Sleep and Your Baby: 10 Common Questions Answered
For some parents, putting a baby to bed is a nightly source of anxiety—how much sleep does your child need, can she sleep with a blanket, are stuffed animals OK? Find the answer to these questions and more.
When can my child sleep with a blanket?
“The best sleep environment is consistent, quiet, dark, and has a steady, slightly cool temperature,” says Dr. Sadler. “Blankets are not bad, per se, but can easily contribute to an overly constricted, over-bundled child. If a child is comfortable and warm enough in sleepwear alone, consider not using a blanket.”
Dr. Sadler says if parents do choose to use a blanket for their sleeping child, the fabric should be thin, tucked into the mattress at the foot of the crib, and should come up only to a baby’s chest. It should never cover a baby’s head.
When can my child sleep with a stuffed animal or doll?
Perhaps your little one received the softest, sweetest teddy bear from her grandparents when she was born—you want her to enjoy it, but is it safe to put in the crib with her?
“Objects that are soft and fluffy—pillows, some blankets, stuffed animals, and toys—are not recommended for the young infant under about 6 months,” cautions Dr. Sadler, explaining that if a child wedges his face into these items during sleep, it contributes to his risk of SIDS. “The peak age for SIDS is between 4 and 16 weeks.”
“After eight months or so and into the toddler years, children can experience separation anxiety as their parents leave them to go to sleep. In this situation a toy or stuffed animal, as long as it is safe, can be the transitional object that a child uses to soothe himself in the absence of his parents,” says Dr. Sadler.
How do I know when my child is ready to go to sleep without a bedtime bottle or nursing?
“There are two separate issues in this question,” says Dr. Sadler. “The first is the need for food before sleep. Most infants ‘fill up’ before sleep, which enables them to maximize their night sleep stretch. A small pre-bed snack is appropriate right through the toddler years as part of a bedtime routine.”
Using a feed to get to sleep is a separate issue, says Dr. Sadler. “After 3 to 4 months of age, when a child can usually sleep a six- to eight-hour night, it becomes important not to inadvertently teach a child to rely on a bottle or the breast to fall asleep.” She recommends that children be fed, then put in their cribs sleepy but still awake. “This way, when they awaken at night, they won’t demand a feed to transition back to sleep which disrupts the night for parents.”
Is there a certain age when my child will stop needing a nap?
Just as all children are different, they vary widely in when they drop their daytime sleeping. “Some active 1-year-olds are already not napping (or substituting quick ‘cat naps’ instead) while some 5-year-olds are still sleeping after their morning kindergarten,” says Dr. Sadler. “If provided a consistently structured day, however, most children are pretty good about getting the sleep they need. For the child who truly needs the sleep and isn’t getting it, behavioral clues are crankiness, low energy or lack of focus.”
When is it safe to turn off the baby monitor?
The short answer is when you are comfortable with turning off the monitor, says Dr. Sadler, reminding us that millions of the world’s children are being raised without a monitor and are doing just fine.
Is the monitor being used for a newborn at night? “A typical infant monitor won’t sound an alarm with lack of breathing, so it’s really being used to tell parents when an infant is stirring,” says Dr. Sadler. “Once parents can hear and identify cries without the monitor (which of course depends on the lustiness of the cry and the distance to the parents!), it’s no longer useful.”
“If the monitor is being used to bridge a distance—Mom is out gardening while her toddler sleeps in his crib, for example—it continues to be useful throughout the preschool years.”
YOU MIGHT BE INTERESTED IN