Baby sleep terms explained


      Parenting sure doesn’t come with a manual (though we wish it did!), especially when it comes to your baby’s sleep. To help you better understand and navigate the sleep journey, we’ve rounded up some common sleep terms you’ll likely come across. 


      Active sleep​1

      Also known as rapid eye movement (REM) sleep, this is a stage of sleep, in which breathing is regular and your baby may twitch or startle at some noises.​

      Deep sleep1

      Also known as ‘quiet sleep’ or non-REM sleep, this is a stage of sleep in which your baby lies quietly without moving. 

      Cluster feeds ​

      Cluster feeding is a term used to describe a particular pattern of feeding in which a baby feeds frequently – almost constantly – for a few hours in the afternoon or evening until bedtime. ​

      Dream feeds ​

      Dream feeds may help your baby to sleep longer and can gently introduce a pattern of sleep that’s easier for you. Three or four hours after your baby has gone to bed try semi-waking them for a quiet feeding. The idea is to fill your baby’s tummy without them being fully alert and awake; they should drift back to sleep easily after the feed.​2

      Self-soothing ​

      This is an important skill your baby can learn in order to fall asleep independently and go back to sleep even when they wake up from a sleep cycle. ​Benefits of self-soothing include significantly longer nighttime sleep durations, fewer nighttime wakings and feeds, and less time awake at night.3

      Sleep regression ​

      Sleep regression is a period of time when a baby who has previously slept well has problems falling asleep or wakes up more during the night. It can last between two to four weeks, and is usually caused by a growth spurt, a new routine, travel, teething pain, illness or a development milestone.  ​

      Sleep signs ​

      As the weeks pass and the play component of your baby’s routine gets longer, look out for the signs that your baby is tired – it’s much easier to get a baby to sleep who is ready rather than when they’re wide awake or overtired. 

      When your baby has had enough of playing, you will notice them start to “switch off”. They might stare into the distance, pull funny faces or make jerky arm movements, which are all signs that they’re ready for bed. ​

      Sleep training ​

      Sleep training is a method of teaching your baby to fall asleep without any help from you. That means they are put to bed fully awake and are “taught” to fall asleep without being cuddled, rocked or swayed. It also teaches babies how to go back to sleep when they wake up in the middle of a sleep cycle. ​

      Swaddling4 ​

      Swaddling is the term for wrapping your baby securely in a thin blanket, so they feel cocooned and safe. If you want to try swaddling, make sure you don’t over-restrict your baby’s hip and leg movements as this can cause hip problems. Also make sure your baby doesn’t get too hot. ​



      1.      Rosen, Libby Averill. "Infant sleep and feeding." Journal of Obstetric, Gynecologic & Neonatal Nursing 37.6 (2008): 706-714.

      2.      Semple, Amy. "What influences baby-sleeping behaviour at night? " A review of evidence. New Digest 42 (2008): 25-30.

      3.      Paul, Ian M., et al. "INSIGHT responsive parenting intervention and infant sleep." Pediatrics 138.1 (2016).

      4.      Van Sleuwen, Bregje E., et al. "Swaddling: a systematic review." Pediatrics 120.4 (2007): e1097-e1106.


      References: ​ ​


      Do you have any questions about your baby’s sleep or are there any terms you don’t understand? We would love to help you – our careline is available 24/7 to answer your queries: 1800 266 9988

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