Babies are all individuals, but they do develop specific eating and sleeping patterns over time. The general patterns that babies follow can be influenced by whether parents choose to breast-feed or formula feed and whether the family attempts to schedule the baby's routine. Parents should keep in mind that their circumstances may be quite different from friends or family members whose babies seem to have completely different patterns.
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According to Baby Center, newborns sleep between 14 to 16 hours a day, but this time is broken up into small chunks between feedings, which take place between eight and 12 times daily. After the first week, this shifts to somewhere between 12 and 18 hours of sleep daily. Babies who are breast-fed need to eat more often than their formula-fed counterparts, since breast milk is digested more rapidly than formula. In general, feeding and sleeping will remain irregular for the first month or two after birth.
Because breast milk digests so easily, nursing newborns should never be allowed to go more than two to three hours without eating. Formula-fed babies may space out their feedings more, but both formula-fed and breast-fed babies should be fed on demand, meaning whenever the baby indicates that she is hungry, for at least the first month or two of life. Babies will gradually space out their feedings and eat more at each feeding as they grow older and bigger. Once the baby begins to eat solids, these foods will gradually take the place of one or more feedings, although breast milk or formula should remain the child's primary source of nutrition through at least the first year of life.
Sleep Pattern Development
By the time a baby is six to eight weeks old, he can start to distinguish night and day and will spend more of his sleeping time during the nighttime hours. He'll still wake up quite a bit throughout the night, however. By six months, most babies have one longer stretch of sleep each night that lasts five to six hours, with shorter naps surrounding that long sleep period, explains Baby Center.
After a baby has reached three to four months of age, some parents choose to put their infant on a feeding and sleeping schedule. While there are many methods of adapting a baby to a schedule, the ones that tend to work best are those that take advantage of the baby's natural patterns and cycles, explains Parenting. Keeping a journal and learning to anticipate your little one's needs is one way to help get him on a routine.
Infants experience growth spurts at around 10 days, three weeks, six weeks, three months and six months after birth, explains Baby Center. During these times, normal patterns and schedules may be upended as the baby changes how much she eats and sleeps to adapt to her altered rate of growth.