Infant Sleep

Sleep is very important to your child's healthy growth, development, learning and well being. A lack of sleep affects a child's behaviour, attention, learning and memory.

The following section contains information on:


Creating a safe sleep environment

Ensuring your baby has a safe sleep environment will reduce the risk of injury and Sudden Infant Death syndrome (SIDS). In SIDS, a baby dies unexpectedly while sleeping and no cause is identified even after a thorough investigation and full autopsy.

SIDS is less common in babies whose parents don't smoke, especially mothers who don't smoke during pregnancy, and in babies who sleep on their back.

For the first six months, the safest sleeping position for your baby even for naps is on his or her back, alone in a crib that is placed in your room.

Some safety tips:

  • Make sure your baby is in a crib that meets current safety standards. For details, visit Health Canada Consumer Product Safety for crib safety information. 
  • Make sure the mattress is firm, flat and fits tightly in the crib.
  • Cover the mattress with a fitted mattress sheet.
  • Dress your baby only in a diaper and a sleeper.
  • Keep soft materials out of your baby's crib, including blankets and quilts, comforters, bumper pads and stuffed toys.
  • Keep your home smoke free.
  • Do not use strollers, car seats or baby swings to put your baby to sleep.
  • Keep the room temperature at a comfortable level.
Note: The change table, cosleepers, sleeper rocker attachment on a play pen and a sofa or armchair are not safe sleeping places for your baby.

For more information, visit Public Health Agency of Canada - Safe Sleep for Your Baby and Health Canada's - Is your Child Safe? Sleep Time


Bed sharing: Is it safe?

Some parents decide to bed-share, which means sleeping on the same surface as your baby. Adult beds are not designed for infant safety so bed-sharing is not recommended. Should you decide to take your baby into bed with you, here are some things to consider:

  • A baby can become trapped in a space between the mattress and the wall, or between the mattress and the bed frame.
  • A baby can fall off a bed.
  • An adult can roll over and suffocate a baby. If you are very tired, are a smoker or if you drank any alcohol or took drugs or medicines that make you sleepy, there is a much greater risk of rolling over on a baby.
  • Soft bedding, such as comforters or duvets, can cover a baby's head and cause overheating. Babies whose heads are covered during sleep are at increased risk of SIDS.

Remember: the safest place for your baby to sleep is in a crib close to your bed.


Breastfeeding and safe sleep

When you're breastfeeding, having the baby near you makes night feedings easier.

If you bring your baby into bed with you to breastfeed, it is easy for both of you to fall asleep, especially if you are lying down. A safer choice would be to sit in a comfortable chair where you will not fall asleep while breastfeeding. That way, you can put your baby back in the crib once breastfeeding is over.


Crib safety

Cribs made before September 1986 are dangerous. They do not meet government safety standards.

Look for a label with the date of manufacture before you purchase a used crib. If there is no label, do not buy the crib.

For more information about cribs, please call Region of Waterloo Public Health 519-575-4400 or the Health Canada Product Safety Branch at 1-905-572-2845 or visit the Health Canada Consumer Product Safety for crib safety information.


Infant Sleep Habits

In the first few months, babies sleep patterns are not regular. They may sleep 2-4 hours at a time and may want to feed when they wake up. After three months,
most babies begin to feed less often and sleep longer at night with daytime
naps.

For a baby, six hours is a long time to sleep. If they go to sleep at 7 p.m. they might be up by 1 a.m. to feed and be changed. The following chart is
a general guide to the amount of sleep an infant needs over a 24-hour period
(includes night-time and day-time naps).

Age of InfantAmount of sleep over 24 hours
Birth - 2 months16-18 hours
2 - 6 months14-16 hours
6 months - 1 year14-16 hours

Starting around three months of age babies have more regular cycles of sleep and you can begin a sleep routine by putting your baby down to sleep at the same times every day.

Tips:

  • Learn the signs that show your baby is tired and ready for sleep (yawning, rubbing eyes, fussing and crying).
  • Don't wait until they are over-tired - they will have a harder time falling asleep.
  • Put baby down on their back when sleepy but awake so they learn to fall asleep on their own.
  • Keep night feedings/diaper changes quiet with the lights low.

Get to know more about your baby's sleep cycle at a free session for parents of newborns. These free sessions are offered at Ontario Early Years Centre at different locations. Check the Sleep and Your Baby Poster for details and register online now at www.earlyyearsinfo.ca/sleep-sessions

baby sleeping


Bedtime Routines

Good sleep habits start from birth. It takes time for a child to learn healthy sleep habits. Parents can help their children learn those habits by keeping the same bedtime every night and having a bedtime routine.

A bedtime routine can include having a bath, brushing their teeth, reading a story, singing softly or other quiet actions that relax your child.

Keep the routine simple so it can be used anywhere, anytime. Ask everyone who looks after your child to follow the same routine; this way your child will know when it is time to go to sleep.

If you are concerned about your child's sleep, talk to your health care provider.

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