You already know that your sweet little preemie needs extra care. They are more fragile than full term babies and may have developmental problems. Sleeping is another matter entirely, so let’s look at Preemie Sleep Patterns: What Parents Should Know.
The Value of Sleep for Preemies
Both full term babies and preemies born before 37 weeks need high quality sleep. A 2011 study confirmed that growth hormone is produced during sleep.* This was the first study to show an association between sleep time and growth spurt.
The American Academy of Pediatrics tells us preemies may sleep for up to 22 hours a day, but it is usually only one hour at a time. It’s quite common for a preemie to sleep for 1 hour and stay awake for 20 minutes to eat.
A full term baby will sleep 14 to 17 hours over a 24 hour period but your preemie needs more sleep.**
Be Prepared to be Awake at Night
It may take up to 6-8 months before your little one sleeps long periods at night.*** But don’t despair, there are other ways you can get your needed rest and help the baby get theirs.
Emphasize Day and Night
It is essential that your preemie experiences daylight. Take them outside whenever you can, keep them in the shade, and play with them as much as possible during the daytime.
At nighttime when you want your baby to sleep, lower the lights, talk softly, and when feeding, don’t engage or talk other than to feed. This should encourage your preemie to go right back to sleep.
With each passing week, your little one will become accustomed to the routine and be able to distinguish between day and night.
In addition, keep to a consistent routine when it’s time to go to sleep at night. The steps should be the same each night: bath, swaddle, feed, and lower lights. Some like to incorporate soft music or a sound machine to set a calm setting, do what works best for your baby.
Embrace a Bit of Crying
Every baby is different, but will eventually self comfort. They may wake up and cry for a bit. Of course, you won’t let your preemie continue to cry for very long periods, but you may find they will go back to sleep on their own. Set a timer and make an agreement with your partner, so you will stay consistent.
Remember that your preemie is younger than a full term baby, so be patient.