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June 20th, 2018

How many hours of sleep does your child really need?

Just as every adult has different needs, every baby and child is different. Some will need more sleep than others. What is important for all babies and children is routine.

Sleep trainer and Maternity Nurse Aurelie Chassac says, "Children of all ages will thrive on a consistent routine. From birth, babies feel more secure and contented when they have a routine which is maintained daily. When they know sleep is followed by food, and where sleep will be."

Ms Chassac says providing a common comforter and putting babies to bed in the same familiar environment at the same times of day provides stability and a feeling of safety and security for a baby. "Which means they will sleep well and longer."

According to the NHS children require less sleep as they get older. The general guidelines from the NHS for the amount of sleep required in a 24 hour period for certain age group are the following:

Age Total hours of sleep per day
1 month 15 - 16
One month to 6 months 14 - 16
6 months to 1 year 13.5 - 14
2 years 13
3 to 5 years 11 to 12

My child wakes up too early. What does this mean?

Usually if your child wakes up in the early hours of the morning this can be for many reasons including:

  • Hunger
  • Too much sleep during the day
  • Too little sleep during the day
  • Environmental factors

Babies fall into a light sleep between 5am and 6am, if your child is hungry a quick feeding then resettling can put them back to sleep. However if hunger is ruled out, you might want to look at your child's daytime routine. This could be the best time to drop a naptime. In contrary to this, it is very common that if a child gets overtired they resist naptime and become hyper, making it very hard for parents to know if their child is tired or not. Similarly environmental factors especially light and sound can affect your child's sleep.

My baby is getting older. When is the appropriate age to stop nap time?

On average children from 2.5 to 3 years old should no longer require regular naps during the day. Although we all need a nap from time to time depending on how busy our week or day has been. Children are no different - you know your child best, if they are overtired, provide an environment for them to catch up on some needed rest.

Does your child's diet impact their sleep pattern?

Ms Chassac says, "A child's diet plays a huge role in their daytime routine,"

Foods that are high in sugar and artificial flavorings are harder to digest keeping the child up at night. Sugary foods should be avoided in the evening as they boost your child's energy making it difficult to get them to sleep.

Foods that are rich in calcium and magnesium are proven to help improve sleep.

Mrs Cook mother of 2 says, "The classic warm bottle and now glass of milk before bed has always helped my children settle for bedtime."

Does keeping to a set sleep routine benefit your child?

Keeping to the same bedtime routine every night makes it easier for your child to settle into bed as it gives their body's cues it's nearly time for bed.

Sonya, mother of three. "With my children we used the ‘controlled crying' method that got them sleeping through the night at 8 weeks old. I learnt that you should establish a strict routine and it was vital you stick to it."

"My experience with my 2 children showed me that implementing a bedtime routine from birth is much more successful than waiting until a child is older. My first child never slept, I held her all the time, never had naps at home. My second had the same nap times every day from birth, all naps at home in the same familiar cot with a comforter. He slept like a baby!" says Mrs Cook.

Little Ones offers an accredited maternity course covering sleep routines and training. Also available is the Sleep Well course for infants and children which offers routines and advice on establishing positive sleep for babies and children.

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