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Sleep, Baby sleep

Everything you should know about baby sleep

Even if they are not born with an innate sleep-wake rhythm, babies sense and indicate from birth when they are tired or exhausted. You can help your child to fall asleep and slowly get used to regular sleep-wake times, so it is important to be attentive to their tiredness signals and to respond to them accordingly. In this way your child learns to trust his own impulses. The earlier and more clearly you react to his signals, the easier it is for him to fall asleep - even without a special sleep learning program. And last but not least, his sleeping times are also your own recovery time.

Development of the day-night routine

Even in the womb, around the 36th week of pregnancy, the unborn child experiences different phases of sleeping, dreaming and waking. The baby initially continues this disordered sleep-wake rhythm after birth. The sleeping and waking phases in the first few weeks of life are evenly distributed over the day and night. In the course of the first year of life, the proportion of being awake and experiencing becomes greater and greater, and the night sleep phase is also lengthened.

At the beginning, newborns do not yet know the difference between day and night, this only changes at around 4 to 6 weeks. For the first few months, your baby will sleep around 17 hours a day. Initially, however, not more than three to four hours at a time, because your baby gets hungry: the small stomach cannot take in as much food to keep it full for longer. This means: you too will have to interrupt your night's sleep to breastfeed your child or to give him the bottle.

How to get your baby used to the day-night routine

From three to twelve months of age, sleeping habits gradually change. Your little one will sleep more at night but less during the day. On average, babies from the third month sleep twice as long at night as during the day, because from then on sleep slowly shifts into the dark. You can incorporate this routine by feeding your child between 9 p.m. and 11 p.m. , swaddle and then put it in bed every night. However, you should not expect that falling asleep will always work out that easily - the sleep routine only stabilizes noticeably from the 6th month onwards.

What does "sleep through the night" actually mean?

Even if babies sleep a lot at the beginning of life, they have to learn to sleep through the night eventually. It is a big step forward to be able to do this. So you should definitely be patient with your little one and not expect too much too quickly.

For a baby, "sleeping through the night" means sleeping for seven hours at a time without interruption. So if your child goes to bed at eight o'clock in the evening, reports hunger at three o'clock and continues to sleep until six in the morning after breastfeeding, it is already a good sleeper. In addition, it is completely normal beyond the first year of life for children to wake up regularly at night, e.g. because they are hungry or their diaper is wet.

Baby sleep and feelings of hunger

Breast milk and breast milk-like formula are very easy to digest, they only stay in the stomach for a short time. As soon as the food has reached the baby's intestines, its small stomach already reports the next hunger signal. There are babies who are hungry every two hours despite having consumed large amounts of milk. A nursing child is breastfed as needed, it grows and thrives just fine. When it comes to formula nutrition, however, parents are often very unsettled. Necessary meals are either delayed or incorrectly prepared with more water.

However, a natural sleep, wake and eating rhythm only arises if your child gets the required milk when they are hungry and as much as it takes to feel full and comfortable! In contrast, you should not wake your (healthy) child up for a meal.

Get your baby in the mood for sleep by following a routine

A structured process and recurring routine can make it easier for your baby to sleep. It is not crucial that you lay your baby down at exactly the same time every day, but that the processes repeat themselves before going to bed. This gives children a sense of security, and even the youngest ones notice when, for example, the same song is sung every evening. This will help your baby relax. Think about what you would like to do before taking your baby to bed (e.g. dinner, washing, putting on pajamas, reading a story). Singing, reading, and cuddling are particularly popular as they are quiet activities that create a relaxed atmosphere. You should avoid exciting games in the evening. The sleeping environment also plays a major role.

The sleeping environment

During the pregnancy, your baby was closely connected to you for 40 weeks. For your child, it feels quite unfamiliar and strange when they suddenly have to sleep all alone in a room. Sleeping together in one room is therefore not only calming for your child, but also comfortable for you: you can hear immediately when your baby wakes up. It doesn't have to scream for long before you react. After the nightcap, it falls back to sleep much faster. And that goes for his tired parents as well!

Recommendations for the sleeping environment in the first year of life


  • the baby should lie on their back while they sleep.
  • it should also be in its own bed in the parents' bedroom.
  • the room temperature should be 16-18 degrees, without drafts and cigarette smoke.
  • the baby should sleep in the correct size sleeping bag, no blanket or anything that could suffocate it

These are recommendations, i.e. each family can of course decide for themselves how they want to handle it. There are babies who can only sleep on their stomachs and there are families who feel much more comfortable in a family bed. Therefore, as parents, you should decide individually how it works best for you and your offspring.

Some babies willingly let themselves be put in their cot in the evening and fall asleep alone, while other babies are more sensitive and can only fall asleep with peace of mind when they feel their mom or dad's presence close by. Please handle this in the way that is most comfortable for you and your baby. In both cases, a calm and relaxed environment should be ensured, light and noise should be kept attenuated. If you accompany your little one to bed, it can help to keep quiet and speak as little as possible. If you are relaxed and feel good, your baby will also feel good. So try to stay calm even if your baby takes a long time to fall asleep.

Why does my baby cry when it falls asleep?

Many babies have trouble falling asleep, especially in the evenings. Maybe your baby feels the same way. You don't have to worry, because babies have phases of sleep, especially at the beginning, that only lasts about 20 to 50 minutes. In between they wake up to examine their surroundings. If something has changed in the environment (for example, it is now in its cot, although it fell asleep in mommies arms), it feels insecure and starts to cry. If nothing has changed in its sleeping environment since falling asleep and it feels the mother's closeness, it usually falls asleep again without any problems.

If your baby cries a lot in the evening, he or she may already be overtired or in the process of becoming overtired. Most babies are very busy in the evening, especially in the first few months of life, processing the many impressions of the day. They are often very restless and cry a lot. Give your baby a lot of closeness and security, so it can calm down better. 


Babies still sleep 12 to 14 hours through the first year of life, including an afternoon nap, which is maintained until around their third birthday.

Plan well right from the start when your child will take their afternoon nap, because power naps in the late afternoon will keep your child fit for a while in the evenings. If you don't want this, put your baby's power naps in the morning or early afternoon first. If it is a bit older and only needs a nap, it is best to put it in bed at noon after dinner. Then it can still experience a lot afterwards and is tired again by the evening.

Frequent screaming - often a sign of lack of sleep

Children in particular who scream frequently and for long periods of time (“baby cribs”) often suffer from a lack of sleep: they often simply don't get enough sleep during the day, are overtired and overstimulated and, as a result, can no longer calm down - a vicious circle. Here it is particularly important to recognize the first signs of tiredness and displeasure. If your baby seems overexcited and overtired very often, it is important to make sure that he gets more sleep.


Birgit, a midwife with 30 years of experience, says: 

"Seek and accept help!

Perhaps you, too, will find that the first time you spend with your child is both enchanting and stressful.
When children wake up frequently at night, parents frequently do not get enough sleep, sometimes for long periods of time.
You're exhausted, drained, and possibly depressed and hopeless.
Then tell your midwife or pediatrician about your anxious circumstances; they are familiar with the challenges parents face in the initial weeks of their child's existence and can help you find answers.
You can also get aid through parent-child groups, outpatient clinics, and early intervention programs.

And remember: you have already conquered a great deal in your life, you can do this!"

More guideline pages

Environment for healthy sleep

Baby cots, sleeping temperatures, and other such considerations are also and especially crucial for the little ones.

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