For all the new and soon to be new parents out there, you probably already know that parenthood is a never-ending parade of worrying. Is the baby eating enough? When should we start potty training? Is she sleeping too much? While having a baby that sleeps too much may sound like a good problem for new parents to have, there are some some downsides, and could even be an indication of a larger, more serious problem.
Today, we will be discussing the sleep habits of babies, specifically ones that sleep too much. We’ll let you how much how much your baby should be sleeping, how sleeping too much can be a problem, and how to get your baby to start sleeping an appropriate amount if they nap more than they should be. If you’re about to become parents, and would like some advice on getting ready for the newest addition to your family, this course on bringing your baby home covers a wide spectrum of baby issues, including sleep habits, and this course on preparing your home for your baby will help you get the house ready for its newest inhabitant.
How Long Should Your Baby Be Sleeping?
Before we get into how to change your baby’s sleeping habits, let’s first figure out if they even have habits that need to be changed. Below is a breakdown of how much your baby should be sleeping and at what age. If your baby sleeps just fine, but you’re the one that needs to recalibrate your sleep habits, this course on optimizing your sleep will help to improve your health, energy, and your mind.
- Newborns (Birth – 6 weeks)
When you first bring your baby home, your newborn should be sleeping anywhere from 14 to 18 hours a day, sometimes even 20. While this seems like a lot of sleep, it’s spread out over the course of the day, coming in waves. The baby should be taking several (4 to 8) naps during the day, with some of these naps lasting about three to four hours each, but some may be as short as 15 minutes. When it comes time to go to bed at night, they should be sleeping anywhere from 8 to 14 hours, though it may take some time after birth to get into the rhythm of sleeping at night. Because babies are growing so much at this point, and as a result need so much sleep, it’s tough to say what’s too much sleep for your newborn, and some experts would argue that there’s no such thing at this stage. If they’re sleeping more than four hours during their naps, they need to be woken up for a feeding, with this time varying depending on whether they are bottle or bread-fed, or if they were premature or are particularly small.
- Babies (6 weeks – 4 months)
At this stage, the baby doesn’t need as much sleep, but anywhere from 11-15 hours a day is still necessary. The daily naps drop down to about 3 or 4, lasting from 30 minutes to two hours, and nightly sleep can last anywhere from 8 to 12 hours. At this early stage, your baby still needs lots of sleep, and there’s practically no such thing as “sleeping too much” at this point, and you should enjoy your luck as a parent. As long as they’re up for about an hour to an hour and 45 minutes between naps, they should be fine.
- Babies (4 months – 18 months)
At this point in your baby’s life, they should be learning and mastering very important motor skills, such as rolling and crawling, and may even begin walking at this point. As a result, they should be sleeping less and less during the day in order to learn these skills, and reserving a majority of their sleep time for the evening, when their brain is processing these skills. They should start this stage of their life napping three times a day, at one to two hours each time, then decreasing to one to two naps a day. Conversely, their nighttime sleep sessions should be increasing from around nine hours to ten hours a night. If your six month old is still sleeping like a newborn, you may want to talk to a doctor.
- Toddlers (18 months – 3 years)
Finally, once your child becomes a toddler, they should be down to one nap a day that lasts from one to two hours, and their nighttime sleep should last anywhere from 10 to 12 hours. These years are important for learning communication skills and mastering the motor skills they started earlier in life, which means they need more time awake during the day to learn these and other life skills. If your toddler is starting to act out, this course on how to have the happiest toddler on the block will show you how to eliminate tantrums and raise a cooperative child.
What Could Happen If She Sleeps Too Much?
If around the age of four months you start thinking your baby is sleeping a bit too much, it might mean that they’re just extra tired, but this is a time referred to as the “four month sleep regression”, and their sleep schedule begins to change drastically. The following maladies tend to result in children sleeping too much, and should be looked out for.
- Sleep Apnea: This is when breathing is interrupted during sleep, and is potentially life-threatening. There are three types of sleep apnea, but the most common in babies is central sleep apnea, in which the brain fails to signal the muscles to breathe. This issue is most prevalent in babies that were born premature, but may be dealt with relatively easily.
- Celiac Disease: This intestinal disorder hinders your ability to absorb nutrients, and one of the side effects of celiac disease is extreme tiredness. This is an easily managed disease if contracted, but may be avoided by adding protein gluten to your baby’s diet while breast feeding.
- Not Eating Enough: Sometimes babies under the age of four months are sleeping so heavily that they must be physically woken up in order to eat. While a newborn’s desire to eat will usually outweigh their desire to sleep, sometimes if they sleep a bit too much, they could sleep right through a feeding. This isn’t too serious a problem, as long as the parents wake up the baby for feeding time.
- Not Learning Vital Skills: As we mentioned before, besides eating, a baby must be awake in order to learn, then master, certain vital life skills. Motor skills such as rolling over, crawling, holding up their head, and walking must all be done while awake, obviously, and if the child cannot dedicate enough time to these skills because they’re sleeping, they may end up learning these skills much later than other children.
- Not Developing Healthy Sleep Habits: In addition to learning the skills that will be necessary for the rest of their lives, another important reason you don’t want your child sleeping too much is that they may develop unhealthy sleeping habits. Children should be going to bed and waking up at around the same time every day in order to develop a regular sleep schedule, and if they’re allowed to sleep too much, or at irregular times, they may have trouble developing healthy sleep habits later in life.
How to Cut Down On Baby’s Zzzs
If you’ve noticed your baby sleeping too much and would like a few tricks on waking them up gently for their feeding, there are few things you can do that won’t be too invasive or scary.
- Unswaddle Him: One way to gently coax your baby from his slumber is to take off its outer blanket, and maybe even take off another layer of clothing. He’ll start getting cold and a little uncomfortable, then gradually and gently start to wake up.
- Change His Diaper: If your little deep sleeper has wet himself, but refuses to get up, go ahead and change him, and the gentle jostling, not to mention the wet wipe across the bum, should get him right up. If you’re considering cloth diapers for your baby, this article on cloth diapers 101 will tell you all about this cheap and environmental option.
- Give Him a Sponge Bath: A warm, wet washcloth or sponge should be enough for a gentle and enjoyable wake up call for your baby.
In the grand scheme of problems that can happen to a baby, sleeping too much is one of the less serious ones, but may indicate a slightly more serious issue. While it’s good to go on instinct when dealing with a problem like this, as well as keeping a level head, anything that’s too much out of the ordinary should be a red flag and your pediatrician should be consulted. If you have the opposite problem, and your baby just won’t fall asleep, this course on baby sleep training and this course on how to calm your baby down will help to get your baby down for the night and create good habits for the rest of their lives.