shifts for night time duties can really make a difference.
Mothers who are breastfeeding might find it more difficult to share night time duties. What mummies can do is get rest when your baby is resting. On weekends, arrange to have someone babysit in the mornings so that mummy can sleep in.
Affectionately known as the "baby book" that every Singaporean child grows up with, the Child Health Booklet (CHB) is provided to parents at the time of delivery.
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Swaddling helps babies sleep better.
Research4 has shown that swaddling helps babies sleep better. They experienced fewer startles, awoke less often, and spent more time sleeping. It is crucial to follow safety guidelines when swaddling:
4 van Sleuwen, B. E., Engelberts, A. C., Boere-Boonekamp, M. M., Kuis, W., Schulpen, T. W., & L'Hoir, M. P. (2007). Swaddling: a systematic review. Pediatrics, 120(4), e1097–e1106. https://doi.org/10.1542/peds.2006-2083
Spread the blanket out flat, with one corner folded down.
Lay your baby face-up on the blanket with his head above the folded corner.
Straighten your baby’s left arm and wrap the left corner of the blanket over the body and tuck it between the right arm and the right side of the body.
Tuck the right arm down and fold the right corner of the blanket over your baby’s body and under the left side.
Fold or twist the bottom of the blanket loosely and tuck it under one side of your baby.
Make sure the hips and legs can move freely and that the blanket is not too tight. You should be able to fit two or three fingers between the baby’s chest and the blanket.
Sucking a pacifier may help babies fall asleep but there are some risks to keep in mind
If you’re breastfeeding, introducing a pacifier too early can cause "nipple confusion". It’s best to use pacifiers only after breastfeeding has been established – a process that can take up to 4 weeks. Pacifiers may cause your baby to prefer sucking the pacifier to latching onto your breast. Your baby might also feel tired and breastfeed for short periods only.
The use of pacifiers can be habit-forming. Your baby might become dependent on a pacifier to self-soothe while awake. He might wake up and cry if the pacifier falls out when he is asleep. Eventually, you might have to help your baby wean off the pacifier.
Pacifiers might increase the risk of illnesses if they are not properly cleaned often. If you're using pacifiers, make sure they are sterilised before use. The pacifier's shield should be made of firm plastic with airholes at least 1.5 inches or 3.8 cm wide so that your baby is unable to put the entire pacifier in his mouth.
Pacifier use is linked to slightly higher rates of ear infection in children. Also, using pacifiers beyond 2-4 years old might interfere with the alignment of your child's teeth.
Rocking works well for some babies. After a while, your baby might start associating being rocked with falling asleep. When your baby wakes at night, he might find it hard to go back to sleep without being rocked again. Here’s something daddies and mummies might not know: Baby hammocks, sarongs or 'yao lans' are
not safe for babies to sleep unsupervised, especially when babies are able to roll5.
5 Chiu, K., Tonkin, S. L., Gunn, A. J., & McIntosh, C. C. (2014). Are baby hammocks safe for sleeping babies? A randomised controlled trial. Acta paediatrica (Oslo, Norway : 1992), 103(7), 783–787. https://doi.org/10.1111/apa.12663
Establishing a bedtime routine is one of the best ways to get your baby to understand that it’s time to sleep. A bedtime routine can include 20-40 minutes of quiet activities to calm your baby before sleep. Here are some activities you can include in your baby’s routine:
Taking a warm bath
Reading a bedtime story
Singing a lullaby
Giving your baby a gentle massage before putting on pyjamas*
* Tip: Some pyjamas have clothing labels that might be uncomfortable for baby. You may like to remove that if you wish.
Keep the sleep environment dim and cool. Just before placing your baby into his cot, say to him: “good night, sleep tight” and then give him a cuddle or good night kiss. Use a similar routine each day (even if carried out by different caregivers) to help baby gradually understand it's bedtime.
Babies wake up at night for different reasons. Babies under 2 months might wake because they are hungry or might have colic and find it hard to sleep. Infants get hungry every few hours because their stomachs are very small and need round-the-clock feeds.
It can be challenging and frustrating6, especially when you are tired and your baby is wakeful. Here are some tips to help you and your baby through this stage:
Keep the room dark. When you’re feeding or comforting your baby in the middle of the night, keep the lights off. Use a dim night lamp only when you need to.
Try not to stimulate your baby too much. Keep activities to a minimum. For instance, avoid changing his nappy or clothing unless it is absolutely necessary.
Your baby might be hungry.
If you breastfeed, place a nursing chair and nursing pillow near the cot so that you can quietly pick up your baby and breastfeed him.
If you bottle-feed, prepare in advance. Sterilise bottles, pre-measure the milk powder and have boiled warm water ready in a flask. Never force your baby to eat more than he needs hoping that this will make your baby sleep for longer periods. Also, do not add cereal or any solids as these might cause choking.
There might be times when your baby remains unsettled after feeds.
If your baby is crying for a long time with no signs of calming down, he or she might be colicky, ill or might need some medical attention. Consult a doctor if you suspect that your baby might be unwell.
When you’ve had an especially trying night, take some time off to rest in the morning so that your body recovers. Ask family members to help babysit so that you can catch a few winks during the day.
6 Tips from unicef.org.uk/babyfriendly/wp-content/uploads/sites/2/2018/08/Caring-for-your-baby-at-night-web.pdf
Here are some reasons for sleep regressions:
When your baby has been sleeping well throughout the night and then suddenly they’re not, it might be a sleep regression. The main sign is a sudden worsening in sleep patterns around 4 months of age. The main sign is a sudden worsening in sleep patterns around 4 months of age.
Other signs of a sleep regression include:
Here are some reasons why sleep regressions occur:
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