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Is Your Baby Getting Enough Sleep?

You’d do anything for your baby when it comes to sleep. Pull an all-nighter when a cold strikes, navigate your way to the crib in total darkness, dress in matching pastel footed pajamas (okay, that one might be just for you).

But how can you tell if your efforts are working and your baby is actually getting enough sleep? We asked Dr. Haviva Veler, director of the Weill Cornell Pediatric Sleep Center, for advice. After all, she’s seen it all when it comes to sleep, from infant behavioral insomnia – i.e. the lack of sleep due to poor sleep habits – to teenagers unable to fall asleep without their parents in the room.

With Dr. Veler’s help, we put together this little cheat sheet for deciphering baby’s sleep.

What a well-rested baby will look like:

  •      Happy
  •      Active
  •      Able to interact and engage in daytime activities
  •      Sleeps through the night
  •      Maintains regular naps
  •      Meets developmental milestones

Signs of sleepiness or overtiredness:

  •      Eye-rubbing
  •      Heavy or red eyes
  •      Ear tugging
  •      Head nodding
  •      Increased daytime sleepiness
  •      Inability to sleep through the night
  •      Crankiness
  •      Yawning
  •      Crying
  •      Fussiness
  •      Hyperactivity
  •      Lack of concentration

How much sleep baby needs: Take a look at our sleep recommendations to determine how many hours of sleep baby should get during the day and night.

Common sleep disruptors:  

  •      Separation anxiety
  •      Travel
  •      Developmental changes and new motor skills, like crawling or teething
  •      Colds or illness
  •      Acid reflux
  •      Sleep apnea
  •      Change of sleep environment
  •      Behavioral insomnia  
  •      In toddlers and older kids: Nightmares, night terrors, sleep walking, sleep talking and an unwillingness to go to bed

What to do about…

  •      Colds: Let your child get as much sleep as needed, even if it throws their sleep routine out of whack. Get back on track once the cold is gone.
  •      Travel and time zone changes: Travel is a notorious sleep disruptor. Check out our tips for handling baby’s sleep while on the go here.
  •      Snoring, gasping or choking during sleep: Consult a doctor right away. Sleep apnea occurs in 2 to 5% of infants and is a serious medical condition.
  •      Behavioral insomnia: It’s a common sleep issue that occurs in 25 to 30% of children between 1 to 3 years of age and can start as early as 3 months. You can address behavioral insomnia with sleep training and a consistent bedtime schedule. Find out how to easily set up a sleep routine for baby here.

When to call the pediatrician:

In addition to snoring, signs of a possible medical issue include over-sleeping, inability to gain weight, failure to thrive or meet developmental milestones, sudden change in sleep habits (including bed wetting or night terrors in older children) and abnormal sleep positions.


What to Pack When Traveling with Baby
The Secret to Raising an Independent Sleeper
Diana Aydin
Diana Aydin

Diana is an editor and writer based in New York City, and she frequently writes about health, parenting and everything babies. She’s been a fan of sleep since the early 1980s.