Sleep needs for babies vary depending on their age. Newborns do sleep much of the time. But their sleep is in very short segments. As a baby grows, the total amount of sleep slowly decreases. But the length of nighttime sleep increases.
Generally, newborns sleep about 8 to 9 hours in the daytime and about 8 hours at night. But they may not sleep more than 1 to 2 hours at a time. Most babies don’t start sleeping through the night (6 to 8 hours) without waking until they are about 3 months old, or until they weigh 12 to 13 pounds. About two-thirds of babies are able to sleep through the night on a regular basis by age 6 months.
Babies also have different sleep cycles than adults. Babies spend much less time in rapid eye movement (REM) sleep (which is dream time sleep). And the cycles are shorter. The following are the usual nighttime and daytime sleep needs for newborns through 2 years old:
|Age||Total sleep hours||Total hours of nighttime sleep||Total hours of daytime sleep|
|Newborn||16 hours||8 to 9||8|
|1 month||15.5 hours||8 to 9||7|
|3 months||15 hours||9 to 10||4 to 5|
|6 months||14 hours||10||4|
|9 months||14 hours||11||3|
|1 year||14 hours||11||3|
|1.5 years||13.5 hours||11||2.5|
|2 years||13 hours||11||2|
What are the signs of infant sleep problems?
Once a baby begins to regularly sleep through the night, parents are often unhappy when the baby starts to wake up at night again. This often happens at about 6 months old. This is often a normal part of development called separation anxiety. This is when a baby does not understand that separations are short-term (temporary). Babies may also start to have trouble going to sleep because of separation anxiety. Or because they are overstimulated or overtired.
Common responses of babies having these night awakenings or trouble going to sleep may include the following:
- Waking and crying one or more times in the night after sleeping through the night
- Crying when you leave the room
- Refusing to go to sleep without a parent nearby
- Clinging to the parent at separation
Sleep problems may also happen with illness. Talk with your baby’s healthcare provider if your baby begins having trouble going to sleep or staying asleep, especially if this is a new pattern.
Signs of sleep readiness
You can help your baby sleep by recognizing signs of sleep readiness, teaching him or her to fall asleep on his own, and comforting him or her with awakenings. Your baby may show signs of being ready for sleep by:
- Rubbing eyes
- Looking away
Babies may not be able to create their own sleeping and waking patterns. Surprisingly, not all babies know how to put themselves to sleep. And not all babies can go back to sleep if they are awakened in the night. When it is time for bed, many parents want to rock or breastfeed a baby to help him or her fall asleep. Creating a bedtime routine is a good idea. But don’t let your baby fall asleep in your arms. This may become a pattern. And your baby may begin to expect to be in your arms in order to fall asleep. When your baby briefly wakes up during a sleep cycle, they may not be able to go back to sleep on their own.
Helping your baby fall asleep
Babies who feel secure are better able to handle separations, especially at night. Cuddling and comforting your baby during the day can help him or her feel more secure. Other ways to help your baby learn to sleep include:
- Allowing time for naps each day as needed for your baby’s age.
- Not having any stimulation or activity close to bedtime.
- Creating a bedtime routine, such as bath, reading books, and rocking.
- Playing soft music while your baby is getting sleepy.
- Offering a transitional object that your baby can take to bed. This may be a small blanket or a soft toy. But don’t do this before your baby is old enough. Your baby should be able to roll and sit. This will prevent the risk of suffocation.
- Tucking your baby into bed when he or she is drowsy, but before going to sleep.
- Comforting and reassuring your baby when he or she is afraid.
- For night awakenings, comfort and reassure your baby by patting and soothing. Don’t take your baby out of bed.
- If your baby cries, wait a few minutes, then return and reassure with patting and soothing. Then say goodnight and leave. Repeat as needed.
- Being consistent with the routine and your responses.