A whole year, really? How did your wee newborn, curled up on your chest, turn into a babbling, active toddler? Somehow, those long days became a short year. Happy birthday, baby! As you move into toddlerhood from 12 to 18 months, get ready for some roller coasters when it comes to food and sleep, including new schedules and routines. The non-stop eating tends to slow down, and toddlers typically only gain a few pounds between the ages of one and two. Continue to offer a variety of healthy foods for meals and snacks, but don’t get too concerned if they’re not that hungry.
our drooly, smiley baby is learning so many new things from nine to 12 months old, and they should be getting a lot of good sleep in their schedule to balance out those long wakeful stretches and process new skills. “Generally, babies at this age are having two naps, and hopefully those naps are at least an hour, if not two hours or more,” says Erin Neri, a certified paediatric sleep consultant in Sherwood Park, Alta. “They should be able to stay awake for three to four hours between naps.” She adds that there are a small percentage of kids who start to go down to one nap around 11 to 12 months, but dropping the morning nap typically happens around 15 months.
Your baby’s nighttime sleep often starts to lengthen a bit more, up to six hours at night. You may also start to see the beginnings of a schedule that works for both of you, whether it’s a baby that wants to eat as soon as they wake up or one that needs some snuggling and playtime first. “We know that there’s a fairly wide range of ‘normal’ for newborn sleep,” says Alexis Dubief, a child sleep consultant in Vermont and author of Precious Little Sleep. “It could be anywhere between 14 and 17 hours a day. The reality is that everything in that zone is normal for that individual child.”
In adults, we’re most likely to dream during rapid eye movement (REM) sleep, although dreams can happen during other sleep stages, too. This REM sleep may even start before birth: Brain waves that closely resemble those found in REM sleep have been measured inside the womb between 25 and 28 weeks. Since babies spend about half of their sleeping time in REM sleep, some researchers think it only makes sense that they are having some form of dreams. On the other hand, some scientists say that babies are not developmentally capable of the kind of abstract thinking (including the ability to imagine things visually and self-awareness) you need to have dreams.
If babies do dream, their dreams probably won’t have the rich visuals and interactions with other characters that adults have when they dream, says Zadra. “Their dreams are probably very similar to what they experience when they’re awake because they have a preverbal form of consciousness,” he says. “It may be a collection of sensations, whether it’s warmth, suckling on a breast or images of a close-up face.” Just as an adult processes the previous day when they sleep, so does an infant’s brain—it’s just not as advanced yet.
The newborn phase is the most intense getting-to-know-you you’ll ever experience, as you attempt to figure out what your tiny human needs for sleeping and feeding. Will they have a reliable schedule or routine? Probably not. Newborns sleep a lot. Or they don’t. Or they sleep really well during the day and are ready to play from midnight to dawn with the occasional catnap. Sometimes they feed All. The. Time. And often they switch things up, just when you think you’ve finally got an idea of what to expect.
Still, many parents find it helpful to have a rough idea of a schedule and what could be coming, week by week. Here’s what to keep in mind when it comes to sleep, wake times, feeding and diaper changes in the first four weeks.
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