Your baby may look like an adorable little angel as she falls asleep, but it seems that every time your check on her, she is flailing her arms and kicking her legs as she dozes. While this might appear alarming, rest assured that it is normal for infants to twitch and move throughout the night. Your baby's kicking is likely related to sleep phases and patterns, bedtime routines, and restlessness or discomfort.
Infant Sleep Patterns
Babies have shorter sleep cycles than adults, and their sleep patterns change as they grow from month to month. According to child experts at Ask Dr. Sears, infants first enter a phase of light sleep that is longer than the one an adult typically experiences. Your baby may not have reached deep REM sleep, even after you have gently rocked or soothed her for some time. She might appear to be asleep, but, if you move or touch her, she will wave her arms or kick her legs. Additionally, your baby's sleep cycles are much shorter than yours. She will likely awaken every hour or less and move about before falling asleep again.
Your growing baby needs plenty of sleep; an 8- to 12-month old needs an average of 13 to 14 hours per day. Younger infants require even more sleeping hours. This means that your baby will need to nap at least twice during the day. Some babies may nap for only 20 minutes at a time, while others will nap for an hour or more. If your baby naps too long, it may disrupt nighttime sleep, making him cranky and restless. He may kick his legs and move around as he resists falling into deep slumber.
Night terrors are not the same as bad dreams and usually occur within the first two to three hours of sleep. KidsHealth notes that, unlike a bad dream that your child wakes up from, she won't wake up from a night terror but may cry out or kick her legs. The good news is that infants and children don't remember night terrors when they wake up.
Baby Sleep Rituals
Just as adults have nighttime rituals before bed, such as drinking something warm and brushing their teeth, infants also need routine. Your infant will not be able to sleep uninterrupted or restfully if he is feeling hungry or colicky or if he needs a diaper change. He may cry and kick out in his sleep due to the discomfort. KidsHealth recommends a regular bedtime routine, such as a feeding, a warm bath, swaddling and gentle rocking before putting your baby to sleep.