It can be the highlight of your day, your ultimate goal, a coveted moment of peace.
Your baby has gone to sleep.
Getting your baby to fall asleep can be the crowning achievement of your day, and many parents find creative ways to achieve the blissful moment when their baby closes their eyes.
Sleep and all its intricacies is one of the most common complaints from new parents – why isn’t my baby sleeping? Sleep deprivation can affect both parents and their new babies throughout the first years of life.
Perhaps though, this is not you. Your baby sleeps deeply and for long stretches. Should you be elated, or concerned?
While rare, it is still possible for your baby to get too much sleep.
What is normal sleep?
First off, forget the word normal. Every baby is different.
It may not always feel like it, but babies sleep a lot. A LOT.
Some up to 20 hours a day. It’s hard for a newborn to have too much sleep, with many of them sleeping all day only waking to eat. Your baby is growing and it’s exhausting work.
But as your baby grows, they should be sleeping less and less throughout the day with concentrated naps. This year, the American Academy of Pediatrics has endorsed new sleep recommendations:
- Newborns – 14-18 hours (including naps)
- Age 4-12 months – 12-16 hours (including naps)
- Age 1-2 years – 11-14 hours (including naps)
These are averages – every baby has different needs and personalities – so if your baby sleeps more that is fine. Some babies may sleep longer at night while others prefer longer naps. You’ll learn to read your baby’s cues and get a sense of their individual sleep pattern.
Nap lengths vary depending on the baby, but as your baby gets older, you can help them sleep better at night bay making sure they don’t nap for over 2 hours at a time during the day.
The Baby Sleep Site recommends that if your baby reaches six months of age and still hasn’t progressed to sleeping less, check with your pediatrician. There are some medical conditions that could be responsible.
Balancing sleep and feeds.
During your baby’s first 2-3 months, they are still growing rapidly and need lots of sleep. But they also need to eat, and that is where too much sleep can create problems.
If they’re sleeping all the time, they’re not necessarily eating enough.
Many pediatricians recommend waking a newborn for feedings to make sure they get the recommended 8-12 feedings a day. However, most parents hesitate to wake their newborn (who wants to disturb that angelic face?) but inconsistent feedings can cause poor weight gain, which itself causes more problems.
It is not cruel to wake your baby to ensure they’re eating. If you’re concerned about your baby’s sleep pattern, keep an eye on their weight gain. Babies who sleep too much tend to eat less and have a drop in weight. Waking them every three hours to feed will ensure healthy growth.
Waking your baby.
We’ve all heard it – never wake a sleeping baby.
But what if your baby is sleeping through feedings? What if your baby is sleeping away the day and awake all night?
The never-wake-a-baby tip has proven to be a myth. Some parents need to wake their baby to make sure they eat, while others wake them up from naps during the day to help them sleep better at night.
Depending on how soundly your baby sleeps, you may need to employ some tricks to help wake them up.
Try these tricks to wake up your baby:
- Change their diaper
- Unswaddle them
- Talk and make eye contact
- Give them a warm, gentle bath
- Burp them (if they fall asleep during feedings)
If your baby won’t wake for feedings, or also has a temperature, call your pediatrician.
Causes of excessive sleepiness.
Sleeping too much is more common in older children and adults, but it can be seen in babies and toddlers. Some babies just sleep more than others, but sometimes there are underlying causes for excessive sleepiness.
While hypersomnia is rare in children, excessive daytime sleep can have several different causes including jaundice, infections, kidney problems, or even medical procedures.
Some babies experience temporary increases in sleep due to illness or growth spurts. Again, monitor their weight and diapers to determine if they’re getting enough to eat. Use a baby care log to keep track.
Effects of poor sleep.
Sleep impacts both mental and physical development, so sleep problems (whether too much or not enough) can affect your baby.
The National Sleep Foundation estimates that children sleep through 40% of their childhood. Developing good sleep routines early on can have an impact through their whole life.
Research has shown that sleep problems may lead to complications such as poor memory and concentration, irritability, behavioral problems, aggression, emotional distress, and depression. Later in life, sleep problems can affect school performance, create a high susceptibility for illness, and even hinder growth.
Again, too much sleep is rarity in babies. Always consult your pediatrician if you have concerns.
Count yourself lucky.
Some parents just hit the sleep jackpot.
If your baby is happy, healthy, and growing there is no need to worry about higher than average sleeping time. Soon your baby will be walking and talking and you’ll wonder why you ever worried they slept too much.
Enjoy the extra hours your little one is peacefully sleeping. You’ll blissfully remember these days in the future.