Stressing about your baby’s sleep is just a sign that you’re a parent. Welcome to Club Worry, where we are up all night with a hungry or crying baby, then up all night when they’re finally sleeping, worried about why they are still asleep. We worry when they don’t get enough sleep and then worry if we think they’re getting too much sleep. The truth is that if you have a happy baby that is growing, then chances are they’re getting the perfect amount of sleep they need.
Here are some signs that your baby is getting too much sleep:
- Your baby isn’t growing. Especially in the first two weeks and even up to a month, your doctor may recommend you wake your baby to feed every 1.5-4 fours. Babies are born without a circadian rhythm, the biological clock that helps them recognize the difference between day and night, so they’re looking to their parents to guide them with social cues. Waking your baby to feed from naps and offering frequent daytime feedings can help them recognize the importance of getting the majority of their food in the day. Then at night we allow them to feed on demand, so they’re waking us when they need to eat. As sleep architecture develops, your baby will begin stretching out their night sleep periods and needing less and less food at night. If you are concerned about your baby’s growth and how often they feed, talk to your pediatrician.
- Your baby is waking frequently at night. If your baby is sleeping throughout the day and taking really long naps, they may be stealing sleep from their night sleep. Newborns may wake equally throughout the day and night, but after a few weeks, they should start stretching out to longer stretches of night sleep. If you find that isn’t happening, you may want to consider waking them from naps. Naps are used to help relieve sleep pressure, the pressure that builds throughout the day until you must sleep at night. For babies, their sleep pressure builds quicker than adults, so we use naps to help alleviate the pressure throughout the day. Just like a teapot on the stove, it builds heat until it whistles, we build up our sleep pressure until our bedtime bell whistles and we must go to sleep. If we relieve too much sleep pressure with naps, then the pressure won’t build enough for long periods of night sleep.
Let that Baby Sleep: 3 Types of Naps for Babies
There are situations where you want to let your baby sleep more, like when they’re sick. Here are three types of naps that you will utilize as a parent, for you and your baby.
- Recovery Nap: This nap is used to help with daytime sleepiness from having interrupted sleep and can help compensate for that loss of sleep time. This nap is utilized when you feel sleepy, so do a check in with yourself throughout the day and take 10-20 minute recovery naps to help catch you up on sleep. This also instills the ability you have to fall asleep when tired, rather than teaching our brains to fight sleep even when it’s necessary.
- Fulfillment Nap: This is the type of nap we focus on for our babies and even up to kindergarten. This nap is in the day and it is to help achieve the amount of sleep our little ones require. The length of a fulfillment nap can vary between 20 minutes and even up to 3 hours.
- Essential Nap: An essential nap is a response to the greater need for sleep when you’re sick or your body is in recovery. It’s your immune system’s response to help fight infection and to assist in the healing process. Essential naps are for all ages when sick and should happen organically with exhaustion and last until you wake or need to wake.