The baby's sleep

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Catherine Le Nevez
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Sleeping is not only a natural, physiological function of the organism: just like breathing and eating it is also one indispensable function and a fundamental need. Sleeping is also essential for babies, to allow the body to recharge the energy spent during waking hours and to ensure a harmonious and balanced psychophysical development: during sleep, in fact, brain development and memory are consolidated, important hormones are produced. for growth, the immune system is strengthened.

New mothers and fathers, however, know all too well that their babies' sleep is more than a sore point. So let's see the fundamental things to know on this topic.

In this article

  • Sleep of children and adults in comparison;
  • why it is better to avoid exaggerated expectations;
  • how much should sleep;
  • where to make him sleep;
  • how to make him fall asleep.

1 The sleep of children is "different" from that of adults

As the pediatrician explains Alberto Ferrando in his The book of sleep (LSWR Editions, our city 2022), in children it is higher than in adults the percentage of REM (the one in which dreams occur and the brain behaves as if the subject were awake) compared to the NON REM sleep (the deepest one, where you rest). In particular, if in adults a 25% REM phase of sleep is observed, in children it reaches 50%. And also the NON REM sleep is structured in a different way and, in the first months of life, it is overall less profound.

For this, as the perinatal psychologist points out Alessandra Bortolotti in the book Pups Don't Sleep Alone, "it's pretty hard for a baby to sleep soundly before the third month."

REM sleep and NON REM sleep

Here is how they appear in the newborn, according to Ferrando's description, taken from that of the American pediatrician T. Berry Brazelton:


Deep sleep (NON REM): "The newborn is able to eliminate all the annoying stimuli that come from the surrounding environment. His breathing is deep, heavy and regular. He keeps his eyes closed and is inactive; if he moves he can have jerks".


Light sleep (REM): "The baby's breathing is irregular and more superficial. He may make contortions and mimic movements of the face. If he is awakened he may remain sleepy and nervous or try to go back to sleep."

Read also: Nanna: a short guide to managing your baby's sleep

2 Better not to have exaggerated expectations

Precisely because the sleep of children is different from that of adults, it is good to immediately start from the perspective of ideas that your child could wake up often or sleep relatively little (among other things, it is often not true that he sleeps little, but parents, rightly tired, it seems to be so).

Better avoid comparisons with the children of friends, relatives, acquaintances, why the need for sleep varies from child to child also according to temperament, so it is possible to find children who need relatively few hours of sleep, while others need much more sleep, without either circumstance being a sign of something wrong.

3 How long a baby should sleep

Beyond individual variability, according to the American National Sleep Foundation, it is still recommended that a baby sleep from birth to three months of life. approximately 14-17 hours within 24 hours. In any case, intervals between 11-13 hours and 18-19 hours of sleep are considered normal, while it is not recommended that such a small child sleep less than 11 hours or more than 19. (Obviously we are talking about general statistical indications: the However, each child's appropriate needs may vary based on various factors).

Read also: How Much Should a Newborn Sleep? And a child?

4 Where to make him sleep

It is one of many controversial issues about the baby's sleep: where to make him sleep? In his room or in his parents' room? And in this case in a separate crib or bed or even in the bed? Ferrando stresses that the current advice of specialists is to:

let the children sleep in the same room as their parents for at least the first 6-12 months of life

Having said that, the pediatrician specifies that "whatever choice is made, certain precautions must be taken to protect the baby during sleep and ensure its safety". Let's see them.

If he sleeps in his room

  • however, it should be close to that of the parents, in order to be able to promptly respond to the child's requests;
  • if you are breastfeeding, the room must have at least one armchair, reclining if possible, to make breastfeeding easier;
  • but be careful: never sleep with the child on an armchair or sofa due to the risk of suffocation.
Read also: Night feedings: the false myths to dispel

Crib, cot, carrycot ...

The choice is absolutely personal. Ferrando points out that the pram's carrycot was chosen, this will begin to hold tight to the baby around three to four months.

In cots or cots is recommended:

  • place the baby with the feet touching the bottom edge;
  • check the dimensions of the mattress well (there must be no empty spaces on the sides) and consistency (it must be quite rigid);
  • do not keep soft objects such as stuffed animals;
  • avoid bumpers and blankets;
  • do not tie the pacifier to the baby's wrist or neck with laces, cords, ribbons or necklaces as they could injure the baby or even strangle him;
  • eliminate ropes and threads with moving figures hanging above the cradle or bed (they could fall on the baby) or at least check that they are really well anchored;
  • in the case of a bed with bars, check that their distance is up to standard, ie between 4,5 and 6,5 cm.

Bedside cradle or next to me

It is the cradle that can be placed next to the bed, like a sort of sidecar (but being careful not to leave spaces). It is considered by Unicef ​​the safer solution for newborn sleep

Read also: The best bedside cots

In Latvian with parents

"The choice of letting the child sleep in the bed is absolutely personal" writes Ferrando, underlining that in some cases this guarantees a more peaceful sleep for everyone, but in others it can make the sleep of parents and children more disturbed. In any case, if one moves towards this choice, it must be considered that it can be safely implemented only if certain criteria are met. here are the safe sleep points summarized by Ferrando on the basis of international indications:

  1. The parents - so both mom and dad - they must not smoke or consume alcohol or substances that may cause drowsiness. Ditto for taking drugs that cause drowsiness. In all these cases, it is better to have a cot or a small bed.
  2. Parents do not have to be large in build because the excess weight of a parent can pose a risk in case of sharing the Latvian.
  3. The baby should be breastfed (with the formula it changes the quality of sleep of mother and baby).
  4. When not breastfed, the baby should be placed in sleeping on your stomach, not on your side or on your stomach.
  5. The baby must be healthy and born at full term. For premature or low birth weight babies, it is best to avoid sharing a bed.
  6. The child must not be dressed too heavily: a light onesie or pajamas are enough.
  7. The bed should have a firm mattress, without spaces or interstices in which the child could get stuck; the blankets must be light (no duvets) and must never cover the baby's head.
  8. On the bed they must not never climb pets (or other siblings, when the child is still small).
  9. Mom should not wear jewelry, pajamas and nightgowns with long ribbons or laces (it is better to collect the hair if it is long).
  10. No to sleep on armchairs and sofas.
Read also: Sleeping babies: seven myths about co-sleeping

Infant seats and bouncers

Ferrando writes: "It is not recommended for sleeping because, being a very small chair, the child does not have the possibility of large movements or full control of the neck".

5 How to make him fall asleep

Here is another burning question: to make the baby fall asleep at the breast or in his arms or in his cradle or bed? According to Ferrando it is better get him used to falling asleep on his own, by his own means, putting him in his bed when he is not yet asleep. However, not everyone agrees with this position.

Alessandra Bortolotti, for example, remembers that it is absolutely normal for the child to "want to be picked up and reassured to fall asleep."". On the other hand, in the first weeks of life, contact" is the only language he knows and recognizes because it allows him to rediscover the smells, the taste and the warmth he had known in his mother's belly ".

To know more:

  • The first month of the newborn;
  • The third month of the newborn;
  • The agenda of the newborn from 0 to 12 months

  • child's agenda
  • sleep
  • newborn 0-3 months
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