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Infant Sleep Safety

Infants do not sleep on the same time schedules as adults or older children. It is important for parents and caregivers to understand how newborns sleep and the changes in sleep patterns that happen during the first two years.

Newborn babies sleep up to 16 hours per day, but for only a few hours at a time. This pattern is related to feeding, as babies must eat every three to four hours throughout the day and night. While most parents want their babies to sleep through the night, this is not the baby's usual sleep pattern for the first three months. Parents should expect to get up at night to feed and change their babies, and then soothe them back to sleep. Caregivers should provide quiet areas, free from distractions, to promote sleep during the day.

Sleep safety

  • Place the baby on his back to sleep.
  • Remove pillows, thick comforters, stuffed toys or objects with strings or cords.
  • Have a crib that meets safety standards with no wide spaces between bars and sides that can not suddenly fall.
  • Do not bring a baby into bed to sleep with you.

Establish a routine for naps and bedtime.

  • Keep a positive attitude.
  • Have regular patterns of feeding, changing, playing, and reading.
  • Pick up a crying baby and take care of his needs, including cuddling or carrying the baby for awhile.
    You cannot "spoil" an infant by paying attention to her!

Crying and Colic

Do not be surprised if the baby has a "crying time" in the evening, from about five to seven o'clock. There is often a lot going on as parents come home from work, baby comes home from child care, and older children come home from school. Everyone can feel restless, hungry and fussy at the same time. Try to put the baby's needs first and remember that things will settle down.

Many babies have colic, which is a period of continued crying for three or more hours.

  • Check to see if the basic needs are met (hunger, dry diaper).
  • Try consoling the baby by carrying him around, rocking, using a baby swing, or riding in a car.
  • Get another adult to help for a while.
  • Try to stay calm: the crying will end.
  • Seek help and advice from a doctor or nurse if colic if frequent or if the baby shows signs of illness.

Sleep patterns change as a baby becomes a toddler. Between the ages of one and two, a toddler will need about 10 to 12 hours of sleep each day. Many children nap for several hours. Young children may still wake up during the night, for a variety of reasons like teething, dreams, or being wet or hungry.

Safety is very important.

  • There should be no large items in the crib that the child could stand on to climb out.
  • There should be no items with cords or strings in reach of the child.
  • It may be time to get a bed for the child, especially if he or she is ready to climb out of the crib.

Useful Internet Sites

For more information about sleep, please visit the KidsHealth internet site, which can be reached at www.kidshealth.org. KidsHealth was developed by the Nemours Foundation. It provides interesting, up-to-date information on a wide variety of child development and health topics for parents and caregivers.

At DHEC, contact Dr. Max Learner at 898-0748 or email to learnerm@dhec.sc.gov.