Reputable parenting site AskDrSears.com explains that unlike adults, who normally go quickly from light sleep into deep sleep, infants take longer to enter that stage. If you put your baby down before she’s in a deep sleep, chances are she’s going to wake up before you even get out of the room. Eventually, your baby will create her own sleep schedule, but it may take some time.
Although newborns wake during the night because they’re hungry, feeding your baby more won’t help him sleep longer. An infant’s stomach is small, so eating too much can have the opposite effect. Overfeeding your baby could give him an upset stomach that actually prevents him from going to sleep. Since infants need to learn how to put themselves to sleep, don't let your baby fall asleep while you are nursing or feeding him. If he starts to fall asleep, stop feeding him so that he doesn't learn to rely on nursing to go to sleep. Usually, babies no longer need feeding through the night once they start eating more during the day, when they are about 4 or 5 months old.
Confusing Night and Day
Many babies confuse night and day. Infants don’t inherently understand that nighttime is for sleeping, unless you teach them. Despite your best efforts, it may take your baby a few weeks to learn the difference. The daylight hours are the time to talk to her, play with her and fill her environment with stimulating activities, light and noise. At nighttime, keep noise to a minimum and the lights down low, especially when you feed and change her. If you let your baby get overtired, she may have trouble falling asleep, contrary to what logic would tell you. The time to put her to bed is when she is drowsy but still awake. Keeping her up longer doesn’t mean she’ll sleep more soundly through the night.
Not only do babies not sleep as deeply as adults do, they take longer to fall asleep. A baby’s sleep is lighter so he wakes more often. AskDrSears points out that babies wake frequently for a reason. They're able to wake up quickly when they need something. Otherwise, being in a deep sleep could actually be unsafe. Waking up throughout the night also helps an infant’s brain to develop, as certain areas of the brain continue functioning during light sleep. The periods of deep sleep eventually lengthen as a baby grows.
Infant sleep patterns vary. Some babies have no trouble falling asleep but don’t remain asleep for long. Others simply don’t want to go to sleep. Your infant’s temperament may have more to do with her sleep habits than anything you're doing or not doing. Besides influencing her mood and how she relates to others, a baby’s temperament can affect her sleeping and eating habits. For example, an easygoing child usually has regular eating and sleeping patterns, whereas an overactive child can be fussy and have unpredictable sleep habits.
- Photodisc/Photodisc/Getty Images